Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

Real news for working families.


Columbia County News


Columbia County and Lake City Meet
County Oblivious to City Budget Skills

It appeared that no one from the County had ever seen a city budget. If they had -- they weren't talking.

This past Tuesday’s August 18th joint city-county meeting showed once again that the Columbia County Board of County Commissioners and their County Manager remain intentionally oblivious to the city’s budgeting skills; are continuing to work hard at keeping the county taxpayers in the dark about their own county finances; and have a new supporter for their dark ages budget procedure in Commissioner Jody Dupree.

Com. DuPree (file photo)

The differences between the County and the City Budget process are astounding. When Commissioner Jody DuPree was asked if he would like to have a copy of the City budget e-mailed to him to view on his new, secretly issued county laptop, he declined. No one else from the county was interested, either. It was clear from Mr. DuPree’s remarks that he had never seen a Lake City budget. (Click here to see a small section of the Lake City draft budget)

A few years ago, your reporter, after discovering the flimflam-sham budgets of the county with their lack of backup or any kind of meaningful financial documentation came across a draft city budget at a city budget workshop; obtained a copy and brought it over to show County Manager (“CM”) Dale Williams, the man who is responsible for preparing the county budget.

CM Williams shrugged his shoulders, refused to look at it, and pooh-poohed it as a bunch of lies.

Columbia County's budget team cannot produce a spreadsheet in house.

At that time, as now, the County budget makers cannot produce an in house spreadsheet and must rely on the external auditor, Dick Powell to put their budgets together.

The downfall of Enron and the recent melt down of the world banking system was in large part caused by the lack of financial oversight by outside auditors and governmental officials who didn’t do their jobs.

In 2001, Dick Powell, who to this day remains the outside auditor and County budget consultant, presented both the County audit and the County budget to the County Commission. He didn’t find many mistakes. He continues to do extensive work on the County budgets and last year gave the County a score of 90% on its (his) audit.

The Clerk of the Court's, the man that signs the checks, has been kept in the dark.

Judy Lewis, the County’s internal auditor, works for the Clerk of the Courts and is constantly either at the right hand of the County Manager or in the office of Auditor Dick Powell. She refuses to have a computer in her office and relies only on an old Cannon calculator to do the county’s business. There are other people in her department who can use a computer.

Ms. Lewis approves invoices and budget transfers without the proper or any documentation and appears to have been keeping the Clerk of the Courts, P. DeWitt Cason, in the dark about many of the financial goings on in the county for quite sometime. (The Observer will be documenting this in a future article).

The County’s budget workshops are generally useless and in the past five years your reporter has yet to see any document produced at a County budget workshop or any county meeting that showed the number of full and part-time employees at work in the County. The County has kept phantom positions on its books for years. This year the CM claimed that he was saving the county money and saving employee raises by eliminating these phantom positions.

County department heads banned from addressing the board.

In a memo recently obtained by the Observer, an edict banning county department heads from addressing the board came right from the CM’s hand. It said in part, “Departments that have been cut/reduced and fall under the direction of the County Manager will not [emphasis in the original – ed] be given the opportunity to address the Board of County Commissioners ...”

The July 22nd Columbia County budget year kickoff workshop looked like Death Valley.

In Columbia County Department heads are never at budget workshops.

In its draft budget and at its budget workshops, Columbia County only provides last year’s original budget numbers and this year’s request. The CM says that the county can provide the additional numbers, but obviously they don’t and it is unknown if they can. In years past CM Williams told your reporter that he does what the law requires and if the County Commissioners want more information they can ask for it. (Click here to see a section of the Columbia County Budget-Pages two and three contain similar information from the general fund represented in the city budget, which can be accessed below )

In Lake City it is a different story.

At the Lake City budget workshop the council members, the budget director and department heads sit around a table.

In Lake City, the Finance Director, Dorothy Tyre, is responsible for preparing the City budget. She has her own staff and is answerable to the City Counsel and under the direct supervision of the City Manager.

Former City Manager, David Kraus told your reporter, "If the city lost a dime, she could find it."

(Click here to see a similar section of the general fund reported in the city budget)

While the County Budget workshops look like a scene from Death Valley Days, the City budget workshops are attended by all the city department heads. The city budget workshops are roll up your sleeves affairs with everyone contributing, questioning, and defending their requested appropriations. They are also held at an hour, 6 p.m., where it is possible for the public to attend.

In the gallery more of the department heads and anyone else sits and may participate.

The Columbia County workshops are held at 9 a.m., when just about nobody can attend.

At the last City budget work shop, the City provided food and snacks and sat around a big table and crunched the numbers, while the department heads and guests sat in the gallery contributing from there. No one was discouraged from participating.

Recently, Vice Mayor George Ward told the Observer, "I can't remember anytime that anyone was denied the opportunity to address the City Council."

City Manager Wendell Johnson listens intently as Budget Director Ms. Tyre explains a budget line.

How much did the City Manager and the City Council spend on travel and education last year? Take a look at the attachment from the City budget.

The city gives their residents original budget numbers, recommendations, year to date figures, last year’s actual numbers and the two years prior actual numbers.

How much did the County Commission spend on travel and education last year. Take a look at the County attachment. The arrows point to the same sections in the general fund – good luck.

Columbia County continues doing what it does best, keeping the working families of Columbia County in the dark about the way their money is spent.

The two budget documents are highlighted and speak for themselves.

The over two-hundred pages of the Lake City draft budget will be emailed on request (it is in two parts and 15 meg in total). Just go to contact us and put City Budget in the subject line and it will be on its way. (contact us)



Compare similar sections of
the city and county budgets

go to the city budget
go to the county budget


Go to the last page of the city budget. There is nothing like this in the county. Without it, one must wonder how they plan a budget.


Compare similar sections of
the city and county budgets

go to the city budget
go to the county budget