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Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Lake City

City Attorney Slot Goes to Koberlein, Councilman Elect Hill Ignored, Public Records Issue


Lake City attorney, Fred Koberlein (front left), his father, Fred Sr., and Megan Logan of Marks Gray, await the announcement of the rankings for City Attorney.

LAKE CITY, FL – Last night the City Council followed in the footsteps of Columbia County and went for the hometown team. Rather than go outside the City/County limits to fill the important, soon to be vacant city slot, that of retiring City Attorney and legal legend, Herbert Darby, the Council decided on a hometown attorney. After an hour and a half of interviews, the Koberlein law firm was ranked number one.

With Councilman Zack Paulk on the way out and now a lame duck, having been defeated Tuesday night by former Councilman Jake Hill, no one thought to contact Mr. Hill to sit in on the interviews. After the decision was announced and the meeting ended, Purchasing Director Laurette Burks didn't want to give up the scoring sheet which ranked the three firms.

The Interviews for City Attorney: Top Secret


Councilman Jake Hill    (file)

Before the Council meeting was gaveled to order, your reporter asked City Manager Johnson if anyone had contacted the newly elected Councilman Jake Hill and asked him to attend the interviews. Traditionally, newly elected officials are invited to attend meetings when governing body decisions transcend administrations.

This is Lake City. Mr. Johnson said he didn't know if anyone called, and after a while added, "I didn't."

At 5:30 pm, the public was asked to leave the City Council Chambers, as the interviews were about to begin. It is not clear why both the Police Chief and the Deputy Chief remained in attendance. They were not part of the interview process.

The City Council began its interviews of three law firms (alphabetical): Folds & Walker, Gainesville; Koberlein Law Office, Lake City; Marks Gray, Jacksonville. Each firm was given 30 minutes. It is unknown what was asked or what was answered.

While the interviews could have been open to the public had the City made that a requirement, it used the Florida Statutes to shut out the public. One of the law firms shared with your reporter that he thought the interviews were going to be open.

At 7 pm the Council chambers were opened again to the public. Purchasing Director Laurette Burks announced the scores and that Koberlein Law was ranked number one.

Public Records: The Score Sheet


The score sheet composite                                                                       Click to enlarge

At the conclusion of the interviews, Purchasing Director Burks gathered all the scores; brought them back to her office; tallied them up; typed them up; and brought back what she called, "Selection Committee Interview Composite." It was undated.

After Ms. Burks announced the selection there was little comment from the Council, other than the firms all seemed qualified and they complimented each other. None of the Council members shared with the public anything about the questions or on what they based their number one ranking.

Lame Duck Zack Paulk's numbers for the number one and number two ranked firms show an obvious difference from the other rankings.

The Score Sheet & Fred Koberlein

After the meeting was adjourned, your reporter asked Fred Koberlein, "Fred, are you going to continue to represent the Hospital Authority?"

Mr. Koberlein is the attorney for the Lake Shore Hospital Authority, an independent taxing district down the block from City Hall. The City and the Hospital Authority do business and it is unclear how Mr. Koberlein can represent both the City and the Authority without conflict.

Mr. Koberlein quipped, "As long as you're going to be there. If you're leaving it's going to be boring. I follow your coattails."

Mr. Koberlein asked to see the score sheet. Ms. Burks gave Mr. Koberlein the sheet and he took a picture of it with his phone.

Your reporter asked Ms. Burks for a copy of the score sheet.

Ms. Burks said, "You can get one tomorrow." She said that she provides them electronically to the City Clerk.

Mr. Koberlein offered one of his pictures to your reporter.

Ms. Burks asked, "Why don't you do a public record request and I'll provide it to you?"

Moments before your reporter had asked for a copy.

Gesturing toward Mr. Koberlein, your reporter said, "He just took a picture of it."

Mr. Burks responded, "He was one of the interviewees."

Your reporter said, "So what."

Your reporter asked again to see the tally sheet and Ms. Burks volunteered it.

You can look, but don't take notes.

Your reporter said, "I don't have a phone that takes pictures, I have to write it down."

Ms. Burks replied, "I didn't say you could write it down. I said you could look at it."

Your reporter asked, "If I can look at it, I can't write the numbers?  He (Mr. Koberlein) can take a picture, but I can't write the numbers down?"

After a short conversation with Deputy Clerk Katy McCrary, Ms. Burks said, "She will make you a copy."

Epilogue

City Mayor Steve Witt and City Manager Wendell Johnson will negotiate for the City with Mr. Koberlein. Those negotiations are closed to the public.

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