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County 5's First Budget Hearing - $104,911,711
The Legendary 5 Don't Disappoint

Raises for the brass: bad business done badly

Posted September 9, 2014  10:10 am | news-commentary

Columbia County 5COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – At 5:30 yesterday evening the County 5 met for its first budget hearing to approve or modify its $104,911,711 FY2014-15 budget. County Manager Dale Williams provided a total of the General Fund, $44,851,425, but did not provide a total of the non ad-valorem funds (gas tax and those things) component of the budget. The 5 didn't ask for one. The amount for all the other funds was $60,060,286.

Read more about Columbia County's infamous County 5.

Throughout the meeting there were no insightful questions by The 5 about anything and it is not clear how much they really understood or how much went on in the backroom before the budget hearing was gaveled to order.

First order of business, budget amendments: No public comment

As the budget hearing got underway, County 5 Chairman, Ronald Williams, immediately ignored the spirit of SB50, the new law which provides the public the right to be heard on a proposition before the board, and had The 5 vote to approve three amendments to the budget without one word of public input. When the Observer asked about the lack of public comment, The 5 was mute, as usual.

Ignoring the the tens of thousands of dollars spent on salary studies, The 5 approved a minimalist raise of 1% for those County employees making under $41,000 a year. This raise did not include the Constitutional Officers:  Sheriff, Property Appraiser, and Tax Collector, who had already taken care of their employees.

Raises for the brass: bad business done badly

Added in the budget was a $25,000 dollar raise for newly hired Assistant County Manager, Ben Scott, who now with all his other duties, must deal with uncertainty and questions regarding his hiring process (what was agreed upon) and heightened public scrutiny resulting from years of insider dealing in the back halls of the County for everything.

The issue with Assistant County Manager Scott is not whether he is worth it. He has years of government experience and according to his application, an MBA in business/accounting. He is the number two man responsible for a municipal corporation with a $100,000,000 plus budget and hundreds of employees.

However, he was hired for $85,000 only months ago.

Also wrapped up in the "bad business" as usual is the $10,000 raise for newly hired Economic Development Director, Glen Hunter. This raise is already included in the budget and no one in any position in the County can explain the reasons for it.

Mr. Hunter runs a department of 2 and has minimal economic development experience.

On August 15, 2014, during a budget work shop, a slide in a PowerPoint presentation presented the following: $10,000 each annually for the Economic Development Director and Assistant County Manager – (Negotiated at time of hire. To be paid upon successful completion of specific training / education scope of work)

At that time your reporter asked, "Maybe you could explain this to me: We’re paying someone $85,000 a year and a $10,000 stipend who needs to get training?"

County Manager Dale Williams responded, "I’ll go back and repeat what I told the board at the time I hired him. I took the salary and actually reduced it... I wanted to make sure that these employees at those levels got certain training. I have em’ attending ethics classes; I have them attending public records classes; I have them going to certain economic development schools, meetings, and etc. It’s that type of thing."

Your reporter followed up, "He does that on company time. It could be anybody.... Are you suggesting to me that this Board is going to pay somebody (extra) to take a public records course or ethics course?"

County Manager Williams answered, "Yes."

So far, only Commissioner Nash has an issue with this.

The Web Designer/Programmer

Columbia County lucked out when it hired Patrick Weaver, from a candidate pool of two, in 2007. His skill set has served the county well at a cut rate salary of $41k.

In many places in the civilized world, Mr. Weaver's skills would command anywhere between $75,000 - $100,000 plus a year. Besides running the County website, which was rated number 5 in Florida for accessibility and the quality of information it contains, Mr. Weaver develops applications, both interactive and financial, saving the county tens of thousands of dollars a year.

Columbia County began the year with at least $40,000,000 of cash money in the bank. Recently, they have not revealed how much cash is sitting around, but it must be close.

It appears that $65,000 would make Mr. Weaver happy in Columbia County.

The County's budget amendment is unfair to the good natured Mr. Weaver and continues to undervalue his worth.


It is time the legendary County 5 stepped up to the plate and began doing what they are supposed to do, rather than worrying about Commissioner Bucky Nash's failed motion to increase the Commissioner's gas allowance 150%. This has also been added to the budget with the lame excuse that it needs approval to be spent.

The Columbia County 5: The 5 never disappoint. The legend continues.

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

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