Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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County Commission News

$277,000 and Counting - The Hon P. DeWitt Cason, the man that signs the checks speaks out

The helter-skelter world of Columbia County continued at this past Thursday's County Commission meeting when the County Commission once again demonstrated that modern world finance, accountability and plain old common sense aren't even a dream of the legendary Columbia County Commission.

The County Manager's 12th hour memo is available here.

While Florida struggles with unemployment at over ten percent, the impact of the Gulf Oil Spill is wreaking havoc with Florida's economy, and state and local governments all over the country are tightening their belts and consolidating, County Manager Dale Williams, with only hours notice, sprung on the public a request to authorize four new county positions at a proposed cost of up to $259,000, not including benefits.

The County's talented HR Director, Michelle Crummit, is routinely left out of the loop in HR decisions.

In most places in the civilized world, the HR Director would have made a presentation to the Board substantiating with statistics, studies, and research, facts and figures justifying the new positions. In Columbia County the HR Director didn't know the proposed positions were on the Board's agenda.

County Manager Williams did not bring professionally prepared job descriptions to the Commission. There were no minimum experience or education requirements mentioned during his presentation.

While the usual minimum education requirement to work for the good old boys in Columbia County is a GED or equivalent, it would appear that in these positions -- anything goes.

If the present trend in Columbia County continues, the salary levels of new hires are in an inverse proportion to one's education, i.e., the more one makes – the less education one needs.

The Board approved the $71,000 Senior Staff Assistant position with a nod and a wink. County  Manager (CM) Williams' explanation of where the funding was to come from to fund this position was hilarious. He said he would cut the budget, but he didn't explain where and no one asked any questions.

Formercall center director, Doug Brown and the Sheriff
Former call center director, Doug Brown and Sheriff Hunter. There has been  trouble at the call center for some time.

Once again, the 911 call center is a mess and is getting reorganized. The Board voted to demote the present director to radio repairman at what appears to be the same salary he earned as director, $55,500. Then they voted to hire a new 911 Director.

On Friday morning the Sheriff was to meet with the County Manager, the City Manager and the Lake City Police Chief to discuss the problems at the call center.

When your reporter mentioned to Sheriff Hunter that he would like to attend the meeting, he was told that it was "closed." The Sheriff explained that he was just meeting to go over a power point presentation that he was planning to present at a future meeting.

Clearly, the most bizarre request by CM Williams was his new suggested Compliance Officer, at a top salary of $61,589. It appeared that he wanted to clone Lake City's City Clerk, Audrey Sikes, and get her going at the county to do the work that the county staff is already doing.

Including benefits, the rubber stamp County Commission approved three of the four positions presented by the CM. The cost -- $277,000.

Unable to clone Ms. Sikes, the Board did not approve the Compliance Officer position.

This is shaping up to be a tough year for the pocketbooks of the working families of Columbia County.

Comments  (to add a comment go here)

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Hon P. DeWitt Cason - Clerk of the Courts

The popular and long time Clerk of the Courts, the Hon. P. DeWitt Cason spoke to the Observer on Friday.

Observer: Mr. Cason, you are the Clerk to the Board and every county check has your signature on it. I sent you the County Manager's memo yesterday, would you like to comment?

Mr. Cason: In today's current economic environment it is hard to imagine, but I have no control over that side of the street. The Board has the right to hire, but given today's current economic climate, I find it difficult to justify those positions at this time.

Observer: You may have noticed the one position that the County Commission didn't approve last night, the Compliance Officer.

Mr. Cason: I want clarification as to why they are seeking a position like that for responsibilities that seem to be handled appropriately now by the county.