Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Columbia County

Columbia County 5 Economic Under-Development
Lack of Rules Hobbles the County 5

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – Part II of "Columbia County 5 Economic Under-Development, Another Bollixed Deal: Excelsior Ambulance on the Ropes," concentrates on the events of the August 6 meeting of the County 5. The County staff presented a proposed Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (COPCN) to The 5. This is what happened.

The Acting County Manager Presents the Resolution

Former County Attorney Marlin Feagle: "Robert's too difficult for the board."

Acting County Manager Scott went to the microphone and introduced the Excelsior Ambulance question to the County 5: "A brief history on this resolution. Back on August 15, 2013, the board approved a motion to provide a COPCN if Excelsior is awarded a bid from the VA Hospital. On July 15, 2015, the Board received notice that the VA had awarded Excelsior Ambulance a contract for transport service in the VA system. On August 6, the staff presented a limited COPCN." (This was the resolution before the Board).

The 5 was to decide whether to honor the Board's 2013 commitment or deny Excelsior the COPCN, which is license to operate in Columbia County. Excelsior had contacted the County and was asking The 5 to honor its previous commitment. (The Columbia County/Excelsior COCPN only allows transports within the North Florida/South Georgia VA system).

Mr. Scott continued with his explanation, "This is kinda the chicken before the egg type thing. In order to get a license in the state of Florida you must have a COPCN.

Commission Chairman DePratter Takes the Helm

Mr. DePratter:  "The board has heard the comments from staff. Is there any discussion?"

Without missing a beat and without any discussion, Commissioner Everett Phillips made a motion to deny the COPCN: "I make a motion to deny resolution number two-zero-one-fifteen-R-dash-15."

The motion was not seconded. Rather, Commissioner Williams said, "I second for discussion."

In the civilized world, there is no such thing as "seconding a motion for discussion." The motion was not seconded to be put on the table.

Mr. DePratter announced, "Motion by Mr. Phillips to deny. Second by Commissioner Williams."

County Attorney Joel Foreman sat silent.

Commissioner Williams gave a dissertation regarding various Florida statutes and concluded with [as spoken]: “The whole thing is contradictin’ itself, in a sense of speakin’... It’s pittin’ the Board of County Commissioners against the Florida stature – and I don’t like to be pitted that way... I think somebody need to clear somethin’ up... We are catch 20 here.”

Mr. DePratter asked, “Any other discussion?”

Commissioner Nash: "Where are we at?"
The County Attorney explained, or did he?

Columbia County has intentionally never adopted any rules of parliamentary procedure, such as the standard Robert's Rules. For generations they have flown by the seat of their pants, doing whatever they felt like. Since 2006, the primary aim of The 5 has been to develop rules to throttle the public and its comments. Excelsior's Attorney, Robert Krause, discovered that when he asked twice for permission to address the Board during the Excelsior discussion and was shut down.

Years ago, then County Attorney Marlin Feagle told your reporter, "Robert's (Rules of Order) was too difficult for the board."

Commissioner Nash inquired of County Attorney Foreman, “Where are we at on the legal side?”

Mr. Foreman began, "I have a reservation relating to this board's action in August of 2013..."

Mr. Foreman said the vote on the motion in August 2013 was “certainly board action that’s been taken. It’s the same board that we’re before now and so you're necessarily inextricably bound to your prior action... The nuances of a case on that would be much more difficult than I’m prepared to go into right now. It would be a lot of discussion about what was actually said at the meetings, who actually did what. But I would have reservation about denying this in light of that information without perhaps the benefit of some additional time... I am of the opinion of what you do tonight is at the discretion and pleasure of this board, but I do have to have reservation."

Commissioner Frisina: "I can't go back on my word"

Commissioner Scarlet Frisina weighed in: "I discussed this with staff and some others and I am really not for them coming here. However, I was one of the three that was in favor of giving them the COPCN if at some point they were able to obtain the contract... I can’t go back on my word. I said I would support it if he ever came back...  I gave my word. If I don’t have that I don’t have anything. I can’t support the motion."

Mr. DePratter said, "I’m still against. I’ve been tricked one time; I don’t want to be tricked again. I still don’t see that we should do it."

Mr. DePratter did not explain the "trick." He continued, "Any more discussion by the Board?"

Commissioner Phillips asked the County Attorney something. Ten feet away in the audience Commissioner Phillips could not be understood.

County Attorney Foreman not prepared

Based on the July 15 date on the Excelsior letter requesting the COPCN, Mr. Foreman had 3 weeks to prepare for the August 6 meeting.

Foreman opined that he has reservations and that there wasn’t enough time to go over the Excelsior information and the minutes from 2013, even though the County received the information from Excelsior three weeks before on July 15. Mr. Foreman recommended tabling the motion. “If you table the motion you will have the opportunity to further explore it. Maybe I can provide a memo back to the board," he said.

Mr. DePratter asked Mr. Foreman if this board could be held to the 2013 action of the Board.

Mr. Foreman answered:  "I haven’t had an opportunity to review the motion verbatim. If it is the way it was represented here – 'will [when] you come back -- we’ll get you one.' That certainly would sound in terms of legal construction, as being very open ended. I think we need to have a verbatim review of that and get better understanding of what Mr. Krause at least understands, in terms of what he might perceive as his client's entitlement."

Mr. Foreman continued: "I think you have the legal authority, right now, to do whatever you would like to do with respect to this. I'm telling you if you affirmatively deny it's going to be much more difficult to get it back up for consideration if you want to change your mind."

Your reporter volunteered, holding up his laptop, "I have the motion here if you want to read it."

Mr. DePratter blew off the suggestion.

Commissioner Williams wants Tallahassee to weigh in
 "We all know the chicken came first"

Commissioner Williams said he wanted the County Attorney to contact the appropriate people in Tallahassee "about the wording of the qualifications and see if we're being pitted against the Florida stature [as spoken]. The Florida stature says one thing and they saying 'what comes first -- the chicken or the egg?' We all know that the chicken came first."

Attorney Foreman asked, "Is it fair to restate this saying you want me to make sure that if this board issues this we won't be violating Florida law?"

Commissioner Williams:  "Yes sir."

Attorney Foreman:  "I'll make that part of whatever I bring back."

Commissioner Williams:  "I would like to see it tabled until those things are clarified."

Mr. DePratter: "So you will need to withdraw your second."

Commissioner Williams' second was for discussion only. There was nothing for the Commissioner to withdraw.

Commissioner Williams:  I beg your pardon?

Mr. DePratter:  "You’ll withdraw your second?"

Commissioner Williams:  "Yes sir."

Mr. DePratter: "Mr. Phillips?

Commissioner Phillips:  "I'll withdraw my motion and table it until we get (unintelligible)."

The Observer had three recorders recording Mr. Phillips from ten feet away. Mr. Phillips was unintelligible on each recording.

Mr. DePratter: "No sir."

Commissioner Phillips:  "Please"

Mr. DePratter:  "No sir."

Mr. DePratter: "Motion and second has been withdrawn."

Because Mr. Phillips' motion at the beginning was seconded only for discussion all the chatter was unnecessary.

Mr. DePratter told The 5 it was now in Mr. Foreman’s hands to bring back the Excelsior issue at the next meeting.

Table What?

The motion denying the question of the COPCN was never properly brought before the board. There was no second. Even if it was, once Mr. Phillips withdrew his motion, there was nothing to table.

County Attorney Foreman asked, "Are you going to move to table it?"

Mr. DePratter asked, "Are we moving to table this until...?"

Com. Williams interrupted, "So moved, Mr. Chair."

Com. Phillips seconded the motion to table.


Columbia County, the legend of The infamous County 5 continues.

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