Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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County News

Pt I:  Meeting Attendance Double Standard
No Problem for the Columbia County 5

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – Thursday night at the County 5, in light of the recent MIA's of Commissioners Nash, his nephew Commissioner Murphy, and Commissioner Phillips, your reporter, also a resident, asked The 5 to have County Attorney Joel Foreman revisit the 2005 public censure of then County Commissioner George Skinner for missing a Value Adjustment Board meeting.

Recently, Commissioners Nash and Murphy were known to be at a family event and were MIA at the final budget hearing. Commissioner Phillips went on vacation during the recent Hurricane Irma Declared State of Emergency.

Commissioners Nash, Murphy, and Phillips had also missed other meetings in which they represented the County.

Background: 2005

Com George Skinner

In and before 2005, Columbia County Commissioner George Skinner, after three decades of standing on his feet as a barber damaged his spine; was prescribed pain killers; got hooked on them. He missed some meetings.

Mr. Skinner was at the head of the opioid epidemic now facing America.

Mr. Skinner got himself into rehab and eventually kicked the habit.

At that time the epidemic was unknown.

The Trap: 2005

On November 3, 2005, the trap was set to publically censure Commissioner Skinner at that evening's board meeting.

Commissioner Dewey Weaver pulled a folded statement from his suit jacket breast pocket and began reading: "I'd like to discuss Commissioner Skinner's failure to appear at the 2005 Value Adjustment Board Meeting..."

Commissioner Weaver did not ask for Board approval to add his upcoming issue to the agenda. The County Commission didn't have rules, even though the County Charter required them.

Florida law requires three county commissioners at Value Adjustment Board meetings.

After Commissioner Skinner could not be reached by phone, Chairperson Jennifer Flinn left a doctor's appointment and filled in. The meeting, while delayed, was held, and according to Chairperson Flinn, went on without a hitch.

"A personal embarrassment...condoning this type of behavior."

Commissioner Weaver continued his statement: "Commissioner Skinner's failure to attend the meeting was a personal embarrassment to Commissioner Porter, an unnecessary hardship on Commissioner Flinn, and a dismal reflection on the Columbia County Board of County Commissioners. Even worse, is that it undermines the integrity of this Board, and undermines the confidence the citizens have in this Board... I view it as a neglect of duty, and if this Board doesn't take some kind of action it will be the same as condoning this type of behavior."

Commissioner Elizabeth Porter (now Representative Porter), before she voted to publically censure Commissioner Skinner said: "I knew when I took this job it was my responsibility to be there, to show up... I didn't need written guidelines to tell me to be there. I don't see a problem with written guidelines and it can't hurt, but I would not claim that as an excuse for not fulfilling my duties."

"We don't have guidelines..."

Before she voted against the public censure, Commissioner Flinn, the one directly affected by Mr. Skinner's absence, said that Mr. Skinner had created a hardship on her personally. "I felt it was my responsibility to be there, even if I was dying... I don't know your reasoning for not showing up, so I can't judge you... When you're elected, your business of working for the Board should come first... However, because we don't have guidelines in place, and this is a perfect example as to why they are needed, I will have to vote nay, because Commissioner Skinner didn't have guidelines to follow."

After the 3-2 vote in favor of the illegal public censure, Chairperson Flinn said of Commissioner Porter, "She lived up to her responsibility and led that meeting like a pro."

The Law: "The most important duty of a county commissioner is to attend commission meetings..."

In 1985, in the case of Bass v. Askew, 342 So.2d 145 (1 D.C.A.Fla., 1977), the court determined: "The most important duty of a county commissioner is to attend commission meetings because this is the place where county business is discussed... It is the Governor's constitutional responsibility to initially determine how many absences constitute neglect of duty." Bass v. Askew, supra, at 146.


In 2005, there was nothing in any County charter, rule, policy, procedure or tradition, for the County Commission to publicly censure a fellow commissioner.

At that time, as now, the Florida Constitution controls the removal of County Commissioners and the powers of the Governor.

In 2005, the only person in the State of Florida that could move against Commissioner Skinner for missing a meeting, or meetings, was the Governor.

Twelve years later, the County still is absent any rules regarding Commissioner attendance at County Board meetings.

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