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Columbia County Commission News

County Blows Off Residents Who Wish To Speak: Commissioners Nash and DePratter speak out

Columbia County resident and Navy veteran Sammy Dunn sat for 37 minutes with his hand in the air before a County Commission Chairman acknowledged he was alive.

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – Last night, Columbia County lived up to a reputation that in many parts of the civilized world is met by snickers and worse for the way it conducts its business and treats its citizens. Two board chairs ignored Navy veteran, Sammy Dunn, who sat in the audience with his hand up for 26 minutes before anyone on the Board acknowledged he was alive. Waiting for his turn to speak, newly elected commissioner, Bucky Nash, looked up at Mr. Dunn and said, "I think the public needs to be a big part in what we do."

Earlier in the evening, the Observer presented to the County Commission (the Board) a set of rules that would have ended the DuPree 4 year reign of terror against the citizens of Columbia County and given them the opportunity to participate in the decision making process. (Click for the presentation and the conclusion).

The Board tabled the rules to the second meeting in January.

Columbia County – World Experts At Playing Post Office

The tabling of the rules does not mean that there will not be any action by the Board during the next six weeks.

As the end of the meeting neared the chairmanship of the Board passed from Commissioner Frisina to Commissioner Bailey. Commissioner Bailey decided that veteran County Manager Dale Williams will meet with the commissioners on an individual basis in his office to discuss their ideas. The County Manager is supposed to come up with some kind of list, or set of combined rules, it is not clear which, and bring them back to the Board on January 17, 2013.

It was not made clear why the County Manager had to be involved in this process.

The citizens are to believe that the County Manager will not be sharing the ideas of the other commissioners as each one's thoughts are known.

In a state purportedly governed by the Sunshine Law, which is designed to keep elected officials operating in the Sunshine, these discussions should be going on in public and the public should be witnessing the debate regarding the rules that affect their lives.

The Florida Attorney General found in 1974 and 1975 that "The sunshine law applies to meetings between a board member and an individual who is not a board member when that individual is being used as a liaison between, or to conduct a de facto meeting of board members."  (AGO 74-47) "Thus, staff should refrain from polling board members on specific issues which will come before the board for consideration.  (AGO 75-59)

While the conversation about the rules was going on, Sammy Dunn had been sitting in the audience with his hand up for some time.

Sammy Dunn and the other residents

(Left to right, Sammy Dunn, Ralph Kitchens, LJ Johnson) The three Columbia County residents sat ignored, as if dead, by the County Commission.

Mr. Dunn, Ralph Kitchens, and LJ Johnson put their hand up earlier in the meeting when the rouge Suwannee Valley Transit Authority (SVTA) came up on the agenda. Both Mr. Kitchens and Mr. Johnson are board members of the local Transportation for the Disadvantaged Board. They wanted to address the County Commission regarding the illegal actions of the SVTA. The the County Commission was about to give almost $25,000 dollars of county taxpayer dollars to the SVTA. Mr. Dunn also had concerns about the county tax dollars.

With virtually no discussion, the Board unanimously passed this request. The Board members discuss all the agenda items with the County Manager before the meeting.

SVTA: "Pissing away the public's money"

Mr. Kitchens told the Observer, "Three county commissioners knew me from the local Transportation for the Disadvantaged Board (TDB). When I raised my hand to speak when the issue was addressed, Chairwoman Frisina looked right at me and the others. The SVTA doesn't serve the entities which they supposedly represent. They are public idiots pissing away the public's money. The local TDB is a joke and a total waste of money. No wonder America is going broke."

LJ Johnson, who has filed grievances against the SVTA, told the Observer, "After the meeting concluded, William Steele (the right hand man of SVTA Director, Gwen Pra), came over to me and tried to engage me in conversation. It wasn't pretty."

After about fifteen minutes, sitting with their hands up, Mr. Kitchens left and Mr. Johnson went outside for a cigarette. Mr. Dunn remained with his hand in the air.

Commissioner Bucky Nash
Newly elected Com Bucky Nash had an interesting first meeting as a Columbia County commissioner.

Newly elected Commissioner Nash

Waiting for his turn to speak, newly elected commissioner and DuPree replacement, Bucky Nash, looked up at Mr. Dunn, who was still sitting with his hand in the air and said, "I think the public needs to be a big part in what we do."

No one made any attempt to recognize Mr. Dunn as he continued with his hand up.

Five minutes later, Commissioner Rusty DePratter looked up at Mr. Dunn and said, "I note we need to put a process in that this Gentleman won’t have to hold his hand up for thirty minutes next time."

Chairman Bailey added, "I'm going to recommend that." Then he continued ignoring Mr. Dunn.

Mr. Dunn continued with his hand in the air.

Finally, five minutes later, 37 minutes after Mr. Dunn raised his hand, Commissioner Bailey looked up at Mr. Dunn and said, "It’s not in our policy, but I’m going to go ahead and recognize you."

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