Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Columbia County Florida News

Columbia County Workers On Edge As Board Decides Raises.

Columbia County Florida (posted Sept. 25, 2008)
By Stew Lilker

While Columbia County workers hang on the edge of their chairs wondering if the Board is going to give them a raise, bonus, or nothing at all tomorrow night, the top brass of Columbia County and the “good old boys” continue to reap the profits off of the working families of Columbia County.2008_0827_Annual Report_2

At the conclusion of the recent budget workshop, Commissioner Stephen Bailey said he thought the county should look into giving the county workers a $2000 raise, instead of a bonus. This idea did not go over very well with the county manager, Commissioner Williams or Commissioner Weaver. County Manager Dale Williams explained that the raise would be reoccurring, meaning that the benefits attached with that raise would accrue year after year, while the bonus would be a one time thing and would not obligate the county to pay befits on it.

District One Commissioner, Ronald Williams, was particularly displeased with Mr. Bailey’s suggestion, leaning over and telling him, “You’re opening a can of worms.”

While the County Manager, Dale Williams and the rest of the pack eat caviar, the every day county workers that are the nuts and bolts of the county eat from the can of worms.

In a reflection of what is going on nationally, the brass in Columbia County demonstrate the old adage that all politics are local. Let’s see how some of Columbia County’s cream of the crop is doing.

Dale Williams  County Manager

Mr. Williams has claimed that in some circles he is known as “Mr. Columbia County.” 2008_0916_CM While the Observer cannot verify this, it is clear that “Mr. Columbia County” has done very well over the past few years. Going back five years to 2003-04, Mr. Williams made $82,000 plus the same cost of living increase received by the county employees, 3%.  In addition, County Manager Williams received a bonus payment from the Board of County Commissioners. The Observer was unable to check the amount of this bonus, as the minutes have disappeared from the County Web Site.

On April 20, 2006, the Board did a quick redo of County Manager Williams’ contract, giving him a retroactive raise from October of 2005. The County Manager went from a base salary of $82,000 to $96,000, a cool 17% increase.  Of course 17% wasn’t enough for the “good old boys,” so they threw in a one time retroactive payment of $8,653.80, which did not include the Board’s bonus for that year or the 3 to 4 percent cost of living increase that the county workers received.

2006 was a very good year for the County Manager, but when your reporter suggested to the Board that the county workers receive the same type of retroactive raise that the County Manager received, the County Manager said, “Retroactive pay was considered, but County Attorney Feagle produced an Attorney General Opinion explaining the County may not provide for retroactive pay.” (August 3, 2006 -- BCC minutes)

2007 was a good year for Columbia County. Tax revenue was up 23%, making for a revenue increase of 41% for the prior two years. The County was rolling in dough. The Board left the County Manager’s contract alone, as his base pay rose to $105,000. He received a bonus from the Board and the same cost of living bonus that the county workers received.

By 2008, the revenue side of the whole Florida budget was getting a little shaky. The County Manager and the Board were spreading gloom. The revenue picture had changed and it looked like financial trouble was in the wind.

However, 2008 turned out to be another good year for County Manager Williams, as the County Commission once again revisited his contract. While the Board was wondering if they could afford another $2000 bonus for the county workers, they rewrote the County Manager’s contract, again. This time, like some high priced baseball star, he received a no cut contract reaching out until 2015. Along with that, County Manager Williams also received a 9.1% raise to $120,000. Both Board Chairman Dewey Weaver and County Attorney Marlin Feagle extolled the public benefit and virtues of this latest deal, which now had an effective term of 2002-2015.

Other recent notable expenditures by the County Commission

 John ColsonThe County Engineer, Mr. John Colson, who actually is not the county engineer, but works for Donald F. Lee & Associates received a 23% pay raise this year.

 The new Public Works Director in training, Mr. Kevin Kirby, received a 9% pay increase over the former director, Mr. Hoyle Crowder, who has recently put in for retirement. For months, the County has been paying two public works directors.

During the interviews for Public Works Director, neither the Commissioners, nor the County Manager seemed to care or notice that Mr. Kirby had used Mr. Colson as a reference on his resume. Nor did it seem to make a difference that they could have hired the more experienced candidate, Mr. Marcel Beauchemin for $21,000 dollars less, not including the cost of benefits, or that Mr. Kirby’s firm, Anderson Columbia had done work for the county, which was approved by Mr. Colson. It was clear by looking at Mr. Colson’s rating sheet that he was at a different interview when he put the kibosh on the less expensive and more experienced candidate.

 Any pretense that anybody in power was worried about money or the welfare of county workers or the working families of Columbia County finally went by the wayside during the December 6, 2007, $459,000 sneak attack by the Board, IDA Director Jim Poole, and the County Attorney.

During the December 6th Board meeting and inserted without a vote at the tail end of Jim Poole_IDAIDA Director Jim Poole’s “Committee Mitigation Report,” the Board decided, without warning or prior approval, to include the $459,000 land deal on the agenda. This land was already set aside as part of a Comprehensive Land Amendment and could not be developed. There was not any price negotiation and the owner of the land was not identified, even though it was reported that he was sitting with IDA director Jim Poole at the meeting. After the deed was done, Board Chairman Dewey Weaver said he, “did not know” the item was going to be brought up. The county workers that know about this are still a buzz with disbelief and disgust over the shenanigans regarding the purchase of this swamp land.

No one ever revealed publicly, nor was it mentioned privately without great care, that the seller of this swamp land was the County Manager’s best friend, land developer Sam Ousterhaudt.

What do the county workers want?

The Observer has spoken with many, none of whom wish to be identified, for obvious reasons. The overwhelming census is that they would prefer whatever money they receive to be incorporated as part of a raise, so that they can see this money grow over time as part of their retirement nest egg.

When asked if they would like the same percentage as the County Manager or some of the other “good old boys,” they smile and say of course, being sure to add that they will be happy with whatever they get.

Will Columbia County’s workers continue to eat worms?

Tomorrow night, September 25th at 7 pm, in the Bd. of Ed. Auditorium, the Board of County Commissioners is slated to answer that question during their final budget hearing.


  As the economy caves in around the working families of Columbia County, the recent Dale Williams contract is even more astounding. Like the Duracell bunny, it just keeps going "on and on." (ed.)

Go to Contract

Public left in the dark as County Manager gives annual report with 12th hour  notice to an empty room.

Columbia County Florida (posted Sept. 25, 2008)
By Stew Lilker

2008_0827_Annual Report

On August 27th, County Manager Dale Williams gave an excellent annual report. It is a mystery why the Board did not schedule his report for a regular meeting where the public would have been well informed and able to ask questions.

It is curious that the notice of the annual report was only posted to the county web site shortly before the meeting and then just as quickly disappeared.

At 10 am the Board held its annual budget workshop. Only a few more people arrived for the meeting, which was over by 12:30