Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

Real news for working families.  An online newspaper

Tri County/Florida News

Suwannee Valley Transit Authority: Here They Go Again - Good Government, What's That?

The Suwannee Valley Transit Authority played to an overflow crowd last night.

LIVE OAK, FL – It was business as usual at the Suwannee Valley Transit Authority (SVTA) last night. Despite being advised last month by the Board that the agendas and agenda materials were to be made public before the meetings, there were no agendas available at the meeting and none were sent to the commissioners or the folks who requested them. When it was pointed out to the Chairman, Columbia County Commissioner Ronald Williams, he refused to make them available.

Shortly after the meeting was gaveled to order, your reporter asked Chairman Williams, "Does anybody have a copy of the agenda?"

Chairman Williams, who has chaired the SVTA for as long as anyone can remember, asked no one in particular if anyone had a copy. Nobody answered.

Lake City Reporter editor, Robert Bridges.

Ralph Kitchens, a member of the Local Transportation for the Disadvantaged Board told the Observer, "The two guys from the Lake City Reporter were sitting right in-front of me. The older one [Robert Bridges, the editor] said,"" Where is it? Why didn't we get one?""

One of the Board members said, "There's agendas in the packages."

A Suwannee Valley Transit Authority employee said, "The Board all has packets."

The Observer responded, "But there's no agendas for the public."

There was silence. A copy machine was only a few feet away in a room close by.

Link to short agenda. • Download complete agenda packet.

The Observer asked, "Mr. Chairman, none?"

Chairman Williams responded, "No we don't."

SVTA Administrator Gwen Pra was on the agenda, as she had recently submitted her resignation effective September 30, 2014. The Board was being asked to "consider it."

The Observer continued, "Does anybody know where Ms. Pra is tonight?"

Chairman Williams, "I beg your pardon?"

The Observer, "Ms. Pra. Is she here?"

Someone spoke out from the audience, "No she's not."

The Observer, "Does anybody know why?"

Chairman Williams, "She's not here tonight."

While Ms. Pra was not in the room, some folks thought she may have been somewhere in the building. A little while later, her attorney revealed himself to be in the audience.

The Spreadsheets

Spreadsheets prepared by the SVTA mysteriously found their way into the hands of the Lake City Reporter, Columbia County's local print newspaper. Nobody would admit to having passed them along. The first 4 months of Administrator Pra's employment was missing. The Lake City Reporter didn't catch it.

These four spread- sheets relied upon by the Lake City Reporter were obtained by the Observer.

The Observer addressed Chairman Williams, "There were some spreadsheets recently circulated. I know the Lake City Reporter had them. I know. I saw them. They were spreadsheets that had to do with comp time. My question is to the Suwannee Valley Transit Authority. Were those records sent via a public records request from the Suwannee Valley Transit Authority? Or did they get them any other way? That's a question for the Suwannee Valley Transit Authority and you."

Chairman Williams responded, "I don't get into person [personally get into] the day to day operations of Suwannee Valley Transit. If the Lake City Reporter requested a public information [public record], then they got it. If they got those records from other than here then I don't know where they got em from."

The Observer, "So my question is to the Transit Authority, because you just said you're not involved in the day to day operations, did anybody in the Suwannee Valley Transit Authority?"

Chairman Williams answered, "They all say no. They did not."

Long time Chair Ronald Williams during a quiet moment.

Was Chairman Williams involved in the day-to-day-business of the SVTA?

Former employees, because of fear of retaliation, would only speak under the condition of anonymity. "He was there," was a common refrain.

On Tuesday, the Lake City Reporter quoted Chairman Williams to have said, "I would go spend 16 hours there sometime..."

The spreadsheets – where did they come from?

Mysteriously absent from the spreadsheets were the first five months of Administrator Pra's employment, which began on August 15, 2011, resulting in the omission of 100's of hours of her accumulated comp time.

While they looked genuine, there were two questions. Were they genuine? Were they developed by the Suwannee Valley Transit Authority?

Earlier today that question was answered by the SVTA's former Operations Director, Bill Steele. The documents were emailed to him while he was on his way home to Maryland.

Mr. Steele responded via email, "The documents are genuine. Nobody is saying who sent them. I did not send them."

Somebody did and somebody wanted the Lake City Reporter to have them.


For decades, Columbia County's reputation as the quintessential good ole' boy Florida county has continued unabated. Good government at the County Commission level is something that continues to elude its residents.

The SVTA is composed of Columbia, Hamilton, and Suwannee counties. Columbia County's long time commissioner and SVTA Chairman Ronald Williams continues to brand the SVTA.

It has been reported to the Observer that Florida Department of Law Enforcement is investigating.

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.

Related Links:

• I Had The Displeasure of Having To Ride SVTA
(Posted August 27, 2014)

Former Suwannee Valley TA Operations Director: Team SVTA Accomplished Its Mission
(Posted August 25, 2014)

Suwannee Valley TA: In Disarray Since 2011, The SVTA Remains Severely Challenged
(Posted August 19, 2014)

Suwannee Valley TA: Dialysis Patients Riding On Saturday for Another Month
(Posted May 14, 2014)

FOILED – A Plan to Depose the North Central Florida Regional Planning Council and Replace it With the SVTA
(Posted May 1, 2014)

Suwannee Valley Transit Authority:
Here They Go Again - Good Government, What's That?

(Posted April 30, 2014)

• Administrator and Director of Operations Resign
(Posted April 24, 2014)

Suwannee Valley TA Under Microscope: OIG (Office of the Inspector General) Called In To Investigate
(Posted March 13, 2014)

Transit Authority Moves Into 21st Century Commissioner Nash Says, "No Mas" to Secrecy
(Posted March 11, 2014)

Governing Bd Meets in Locked Building. Safety Issues Kept Under Lock and Key
(Posted November 6, 2013)

Suwannee Valley Transit Authority Grievance Committee: Other Complaints & Retaliation
(Posted Sept 30, 2013)  (Part II)

Suwannee Valley Transit Authority Grievance Committee Meets: Complaints Upheld - Rider's Representative Retaliated Against
(Posted Sept 27, 2013)

• In 2014 it is estimated that 40% of the tri county SVTA population will be eligible for Transportation for the Disadvantaged.
(Posted July 31, 2013)

Operations Manager Gets 13% Pay Raise
SVTA management created a "hostile work environment?

(Posted July 11, 2013)

Suwannee Valley Transit Authority (SVTA): Florida's Sunshine Laws - What's that?
(Posted April 23, 2012)

 • Suwannee Valley Transit Authority (SVTA) Train Wreck Continues: Accounting still questionable - Vendors still not being paid
(Posted March 27, 2012)

Dist V Com Scarlet Frasina Breaks Tie: Puts residents on hook for $300,000 loan to Suwannee Valley Transit Authority. Collateral – what's that?
(Posted March 02, 2012)

 • Suwannee Valley Transit Authority:
A train wreck working to get transportation for the disadvantaged back on track

(Posted January 31, 2011)