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Columbia County Observer

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The 5 Headed For Another Spending Spree: On the Consent Agenda $283,539 & a million more

The County Salary Study: mendacity reigns supreme  

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – Tonight, the Columbia County 5 (The 5), Florida's back room rubber stamp homeless County Commission, makes it clear why public meetings and Florida's Sunshine Law are no impediment to the out of control spending ways of this legendary and unaccountable bunch of elected officials. On tap tonight is $283,539 of unbudgeted expenses buried in the Consent Agenda and $1,087,064 of money transfers and questionable purchasing practices, which includes a $223,597 money transfer by Columbia County Sheriff Hunter and Public Works again calling reserve funds "budgeted money."

Sheriff Hunter: miniscule explanation

Leading tonight's Consent Agenda is Sheriff Mark Hunter's $223,597 money transfer to reclassify funds from Corrections to Law Enforcement. The Sheriff's miniscule explanation is this: This reclassification is to more accurately report our Warrants Division under Law Enforcement as it is a Law Enforcement function and not Corrections/Detention related.

Sheriff Hunter is almost 2 years into his second term. It is not clear why it took him almost 6 years to discover this.

Don't expect The 5 to ask for any kind of explanation. They already discussed this in the back room.

Kevin Kirby: redefining reserve funds

Next up on the County's rubber stamp Consent Agenda is Kevin Kirby, the County's Public Works Director, one of the few County workers who received a raise in the past 6 years (approximately $88,000 to $107,000).

After getting a lot of heat from the Observer about buying unbudgeted equipment, Director Kirby now calls money transferred from reserve funds, budgeted money.

In the civilized world, reserve funds are used for emergencies. In Columbia County it is the way The 5 allows County Management to be unaccountable to the folks that pay the taxes. This is called a back-room deal.

An examination of the minutes and power points from the budget workshops turned up nothing that showed Public Works was looking to spend $155,657 on a tractor/brush cutter and $61,687 to replace a service vehicle or in the words of Mr. Kirby, "worn out like equipment."

The 5, looking to spend as much of the taxpayer's money as it can, will most likely rubber stamp the equipment purchase off state contracts, which while being legal, is almost always the most expensive way to purchase big ticket items.

Mr. Kirby's claim that the equipment was budgeted belies the fact that the state contracts referenced on the Consent Agenda both went into effect after October 1, 2014, which was the beginning of the new budget year. The FL Sheriff's Contract (the tractor) went into effect on October 1st and the State Contract (the service vehicle) went into effect on November 27, 2013, which was well after all the budget hearings and meetings and only 3 weeks ago.

Library Director got it right: reserve funds are not budgeted

Next up on the rubber stamp Consent Agenda is the Library asking for $31,790 for IT maintenance and software. This item is explained this way: To transfer funds from library reserves to pay for the annual maintenance fee for the Library's automation system and to purchase 3 years of the Library's Barracuda web filter updates.

Library Director Paulson is transferring money from the Library Contingency Reserves to pay for this. Ms. Paulson states this is not a budgeted item.

The County Salary Study: mendacity reigns supreme

For months, the Observer has implored The 5 to hire a real firm and do a real salary study for both the County employees and the taxpayers, who pay their salaries.

The 5, along with the County Management, had turned a deaf ear and instead tasked an overworked HR department with the project.

On December 5th, during the last meeting of The 5, your reporter asked The 5 and County Management the following: "I’m asking that you ramp up the salary study – get a real company to do it. Spend some money and let’s move forward with that."

None of The 5 responded. County Management sat silent.

Three days before, on December 2nd, the County contacted Cody & Associates to do a salary study.

The next day on December 3d, they entered into a $23,700 contract.

Tonight, County Management, with the approval of District 1 County Commissioner Ronald Williams, buried the approval of the Salary Study contract on the Consent Agenda.


The homeless County 5, Florida's legendary county commissioners, continue to play fast and loose with taxpayer money, discussing expenditures in the back room and rubber-stamping the fruit of their illicit labor right under the noses of the public whose pockets they pick with abandon.

The 5 – The training ground for Tallahassee and Washington.


The Columbia County 5 from left to right: Commissioners Ronald Williams; Rusty DePratter; Bucky Nash; Stephen Bailey; Scarlet Frisina

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