Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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County Manager Schedules Important County Jail Meeting Same Time as City Council Meeting

The Columbia County Jail. Originally a deal investigated by FDLE.

COLUMBIA COUNTY – The inexperience of the County's top management, lack of oversight by the County 5, and former County Chairman Bucky Nash's disregard of the needs of Columbia County residents over the needs and convenience of the County 5 and commissioners of other counties, has the Public Safety Coordinating Council, (Sheriff, Public Defender, County Court, State Attorney, Jail Warden) meeting at the library at the same time as the City Council. City residents and others will have to decide which meeting to attend.

At the last PSCC meeting, County Manager Williams asks the committee for comments as newly appointed Asst. County Man. Ben Scott looks on. See: Columbia County Jail – $35,000,000: Replace or Renovate, The Conversation Begins

During the January 5 meeting of the County 5, after your reporter asked for a jail update, County Manager Ben Scott announced, "There is a Public Safety Coordinating Council meeting scheduled for January 17. We will be doing an update. The meeting will be held at the public library. It's more conducive that everyone that is on the Public Safety Coordinating Council [sit] around the tables at the public library. That will be on January 17th at 5:30."

For decades, Columbia County has thought its jail to be more important than a municipal center in which to hold public meetings.

Recently, a County owned building, the Montgomery Building, was available right down the block from County Hdq., in the municipal heart of Lake City, but County Attorney Foreman and The 5 decided to lease the building for $1 a year to a couple of guys whose claim to fame was liking beer, brewing beer in their bathtubs, and had the desire to build a brewery, which they thought would better serve the public and themselves.

Violating the County Charter: Nothing New

12th hour posting - no relevant material provided

Contrary to the County Charter, County Manager Scott had not made the supporting documentation for tonight's meeting available to the public. It is not clear if he has made the information available to the Coordinating Council.

Mr. Scott has ignored decades of opinions by the Florida Attorney General which have stressed the need for the public to be advised on matters that affect them so that they can decide whether or not to attend public meetings.

There are two items on tonight's agenda. The first is "Jail Study Findings." There is nothing in the County minutes from 2014, 2015, or 2016 which mentions a "Jail Study."

Also on the agenda is a presentation by Meridian about a "Forensic Program." That is the entire explanation.

In September 2016, elected County Attorney Joel Foreman warned the Board and the Administration about the timeliness of providing backup or supporting documentation to the Board and the public: "The County Charter expressly requires the Board and Administration 'to provide the public with convenient and timely access to its regular and special (non-emergency and non-confidential) meeting agendas, including the information provided to the Board for its consideration.'"

The group that runs the County doesn't pay attention to each other.

The agenda, with its two lines of explanation was posted to the County website this past Saturday, January 14.

Yesterday afternoon via text message, the Observer asked Mr. Scott if he had checked the City Council schedule before scheduling the PSCC meeting. Mr. Scott did not respond.

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