Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

Real news for working families.  An online newspaper

Columbia County News

Columbia County 5 Vote 3-2 to Look for an Auditor: But After 40 yrs They All Want Powell Back

Posted April 3, 2015  05:30 am

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

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL –  Last night, the Columbia County 5, (The 5 or the County Commission) decided after 40 years to put out a search for a County Auditor to possibly replace the only Auditor the County has had since the 70's, External Auditor Richard Powell. The County's Constitutional Officers had previously recommended keeping Powell. Last night, the County Staff recommended keeping Powell. Chairman Rusty DePratter, after a split vote in favor of searching for another auditor, announced that he hoped the County ended up "with the same" auditor.


On March 12, 2015, the Audit Committee for Columbia County met. The Audit Committee is composed of the Constitutional Officers of the County (Clerk of the Courts; Tax Collector; Property Appraiser; Sup. of Elections; Sheriff) and the County Commission Chairperson. The process is controlled by Florida Statute 218.391.

Read more about Columbia County's infamous County 5.

At the conclusion of the meeting the Audit Committee unanimously voted to negotiate a new contract with long time County Auditor Richard Powell (Powell & Jones).

Last Night at the County 5

Assistant County Manager Ben Scott introduced the agenda item: Audit Committee Recommendations.

Without any explanation of how the County Staff came to its conclusion, he announced, "Staff's recommendation is to accept the committee's recommendation."

It was not explained what is meant by the County Staff and who or what group made the decision. It is not clear why the staff had to make a decision either for or against the Audit Committee recommendation.

Long time Commissioner Ronald Williams said, "I move to accept staff recommendation on the Audit Committee recommendations."

Commissioner Scarlet Frisina seconded the motion.

Commissioner Bucky Nash said, "It says you got – the statute allows – for renewal of the current contract. Doesn't say anything about negotiatin' a new contract. There's a difference there to me."

Richard Powell (file photo)

Mr. Scott responded, "Renewal, I guess the terminology that I use is negotiate a new contract. Renewal would be to renew the existing contract..."

Commissioner Nash followed up, "We've never sent out an RFP for the service?"

Mr. Scott, "No sir."

Commissioner Nash continued, "So everybody that was in the committee and stuff – they never – they know no difference other than Mr. Powell bein' an auditor. Anybody in this room. Mr. Powell preceded everybody."

Mr. Scott replied, "As far as their experience in Columbia County, no."

Commissioner Nash said, "I'm for sending out an RFP because we never have. I have no problems with Mr. Powell. He's a good man. He does a good job. And he's done great for the community. I know it's not going to be a popular choice, but I believe it's the right thing to do."

The motion to accept the staff recommendation failed 2-3, with Commissioners Frisina and Williams voting in favor of keeping Mr. Powell.

Commissioner Nash made the motion to look for a new County Auditor. It was seconded by Commissioner Phillips, and Chairman DePratter decided the vote. Commissioners Frisina and Williams held fast and voted against looking for a new auditor.

After the Vote

After the vote Commissioner Williams opined, "I hope we don't get into the routine of appointin' committees and not take their recommendation. If we get into that routine there is no use havin' committees."

As the meeting came to a close Chairman DePratter explained his vote:

"I did serve on the Audit Committee with the constitutionals. I sat in the room. I listened to everyone's comments. I did vote with that committee. Afterwards, I had calls and I discussed it with what I call business leaders in this community. What it boils down to is the five commissioners sittin' up here are responsible for the auditor, not constitutionals. At that point I did decide that I think we should put it out for an RFP... It was a recommendation."

"The members at this board are the ones it falls back to for their decisions. We're the ones that were elected. We're the ones that have to make these decisions. I appreciate the recommendations from the constitutionals. This is no bad bite on them... After 30 years we probably should try. We may end up with the same auditor. I hope we do. But we will put it out for an RFP. We can determine what we're going to do from there."

Shortly thereafter, the meeting was adjourned.


Comments  (to add a comment go here)   

This work by the Columbia County Observer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License.


Make a comment • click here •
All comments are displayed at the end of the article and are moderated.