The Lake City Reporter:  Working Hard to Turn the County 5 into a Good Ole' Boys Club of All Boys
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Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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The Lake City Reporter:  Working Hard to Turn the County 5 into a Good Ole' Boys Club of All Boys


Last night's candidate event at FGC: a YouTube event that was not breaking any viewing records. Lake City Reporter Editor Robert Bridges, the questioner, checks his notes.

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – Last night's candidate Q & A at Florida Gateway College (FGC) was highlighted by the ethical faux pas of having the Lake City Reporter's editor, Robert Bridges, asking and writing the questions for the two candidates for County commissioner, District 5. The Lake City Reporter had previously endorsed Mr. Murphy over Commissioner Frisina. Editor Bridges, who at one point got genuinely nasty with Ms. Frisina, never got to the obvious question, “Do you think there should be a woman on the County Commission, or should it be a good ole' boys club of all boys?”

Opening Statements

The District 5 segment began with two- minute opening statements.

Ms. Frisina said she was bringing unmatched love and dedication to the community and took responsibility for bringing percent-based budgeting to Columbia County, an idea so bad that only Columbia County has adopted it, and its legality and darkness has been questioned by other Sheriff’s Offices and county commissions throughout the state.

Mr. Murphy introduced himself.

He said he was vice president of Columbia County Resources and said "it had no affiliation with the County whatsoever."

Mr. Murphy continued, "I've been seriously thinking about this position, serving you -- the taxpayers of Columbia County for some many years before... I believe I can take this job, step in the door, and you won't know the difference other than you will have an outspoken gentlemen that's going to be standing up for what's right for you... I will bring a different appearance to our government. We'll be held accountable and I will hold others on the board accountable."

Editor Bridges did not follow up with Mr. Murphy regarding Mr. Murphy's remark that Columbia County Resources, the Fairgrounds, has "no affiliation with the County."

On October 6, the County 5 voted unanimously, without one word of discussion, after your reporter asked for an explanation, to provide 600 tons of asphalt millings and thousands of dollars of County labor gratis to the Fairgrounds, without seeing any financial statements from Columbia County Resources.


Mike McKee (right) told the Observer that he was not involved in writing the questions.

The Dale Williams Mess

Editor Bridges asks the next loaded question:

“When Ben Scott took over as County Manager, two years back, it was stated, ‘he had big shoes to fill.’ It is true that Mr. Scott was left with somewhat of a mess to clean up. From a board of commissioners, who according to a recent study by the County Attorney, have not complied with all of the requirements of the County Charter, for who knows how long, to a deeply flawed procurement policy; to a secret memo buried in County files that cost us $1 million once the attorneys for the high profile plaintiff uncovered it -- all in all, considering everything, how has Mr. Scott been performing in your view?”


Commissioner Frisina

Ms. Frisina answered, "There are some aspects to that question that I disagree with. I do think that when someone has been in a position as long as Mr. Williams was there are certainly a lot of things that change when you have someone new come in. I think that Mr. Scott has done a great job... He's working through the hurdles that he has to and that he is doing his best with the board... I think with anyone, there is always room for improvement..."

Mr. Murphy said he "went to school with Dale," and continued, "Ben came into the show with a lot of weight on his shoulders... Me and Dale were friends. We could disagree to agree or either visa-versa."

Bridges: he wants to know about a rumor
Murphy: "We're all kin to somebody"

Mr. Bridges asked Mr. Murphy: "There is a rumor going around that you are going to form an unholy alliance with Bucky Nash. Is there any truth to that? What do you suppose folks are trying to imply by suggesting it?"

Mr. Bridges did not explain where the rumor came from. It may have come from him.


Candidate Murphy

Mr. Murphy answered:  "We live in Lake City and rumors to get started... you can help or your friends are - you can't help who your cousins are. I'm proud of Bucky. Where Bucky's came from and where he's went to. Anybody that knows Bucky Nash in this community knows he's pretty well straightforward... You know dang good and well, I ain't a fence rider... Probably one of the best shoo-ins that Mr. Nash has gotten in quite some time is when they did the recent abatement issue out here on the west end of town. I'm not going to say I disagree with all of it, but I surely didn't agree with a lot of it... In Columbia County we're all kin to somebody... We can't help who our kinfolk are... All I can tell you -- hold me accountable... I'm as transparent as they get."

Ms. Frisina's Campaign Contribution

Mr. Bridges asked, "15% of your cash contributions have come from executives of Anderson Columbia Paving Company, the County's largest public works vendor. How do you respond to voters who say, 'yes it's legal to accept these gifts from a company we just finished doing battle with in court, but it just doesn't look right?'?"

Ms. Frisina wasted no time in answering, "I accept campaign contributions from family members, friends, vendors and they give those contributions to me because they feel like I've done a good job..."

Mr. Bridges did not follow up.

County Attorney Joel Foreman's proposal
Bridges: confused and nasty

Next up was County Attorney Joel Foreman's long overdue recommendations for good government.


Editor Robert Bridges

Mr. Bridges began, "Let's talk for a minute about County attorney Joel Foreman's proposal. In a long letter to the board last month he made clear that he thought the commissioners were ignoring the County Charter on a wide range of issues. Do you agree with him? What's most pressing among these issues?"

Ms. Frisina said she spoke to Mr. Foreman when the "letter was in the works." "According to what he told me, he put that memo together to make suggestions on things that he felt like our County and our board of County Commissioners could do better... That's his job."

Mr. Bridges followed up, not giving Ms. Frisina a chance to respond, "With all due respect, he did make clear that whether it is intentional or not there was a lot of, he described them as, 'violations of the sunshine law,' just to set the record straight. I looked over the memo again, just before we came on the air."

Mr. Bridges must have been looking at a different memo. In the nine page memo, the word "sunshine" was mentioned one time.

Mr. Bridges asked Mr. Murphy for an answer, "What do you think? I'm sure you read this memo."

Mr. Murphy answered, "I did and a long time in the waiting... this should have come out a long time ago. The memo that you regarded to just a few minutes ago -- them types of things will have never happened... I know that ethically all the right things have not been done. People should be held accountable... I'm not going to speak for the County Attorney, but I can ensure you if everything was going smooth -- up there--- since the day he was elected, it would never been a memo out there. He's seen sunshine violations. He's seen how commissioners interact, do business on the second floor..."

Bridges asks about the Jail
Frisina says 'hold on a minute'

Mr. Bridges next asked about the county jail, Ms. Frisina wasn't letting Mr. Bridges off the hook regarding his inaccurate comments about the Foreman memo or his characterizations.

I would like to go back and comment about what you said about the memo.

If Mr. Foreman knows of something that is being done in violation of the Sunshine Law, I believe he would have reported it before now, because that's his job. Anyone that knows of a violation of the Sunshine Law, or ethics, should have reported it and if folks are having meetings before they come to the meetings -- they need to stop that.      

I can ensure you it's not something that I do and I make my decision when I get to the meeting. I do all my fact-finding before I get there, but I don't make my decision before I get there and before I've heard all the information that's laid out.

Mr. Bridges tried to clarify, "No one's accused you of doing anything of the sort. I'm just going by the way he phrased it."

Consolidation

Mr. Bridges asked a question about consolidation of the City and the County. It was clear, as it was with his question about the jail, that he did not do his homework, nor was he aware of the history of both issues.

The Candidates Wrap it Up

Mr. Murphy went first:

"I'm transparent. I'm available. Give me the opportunity to serve you, the taxpayers of Columbia County, and I'll promise you I will not let you down... You can hold me accountable...

County tax dollars; slush funds; you're not goin' to see Tim Murphy out here takin' advantage of that for any type of personal gain. And I'm just talkin' about everybody in the whole. Become your County Commissioner when I get an opportunity to do such -- all these monies that are left over -- we've heard it throughout this campaign. My opponent helped save $7 million. That's not a true statement. It's a manipulation of numbers.

The state of Florida when the times got hard, they're still accepting a million nine a year. These numbers are not factual. They're numbers that have turned and mingled. It just don't make a thing..." [all Mr. Murphy's remarks are as spoken]

Commissioner Frisina concluded:

 "... I'm here working for you every day: meeting with you out in your neighborhood; accepting your phone calls. I do my very best to be available to the citizens and to the constituents at all times. I am the only full-time County Commissioner."

Epilogue

 
The Columbia County 5 from left to right: Commissioners Ronald Williams;
Rusty DePratter; Bucky Nash; Everett Phillips; Scarlet Frisina
Will it become an all boys club?

Early in the evening, candidate Murphy held up for experience his tenure as a Gov. Scott appointee on the Lake Shore Hospital Authority, clearly one of the worst special districts in Florida.

Mr. Murphy was one of the Authority Board members that voted to appeal to the Court of Appeals (1st) DCA a decision that the infamous Jackson P. "Jack" Berry, the clearly unqualified Manager of the Authority, unlawfully withheld public records from your reporter.

The Authority lost, costing Zurich International hundreds of thousands of dollars and the Authority an amount that the Authority never made public, although the question was asked.

Mr. Murphy has a history. It is not one of either transparency, accountability, answering public record requests, or questions.

With all the issues that have faced Columbia County during its transition from the 30+ year reign of County Manager Dale Williams, Columbia County has been a bellwether of the Public Record laws and record access.

As a County Commissioner, Ms. Frisina has in part been responsible for that unblemished record.

Comments  (to add a comment go here) 

On October 28, 2016, a Columbia County resident wrote:

Mr. Murphy claims "You know dang good and well, I ain't a fence rider". Then promptly hops the fence with this statement, "I'm not going to say I disagree with all of it, but I surely didn't agree with a lot of it". Maybe he was misunderstood, which seems easy to do while listening to him.

From,  I have no cousins in Columbia County

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On October 26, a Columbia County resident wrote:

Dear Editor, your story plainly quoted Mr. Murphy as stating he would be an 'outspoken member of The 5'. My question is this; When has Mr. Murphy displayed a willingness to be outspoken on the Governor's LSHA Board of Directors? From what I have seen, he is blowing smoke.

 

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

 
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