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Another 2d Rate Audit Presentation Fit Only for the Blind: General Fund Reserves Down $3.2 Million

From the back of the room the Powell & Jones PowerPoint was once again unreadable. It was unreadable in 2015 and 2014, as well as every other year it has been presented.  ++ enlarge

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – Last night the County 5, with its new management team fully in place for over a year, sat through another 2nd rate audit presentation and again ignored the fact that its slide presentation was totally unreadable in the audience. After a few slides went by, a Suwannee County visitor sitting next to your reporter mentioned that he couldn't read the slides. Your reporter and everyone around him couldn't read them, either. Chairman Nash and the rest of The 5 were frozen. When your reporter pointed out that the slides weren't readable, Commissioner Frisina turned to Chairman Nash and said, "He's out of order."

Since the early eighties, Richard Powell has been Columbia County's financial advisor and outside auditor. He used to prepare the budgets, but doesn't do that anymore. Last night he gave his annual audit presentation.

He did what he has been doing since your reporter began covering the audit presentations in 2006: he read from a bunch of pages taken from the audit.

PowerPoint: Why Present It?

As it has been for years, the PowerPoint was unreadable from 10ft away and every place in the auditorium. This year pages were not numbered. Mr. Powell's explanations were without reference to the audit pages.

From any angle, last night's Powell presentation was unreadable.                             ++ enlarge

Mr. Powell's talking points were, as usual, not highlighted making it impossible to follow along, even if the pages could have been clearly seen.

After Mr. Powell finished reviewing the 28 pages, Chairman Nash asked for comments from the Board. He did not ask if any member of the public, whose money is in the audit, had any questions.

Mr. Nash asked, "Any questions from the Board?"

Only Commissioner Williams responded. While he did not have a question, he made a comment about the state of the county reserves. He said in part, in a rambling statement (as spoken), "We do not need to (unintelligible) to dip in our reserve to fund items that we need to find a source of revenue in order to do so to keep our reserve happy. And once they happy -- if the reserve is happy -- then it's full... This Board understands that."

After a pause, Mr. Powell responded, "I agree with what you have stated."

Mr. Nash asked, "Any further comments?"

There were no other comments.

Chairman Nash Addressed the County Manager

On a 19 in monitor, the first image is barely readable.          ++ enlarge

Chairman Nash told County Manager Ben Scott, "Ben, I'd like for you to re-present that [the PowerPoint] at the next meeting where it can be read. We went through that last year and the problem's not solved. I'm not asking you to come back, Mr. Powell, but it needs to be where we can read it. I had a hard time sittin' here readin' it. We asked last year for it to be resolved and it's not. If we don't resolve it, it will be this way next year. OK?"

Mr. Scott did not respond.

Last year Mr. Nash asked for "bigger fonts."

Mr. Powell did not volunteer that unlike last year, when the County prepared his PowerPoint presentation, this year his office did it.

Mr. Nash did not indicate why he allowed Mr. Powell to continue with his presentation when none of the graphics were readable.

One Thing Missing: "How we doin?"
Reserves Down $3.2 mil

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

Every year since 2006 the County 5 has generally asked only one question. That question has been asked by the County's longest serving member of The 5, 34 year veteran Commissioner Ronald Williams: "Dick [Richard Powell], on a scale of 1 to 10, how we doin'?"

This year Commissioner Williams' question went missing.

It may be that this year the general fund reserves are down over $3.2 mil.

Epilogue: It goes on in the back-room

Commissioner Williams moved to have the audit accepted. Then he added (as spoken), "If there's any clarifications all one has to do is get with Ben -- with Dick [Powell] -- and they can clarify anything -- like havin' to find as you go through the audit on a personal basis."

The 5 does not want the public aware of its questions.

The Columbia County 5: The legend continues.

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