Integrity Challenged: FGC's McKee Kept College Pres Unaware of Uninvited Forum Candidates - Pt I
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Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Integrity Challenged: FGC's McKee Kept College Pres Unaware of Uninvited Forum Candidates - Pt I

COLUMBIA COUNTY/LAKE CITY, FL – The upcoming August 6-7, Candidate Forums being broadcast from the publically supported Florida Gateway College and hyped as a partnership and co-sponsored event between the Chamber of Commerce, Florida Gateway College, and the County's mainstream media, the Lake City Reporter, has not only banned the Columbia County Observer from asking on the air questions, it has also banned the Independent candidates and the Democratic candidate from participation in the Forum.

As in 2016, the on the air team of Columbia County's mainstream media Editor Robert Bridges and the College's Director of Media and Public Information Mike McKee are hosting the event.

The difference between this year and 2016 is that Florida Gateway College's (FGC) McKee is also the President of the Chamber and has clearly demonstrated that he is more concerned about his Republican friends on the Chamber Board and his college chum and roommate Bridges, than he is about the reputation and purpose of the College and his boss, College President Larry Barrett.

Background

Two recent events were criticized for the questionable judgment demonstrated by Messer's Bridges and McKee.

In 2016, Mr. Bridges and Mr. McKee were again co-hosting a candidate forum. Even though Mr. Bridges' newspaper had already endorsed the Republican Party's county commission candidate, Tim Murphy, he tried to question incumbent Scarlet Frisina into a corner.

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

Earlier this year in April, the Chamber hosted another event with the involvement of Chamber President/FGC Communications Director McKee again involved. All questions were vetted by the chamber and forwarded to the panel, while audience questions were vetted on the spot at the direction of Mr. McKee.

At the time, the Observer asked College President Barrett for his comments regarding prior restraint and the vetting of the public's questions. He said he would be in touch. He said that vetting rules are not the policy of the College Board.

President Barrett didn't get back to the Observer.

See: Murphy's Econ Dev Summit: Panel Gets Q's - Public Q's Vetted, Illegal Notice, Econ Dev Chief Shunned

Mike McKee

Mike McKee is the College's Director of Media and Public Information and the Chamber of Commerce President. He apparently sees no conflict in these dual positions.

In the beginning of July, your reporter informed then Chamber Director Dennille Decker that he wished to be included as a questioner at the upcoming candidate forum. Ms. Decker advised that Mr. McKee was the person to talk with.

Your reporter spoke with Mr. McKee and was told that he would have to take up the matter with his "board." Your reporter asked, "Suzanne Norris (FGC Board Chair)?"

Mr. McKee answered, "No, the Chamber Board."

Your reporter followed up, "Don't you think you should be talking you your boss about this (College President Larry Barrett)?"

Your reporter also mentioned that the Columbia County Observer is on most days the most widely accessed source of "Columbia County Florida News."

Mr. McKee ignored the question and the comment.

However, he added that if your reporter was on the panel, the event would be canceled.

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