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Commissioner Bucky Nash Brokers $659,780 Backroom Deal With Sheriff Hunter
Road Deputies To Get Raises – Other County Employees?

Posted July 18, 2014  09:58 am

Com Nash ran on a platform of open and transparent gov't.

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – Just when you think Columbia County's infamous County 5 can't outdo itself, it does. Last night, in an admitted backroom deal brokered by County Commissioner Bucky Nash and the County's external auditor and financial advisor, Richard Powell, The 5 gave the Sheriff $659,780 in current and future commitments for salary adjustments, while at the same time leaving its other County employees in the dark about their financial future.

Last night, 30 year veteran Columbia County Manager Dale Williams began his presentation to The 5 telling them, "We have an eight year history which is either decreased revenue - flat revenue; ... our overall revenue is up. This is the first time it's been up significantly in eight years. It made things a lot better and a lot easier."

How much was the revenue up? Neither the County Manager, nor The 5 were talking.

County Manager Williams continued, "The first issue we looked at was funding the Columbia County Sheriff's Office."

Other than a few totals and sub totals, the County Manager gave very little relevant information regarding the Sheriff's budgets. There wasn't an extended comparison over time. The Sheriff didn't step up, explain his budget, or make his case.

According to County Manager Williams, the Sheriff approved the County's backroom deal on July 9, 2014.

The Deal: first a little history

Sheriff Hunter has been bleeding road deputies for years. While he had given raises to his administrative staff and some others, the folks that actually patrolled the streets and did the on the ground public safety work, the guys and gals that put it on the line every time they got out of a patrol car, were for the most part given short shrift by Sheriff Hunter.

In the last year, the situation deteriorated to the point where the discontent was palpable and Sheriff Hunter was bleeding so much manpower that he finally had to do something.

On May 27, 2014, Sheriff Hunter addressed the County 5 and told them that if he did not get a 5% increase in its budget he would turn the jail and its administration back to the County 5 and they could run it themselves. He said he didn't want to do it.

As it turned out, the Sheriff was blowing smoke. The Florida statutes and County ordinance don't allow him to just walk away from the jail.

While this jousting made good theater, ultimately it was just more Columbia County hot air.

Percentage Based Budgeting

The 5 is considering percentage based budgeting. Like The 5's bucket based budgeting, there has been little information and formal action regarding how percentage based budgeting will work.

The theory of percentage based budgeting is that target percentages are allocated to categories in a budget. Last night, The 5's backroom deal with the Sheriff established that the Sheriff's Office would be entitled to 39% of the County's non-restricted revenue.

There was no historical information over time to justify the 39% or any relevant discussion regarding how long the 39% number would remain in place. Commissioner Ronald Williams mentioned that it might be until the Sheriff retired.

The Sheriff's Deal: $659,780 or a 9% increase

For fiscal year 2014-15 the Sheriff got himself a $545,232 increase for personal services along with another $20,000 for other un-named expenses. On the law enforcement side of his budget, the Sheriff got a 9% increase in personal services revenue over last year.

The Sheriff also received a negotiated backroom budget transfer of $114,548 for what the County Manager called, "specific salary adjustments effective July 4, 2014." There was nothing showing any specificity, anywhere, nor was any discussed. The 5 asked no questions.

The County is also talking about entering into some kind of contract with the Sheriff. The Florida statutes allow for the County to enter into a contract with a private provider to run the jail. The statutes do not authorize the County to enter into a contract with the Sheriff, but in the Land of The 5, as history shows, anything goes.

The County's other employees

The 200 plus employees that work for Columbia County and those that work for the Clerk of the courts have been taking it on the chin for years. According to County Manager Dale Williams, they will have to wait to see what is in store for them.

The Property Appraiser, Doyle Crews, and the Tax Collector, Ronnie Brannon, have always taken care of their employees. Their budgets are approved by the FL Dept. of Revenue.

The County Commission employees are taken care of by The County 5 who notoriously take care of their pet employees and leave many of the others to rely on food stamps or pay which lags behind those of the Property Appraiser's office or the Tax Collector.


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