Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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County Commission News

Homeless County Commission Calls The Cops

The Observer being escorted out of the County Commission meeting by Det. John Hatcher.
Lake City Journal photo

For years, the legendary "good old boy" Columbia County Commission, impressed with what it clearly considers its "imperial" self importance has squashed those who dare to question or comment on its behavior and performance. Three years ago, the good old boys began digging in and with the election of Jack Berry protégé, Jody DuPree in 2008 the situation took a fast downhill turn. The Commission's inability to take the heat, answer the tough questions and follow their continually changing rules of order resulted in the unfortunate situation during Thursday's meeting. The empty auditorium in Carl Burkhardt's photo speaks for itself.

The Jet audio is here.

On Friday morning, it was reported to the Observer that Lake City's popular radio station, 96.5 the Jet, was running a news clip based on the Lake City Journal's photo taken at the October 7th County Commission meeting and had also done an interview with Commissioner Jody DuPree, who added to the mix.

Yesterday afternoon, the Jet's news director, Nicole Back, gave the Observer equal time. The Jet's interviews with the Observer and Mr. DuPree can be found on the stations web site, North Florida Now.

Your reporter made the following remarks in answer to Mr. DuPree's comments:

I didn't get unruly:  It was the public comment part of the agenda.  In the civilized world that means public comment.  I wasn't talking about Martian's.  I was talking about important county issues, like health care costs and the 911 combined Communications Center and the Sheriff's budget.

The health insurance:  It is the responsibility of the County Manager and/ or the County Commission to do their due diligence and encourage competition. A variety of carriers should have been presented to the County Health Insurance Committee. That was never done. The County Chairman explained that the only insurance agency, which exclusively deals with BlueCross BlueShield, the Parks Johnson agency is the only agency the County deals with. How would they know they got the best deal?

Getting removed from the meeting:  The County's been itching to do this for a long time.  They've been trying to stop people from asking questions for as long as I've been coming to the meetings.  A look at the nonexistent audience at most county commission meetings speaks itself.

Out of respect for the chairman I let him go on and about items he clearly didn't know anything about. Every time I mentioned that I would take my answer from my seat, he interrupted. This was something new at this meeting. For months the County has refused to answer questions, going so far as to have the County Manager write the answers and never answer publicly.

Knowing this, when I asked my questions about the Sheriff's budget my exact words were, "I have two questions for the Sheriff; maybe he can catch up with those at the end of the meeting, if he remembers?"

I asked the two questions and then mentioned that I had a final question.

It was my time to speak and Commissioner Williams kept interrupting me, obviously so that I could not ask my final question before my time ran out.

The empty meeting room:  The empty meeting room speaks for itself. A few people, who used to fill those empty seats, had this to say (names withheld to prevent the well known county retaliation):

•They don't want anyone other than their friends speaking
• It makes my blood pressure rise for two days after attending the meetings. I can't go anymore. It is bad for my health.
• It's just senseless to attend. They don't want to listen to you anyway.

This work by the Columbia County Observer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License.

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