Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

Real news for working families.  An online newspaper

County News

The County 5, Homeless for Decades, Violators of the Sunshine Law

The silver box w/black stripe is the Clerk's recorder. Without it, she doesn't know what the Chairman says.

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – For decades, the Columbia County 5, Florida's infamous good ole' boy county commission, has been homeless. It has not provided a public meeting room where Board members and residents could be heard and the County 5 could transact its business in the Sunshine. Whispering, mumbling, fumbling, and the inability to project documents for all to see, have been a continuing hallmark of The 5. Recently, the County Attorney told The 5 it needed its own meeting place. Thursday night, Board Chairman Sylvester "Bucky" Nash blew off the County Manager when he mentioned a meeting place for the Board would be beneficial.


Two years ago, then County Chairman Rusty DePratter made another in a line of promises that the microphones in the school board administration auditorium where The 5 meet, would be upgraded in an effort to allow the public to hear the Board during the transaction of its business. That was quickly forgotten. The meetings continued many times with both public and members of The 5 unable to hear.

Last year, the new Chairman, Mr. Nash, was going to take care of the sound issues. He didn’t. In order to hear what the Chairman said, the Clerk was forced to put a tape recorder close to his tonsils so that she could prepare the minutes.

Both the Chair and the rest of the 5 were difficult to hear even in the first couple of rows of the rented school district’s auditorium.

Document Projection

During the DePratter/Nash reign the ability to view documents being presented by the County staff and others became increasingly problematic.

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

The overhead projector was consistently out of focus. During the audit presentation by the county auditor, all the graphics were impossible to read. When your reporter pointed out to the Chair that no one could read any of the graphics, both Mr. Nash and the rest of The 5 sat there like petrified ostriches, refusing to even try and focus the projector.

The Bat Cave

In an effort to make the graphics more visible, The 5 now sits in relative darkness, keeping off half the lights in the first few rows of the auditorium. It looks like they are sitting in a bat cave.

In and around 2009, the County bought a $2,600 overhead projector so that officials and the public could make visual presentations during the meetings.

The thought of giving the public unfettered access to the Board was too much for the County 5. The projector sat on its stand for months. It was never plugged in. Then it disappeared. No one knows what happened to it.

Thursday Night, Sept. 15

At the conclusion of the evening's Board business, Chairman Nash, out of the blue, asked County Manager Ben Scott about the microphones and projector.

"Ben, could you give us an update on the microphones and the projector?"

This was the first time in years there was any substantive public discussion by those in power regarding the sound deficiencies, other than, “Could you please use the mic?”

Commissioner Evert Phillips, stunned by the request, laughed out loud.

County Manager Scott replied, "Our staff came over here. We did some measurements. We began the process of pulling together some quotes. When we contacted the school board they said stop what you're doing, we are already in the process of doing that.... My understanding is that they are doing a quote on replacing the projection system and the microphones."

Commissioner Nash asked, "What can we do to help out – expedite that?"

County Manager Scott replied, "Well, if you have your own room we can do whatever we want to."

The County Attorney recently recommended the Board obtain its own meeting room to help it be in compliance with Florida's sunshine laws.

Commissioner Nash responded, "Well that would require a little bit –unintelligible."

The Observer listened to three different recordings of Mr. Nash to find the missing Nash word, without luck. At the time the article was written, the recorder by Mr. Nash's tonsils was unavailable.

County Manager Scott responded, "But we don't, so we're kind of at the mercy of the school board..."


Recently, The 5 "gave away" the County building known as the Montgomery building for a dollar a year so it could be turned into a beer hall.

It is in the County municipal district. Our estimate, from one of the most knowledgeable building maintenance specialists in N. Florida, is $500k-$600k to turn the building into a first class meeting hall. The County fathers preferred a beer hall.

The 5's recent awards of millions of dollars in tax abatements to millionaires could have been used to finance the project, buy microphones, and give the homeless County 5 a home.

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.

Meeting Calendar
No need to be confused - Find links to agendas and where your participation is welcome.

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