Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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County Commission News

Columbia County Commissioners MIA for their first scheduled Board Meeting

County Manager Dale Williams explains the meeting rescheduling at the December 17th Commission meeting.

A Columbia County Commissioner, with benefits, makes about a thousand dollars a week. Some folks think that they have a right to know why their commissioners cannot attend a Board meeting. If three out of five weren't showing up, one would think the public has a right to know where their Commissioners are. Not in Columbia County.

The Columbia County Commission ended 2009 by canceling their first scheduled 2010 Commission meeting and rescheduling two days earlier, during the day, when working families will not be able to attend. Why? The real reason is anybody's guess. So far the legendary "good ole boys" of Columbia County aren't really talking, except in double speak.

The County Commission's most recent bit of monkey business began at the very end of the December 3, 2009 Board meeting, when District II Commissioner Dewey Weaver realized that County Manager Dale Williams forgot to mention the purported need to reschedule the year's first meeting, a month away.

Com Weaver asked County Manager ("CM") Williams, "Did you check the calendar for possible conflict like we discussed earlier?"

County Manager Dale Williams was obviously not prepared.

The rest could have been right out of an Abbot and Costello movie:

CM Williams:     There is. The first falls on a Friday.

Com Weaver:     OK

CM Williams:      And the first meeting -- the first Thursday in January -- is the 7th and there will be a conflict. (To Carolyn Baker) Check and make sure I’m not here.

Com Ronald Williams:     If there is a conflict, I move that we move that meeting.

Clerk: ~inaudible~

Com Williams:     To what date?

CM Williams:     What’s the first Thursday in January? (some talking among themselves) There will be a conflict on the 8th -- I’m sorry -- I have a day off.

(No one asked why long time Assistant County Manager, Lisa Roberts, could not stand in for the County Manager, as she has many time before.)

Com Weaver:     OK. Then we need the board to decide if they want to move that meeting to 3 o’clock in the afternoon -- on the 8th.

(more ~inaudible~ talk among themselves – so much for the Sunshine Law)

CM Williams:     Karl [Burckhardt – a local news man] clarified -- we’re gettin you confused -- the date is in fact the 7th. On the 7th of January there are a number of people who will not be present. So I was asked today by Com Weaver to check and verify that and if so to ask the Board if they wish to move the meeting that would be on that date, to a different day. And if we are, we have to give ample notice, because it has to be advertised in accordance with the charter.

Com DuPree:     I move it to 3 o’clock.

CM Williams:     A number of people are goin to be gone that entire day.

Com Weaver:     The 6th is a Wednesday? Is that correct?

CM Williams:     The 6th is a Wednesday.

Com Weaver:     The 5th is a Tuesday. We could do it on Tuesday at 3 o’clock.

Com Bailey:     Will we be able to get this building?

CM Williams:     Well, when we go to advertise it, we’ll find out.

Com Weaver:     So January 5th at 3pm. And that will be in the form of a motion.

The motion passed unanimously.

No one ever divulged, or asked, which Commissioners or member of the staff, other than the County Manager, weren't going to be available for the first Board meeting of the year or why, nor does the County Charter say anything about advertising.

On December 17th, The Board and the County Manager had another bite of the apple and another chance to come clean, when, after discovering their Dec 3rd "sleight of hand" original attempt to reschedule the Board meeting wasn't legal, they had to do it all over again, this time, the right way, by resolution as required by the County Charter.

Before the Board passed the resolution, the Observer asked the reason the meeting was being rescheduled.

County Manager Dale Williams answered, "The reason is we anticipated there would be people out of town that might be hard to obtain a quorum. And because the charter requires a specific number of days of notification, the decision has to be made in advance.

In plain English, this means three Columbia County Commissioners are out of town, or somewhere, after the long Christmas Holiday without any explanation.

County Manager Dale Williams, true to form, made up the part about the "specific number of days of notification," as the Charter is silent on this issue, saying only " The Board of County Commissioners shall provide by resolution for the location, time and place for holding all regular meetings of the Board of County Commissioners."

In Columbia County Florida, the New Year begins with business as usual.