Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Columbia County

After 4 Decades Columbia County Drops the Ball on Audit Proposals: Management Bollixes Rankings 

The County received 4 proposals. On the second try management bollixed the rankings.

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – Friday morning's 9 o'clock County Audit Committee meeting of the County Constitutional Officers (Clerk of the Courts, Property Appraiser, Sheriff, Sup. of Elections, Tax Collector) and the County 5 Chairman was reconvened to do-over its Wednesday Audit Committee meeting. The purpose of the meeting: rank the 4 Auditor proposals received by the Audit Committee. The County management approved ranking was wrong, although it not unexpectedly ranked Lake City's Powell & Jones as the lone number one. The corrected tally sheet shows one vote separated the four submissions, with two firms tied for number one and two tied for number two.

Omitting the illegitimate local bid preference: two firms were rated number 1; two number 2. Each number in the chart represents the rank (1-2-3-etc.) The lower the total the higher the ranking.

Wednesday's Audit Committee meeting was adjourned because everyone wasn't prepared and not all participants had received the proposals. While the County also failed to follow its charter provision to post the meeting on the County website and include the proposals for public scrutiny, this was not the reason for the rescheduling.

The County Purchasing Policy: Incorrectly Applied

The County Purchasing Policy was incorrectly applied. As previously reported the Request for Proposals (RFP) (Auditing Services RFP: We don't want prices) should have included a cost to produce the audit. Instead, the RFP in its general instructions on page 3 stated (as written):


Without prices, this was not a bid solicitation.

The County's Purchasing Policy regarding bid preferences is clear, specific, and unambiguous:

Under a competitive bid solicitation, when the lowest responsive and responsible bid is submitted by an individual, firm or entity that is not a LOCAL BUSINESS, then the LOCAL BUSINESS that submitted the otherwise lowest responsive and responsible bid shall be offered an award of the bid if that LOCAL BUSINESS’ bid was not greater than five percent (5%) of the otherwise lowest responsive and responsible bid amount and does not exceed said lowest bid amount by $250,000.00.

County Management misapplied the the 5% bid preference to the rankings. This is not provided for in the Purchasing Policy.

One County official, speaking under the condition of anonymity said, "It was obvious who they wanted, don't you think?"

At the July 17 meeting of The 5, Commissioner Nash asked Richard Powell of Powell & Jones to try and have the audit prepared earlier "next year," while neither the Audit Committee, nor the County 5, had made their decisions.

The local bid preference gave Lake City's Powell & Jones an extra 5% on the score sheets.

The Audit Committee Meeting

Purchasing Director Ray Hill, far right, writes down the rankings as the committee members read them out loud.

There was conversation at the meeting. The Constitutional Officers and the County Chair responded to a request for comments from Purchasing Director Ray Hill.

It did not appear that anyone from the government recorded the meeting and no one was taking minutes, which is in line with the County 5/County Management policy of minimalist minutes, in which only the mandatory recording of motions and votes is the practice, while giving short shrift to everything else.

Sheriff Mark Hunter reviews his rankings as Sup. of Elections Liz Horne looks on.

While some of the comments were interesting, they are not counted in the vote tally and the County 5 has no access to them.

The final vote tally (see graphic above: County Approved Totals) was certified by Assistant County Manager, Ben Scott, at 4:15 pm on Friday.


The process has been flawed from almost the beginning: see Auditing Services RFP: We don't want prices.

The Audit Committee was never scheduled to interview any of the applicants before ranking them. The final decider – The infamous County 5 – has also not scheduled any interviews.

With only one vote separating the four firms and two tied for number 1, the August 6 County 5 meeting, at which time The 5 will choose the next County auditor, should be interesting.

The Columbia County 5. The legend continues.

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