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Columbia County Observer

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Lake City

New City Attorney Fred Koberlein: What Did He Say? Mayor Steve Witt: We Will Get a Transcript

LAKE CITY, FL – Last night in City Hall an era came to an end with the retirement of Herbert Darby. After six decades as City Attorney, a contract for a new City Attorney for Lake City was approved by the Council. Fred Koberlein, Jr., one of the three finalists for the position, had his contract approved without comment, almost.

As reported yesterday, City Attorney Interviews – Flatlined – Completely Inaudible: City Violates Statute, the original City recordings of the finalist interviews were completely inaudible, except for the questions.

The City IT Department attempted to enhance the recordings. At best, they were marginnally successful, as can be seen in the above graphic.

Last Night in City Hall

Lake City's popular Mayor, Steve Witt, has demonstrated year after year the principle that a public meeting is a "market place of ideas," (Town of Palm Beach v. Gradison, citations omitted) and that the "citizen input factor" is an important aspect of public meetings (Krause v. Reno).

Your reporter has never seen the Mayor refuse meaningful public input.

When the City resolution came before the Council, Mayor Witt recognized your reporter.

Addressing the issue of the inaudible interviews for City Attorney, your reporter said, "The public has a right to know what was asked of Mr. Koberlein at that meeting. I'm not saying you guys are trying to do anything wrong, but you can't hear it."

Conflict of Interest

The Observer addressed the issue of Mr. Koberlein's conflict of interest. Mr. Koberlein also represents the Lake Shore Hospital Authority.

City Councilman Ward thought the City would give Mr. Koberlein the choice who to represent, "We will give him that option, I would think, to decide which one he wants to stay on."

Mayor Witt added, "He may have a conflict with both."

City Manager Johnson advised, "There is a conflict of interest provision in the agreement, which was put in there by Mr. Darby."

Mayor Witt concluded, "In a small town practicing law, you run into conflicts a lot. You just have to work through em'."

The Interviews

Your reporter thanked the Council for the information, "Thank you very much. I just wanted to point out that the audio is totally unintelligible; that nobody will know what Mr. Koberlein said; Folds and Walker said'; and Marks Gray. The statutes require that that be able to be heard."

City Councilwoman Melinda Moses addressed Deputy City Clerk, Katy McCrary, "There is a recording that you were able to transcribe?"

Ms. McCrary: "We didn't transcribe it, but we could hear it -- the modified version."

Your reporter added, "You may get a word here and there, but you can't hear it."

City Manager Johnson added, "We'll have to get somebody to transcribe it."

Mayor Witt followed up, "We might have to do that."

The Mayor recognized citizen Barbara Lemley, who suggested the Clerk retrieve the audio and that the Council see if they could hear it.

Ms. McCrary said, "Audrey [City Clerk Audrey Sikes] and I could both make it out when you listen to it -- the modified version."

Mr. Ward suggested, "Transcribe it from that."

Mayor Witt followed up, "Just go ahead and get a court reporter and transcribe it."


Fred Koberlein waits for the Council vote.

Mr. Jefferson added something, but it was unintelligible. He turned away from the microphone.

Your reporter asked, "What did Mr. Jefferson say?"

Mayor Witt answered, "He said we'd get somebody to transcribe it," adding, "It can't be that long."

The resolution to approve Fred Koberlein's contract passed unanimously. Fred Koberlein is officially the new Lake City, City Attorney.

After the Meeting

Your reporter asked Mr. Johnson how long he thought it would take to get the transcript. He said about ten days.

Your reporter left the council chambers and was talking with Councilman Zack Paulk at the elevator. Councilwoman Moses entered the elevator and said, "We're sending out the audio to get it enhanced. There are places that do that."

Your reporter asked, "What about the transcript?"

Ms. Moses said, "We're not going to do that."

A short while later in the parking lot, your reporter shared this information with Councilman Jefferson.

Mr. Jefferson said, "I heard the Mayor say it was going to be transcribed. That's what he said at the meeting. I'm expecting it to be transcribed."

Your reporter asked, "Can I quote you on that?"

Mr. Jefferson answered, "That's what I heard in the meeting. That's what I expect. You certainly can."

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