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Columbia County's Bloodless Coup: A New Era at The County 5?

Vote a Sham: "You can't make this stuff up"

Posted December 5, 2014  08:27 am | (2 comments) (2 letters - Dec. 8)

Commissioner Frisina took it in stride during the coup.
                      (file photo)

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – Last night at Columbia County's infamous County Commission, (The County 5 or The 5), decades of tradition were bypassed when a coalition of 3 commissioners refused to move Vice Chair Scarlet Frisina into the position of County Chair. The 5 have never used Robert's Rules or any standard rules of procedure. The voting was a sham. Commissioner Frisina remained "classy" throughout the unfolding event.

As the evening's meeting wound down, longtime County Manager Dale Williams explained that it was organization night. The County 5, according to the Charter, is to elect a new chair and vice chair.

County manager Williams said traditionally the vice chair becomes the chair and the sitting member with the longest amount of time without being the chair becomes the vice chair.

This tradition predates the almost two decades old County Charter.

Commissioner Scarlet Frisina was the Vice Chair for the past year.

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

The Nomination

Looking for a nomination, Chairman Ronald Williams addressed the The 5, "Board?"

No sooner asked than Commissioner Nash nominated Rusty DePratter for the chairman's slot.

Right behind the nomination came the second by newly elected District 4 Commissioner, Everett Phillips.

As has been the practice of The 5, the floor was neither closed for nominations, nor was any other nomination requested.

Commissioner Williams asked, "All in favor?"

The County Charter is the Law – it says:
The concurrence of a majority of those present shall be required to adopt, amend or repeal a resolution or motion under the terms of this provision. All commissioners in attendance, including the chair or presiding officer, shall vote on all Board of County Commissioners actions.

The Vote

There was no roll call. Commissioner Nash and DePratter voted "aye." Commissioner Everett Phillips said, "Second." Neither Chairman Williams, nor Vice Chair Frisina voted.

Mr. DePratter should have taken over the Chairmanship at that point. He didn't.

Commissioner Williams said, "We need a vice chair."

Commissioner Phillips nominated Commissioner Nash.

The newly elected Chair, Commissioner DePratter, seconded the motion.

Without asking if there were any other nominations, Commissioner Williams asked for the vote.

Two votes were cast for Mr. Nash: Mr. DePratter and Mr. Phillips. There are 5 county commissioners. There were no other votes.

Commissioner Williams announced, "That motion carries."

DePratter Takes Command – Commissioner Williams opines: Board members don't have to vote

Your reporter asked Chairman DePratter if he was going to see that new microphones would be used so that The 5 could be heard. Mr. DePratter said they would be. After the meeting Mr. DePratter followed up and said, "They will be on the next agenda."

Your reporter also asked that The 5 consider having the Clerk poll the Board when it votes, telling The 5, "So we know how people vote. Sometimes people don't move their mouths and you don't know if they are voting for or against."

Commissioner Williams opined that Board members don't have to vote. He said that Robert's Rules (of Order) considers a non vote as a "yes" vote.

LJ Johnson          (file)

The 5 don't use Robert's Rules. If they did, Robert's Rules do not trump the County Charter.

Former Marine and County Resident LJ Johnson took exception to the non-voting. He said, "You have to make a decision – take a stand one way or another and be recognized for your decision."

Post Meeting: Commissioner Frisina

In a brief phone conversation after the meeting, Commissioner Frisina told the Observer, "I was disappointed, but I am not bitter. I have already served as Chair; Rusty (DePratter) has not. I am elected to serve the people of Columbia and my District. I do that job as well as I can and will continue to do that."


Last night it was unusual business as usual at The 5.

The County Charter is clear and specific and is the law of Columbia County. When the Charter says Commissioners "shall" vote, it means just that. In law, the word "shall" equals "must."

Rusty DePratter was elected Chairman of the Board with 2 votes. That is not a majority. Commissioner Phillips voting "I second" is not a vote.

The two votes cast for Commissioner Nash for Vice Chair is also not a majority.

In Columbia County, County Commissioners not voting doesn't count as anything.

The infamous 5 need to do a "do-over."

Stay tuned. As Federal Judge Timothy J. Corrigan recently said about Columbia County, "You can't make this stuff up."

Comments  (to add a comment go here)

On Dec. 7, 2014, Ralph Kitchens of Columbia County wrote:

I am disturbed by what I saw take place Thursday night at the Columbia County Commission.

In the past, the passing of the gavel by tradition went to the Vice-Chairman. Thursday night that was Scarlet Frisina. Commissioners Bucky Nash and newly elected Commissioner Everett Phillips acted so fast that I really didn't realize what had happened until I was driving home. I have witnessed Commissioner Frisina over the past year to be a fine representative.

Looking back on the good ole' boy political slight of hand, I must say that Commissioner Scarlet Frisina has more class than the rest of the Columbia County Commission combined.


On Dec. 7, 2014, LJ Johnson of Columbia County wrote:

The 'Mighty 5' have done it again and I am outraged!! To allow 'them' to get away with ignoring or totally disregarding the Charter is intolerable. When are the residents going to WAKE UP and say NO MORE.

I was there. There were only two 2 votes. It was not a 'majority' vote.

The 'vote' approved by Ronald Williams should be declared null and void. Robert's Rules of Order, surely you jest! Don't you mean..."The County 5's Rules of Order?"


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