Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Columbia County Sheriff Mark Hunter Gets $140,248 Free Pass From the County 5

Posted November 6, 2015  06:30 am

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – Last night, Columbia County's legendary County 5 (The 5), Florida's quintessential good ole' boy county commission, gave Columbia County Sheriff Mark Hunter another free pass, when, without question or comment, it returned the Sheriff's year end excess fund balance of $140,248 back to him. According to the Sheriff's paperwork, he wanted to replace his in-car camera systems, which he claimed were at the end of their life cycle.

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

When the item came up on the agenda, Assistant County Manager Ben Scott explained to The 5 that the Sheriff "is returning his excess funds to the County. What occurs when the Sheriff presents his final financial statement to us, he is closing out his year-end [budget], which is required by the Florida Statutes. He is returning his excess funds to the County. Those excess funds for this year were $140,248."

The Sheriff's excess funds are returned to the County's general fund. The 5 can use those funds as it sees fit.

Sheriff Hunter in one of his few appeareances.

Mr. Scott continued, "The Sheriff has asked that the money be returned for “in car video recording systems. I’m sure the Sheriff could speak to the need for those, but we felt it is a valid need for the Sheriff’s Department."

Mr. Scott gave no further explanation for this $140,248 "valid need." None of The 5 asked for one, at least in public.

Sheriff Hunter submitted no supporting documentation for his request. There was no explanation regarding the age of the camera system; whether it is reliable or failing; whether it can be updated; how many cars will have their camera systems updated; or the system's worth if it is put up for sale after being replaced.

There was also no explanation regarding the benefit of the upgrade.

Sheriff Hunter's only claim was that the in-car camera system was "at the end of its lifecycle."

County 5 Chairman Ronald Williams ask for a motion to return the money to the Sheriff.

Commissioner Frisina moved the motion authorizing the return of the funds.

Commissioner Nash seconded the motion.

Chairman Williams asked, "Questions or comments?"

There were none.

The motion passed unanimously.

The 5 didn't ask Columbia County Sheriff Mark Hunter for any explanation.


Unlike Columbia County's former Sheriff, Bill Gootee, and other sheriffs throughout Florida, Columbia County Sheriff Mark Hunter, whose budget absorbs about 40% of the County's revenue, doesn't feel he owes any public explanation of how or why he is spending the public's money.

The 5, which floats on a sea of County taxpayer dollars, agrees and never asks the Sheriff to explain anything.

Last night's $140,248 free pass was just another example of business as usual at the County 5.

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