Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Columbia County News

Florida Crown remains in the lurch
Columbia County still playing possum

The group: Com Weaver; CM Dale Williams; FCWB's Larry Thompson and ED "JC" Chastain
From left to right: Com Dewey Weaver, County Manager Dale Williams, FCWB Chairman, Larry Thompson, Florida Crown Executive Director, John "JC" Chastain

Over a year after Columbia County Commissioner Jody DuPree tried to wreck the Florida Crown Work Force Board, the Florida Crown Affair dragged on yesterday afternoon, this time in the lap of outgoing Columbia County Commissioner, Dewey Weaver, who came to yesterday's meeting unprepared to divulge Columbia County's issues, SOP in almost everything in which the good old boys of Columbia County get involved.

Florida Crown Workforce Board (FCWB) Chairman, seven year veteran Larry Thompson, upset that the meeting was open to the public and the press, began the meeting by telling Com Weaver, "You and me is the ones that are supposed to be the ones here to start with."

Columbia County Commissioner Dewey WeaverCom Weaver agreed, "That’s right."

Com Weaver began by playing possum, asking Mr. Thompson questions which anyone, who had been following the Florida Crown Affair and had done their homework, would know the answers.

Com Weaver: The current board is not recertified? ... Can you give me the reason it was not recertified?

Mr. Thompson explained that the wording put into the four county interlocal agreement was not valid and did not meet the Federal guidelines.

Left unsaid -- the invalid wording was inserted into the agreement by Commissioner Stephen Bailey and approved by Columbia County Attorney, Marlin Feagle.

WFI's Attorney Jay BarberAttorney Jay Barber, the acting head of Workforce, came from Tallahassee to attend the meeting. He said that Mr. Thompson's explanation was accurate and "all the reasons that have been given for non certification, except for the agreement, have been corrected."

Com Weaver asked:  "What happens if you’re not recertified?"

Mr. Thompson: ... I don’t think it has ever happened... I really don’t know... It’s unchartered territory. They keep saying it is at the Governor’s discretion... Anytime you put our business in the hands of Tallahassee the outcome is not going to be what you want.

Com Weaver: The board has appointed me for just that -- to resolve these things. I’m just trying to get a better understanding. 

For the past three years, the good old boys of Columbia County have put the award winning region 7 workforce board and the commissioners representing the people of Gilchrist, Dixie and Union counties through the ringer.
        At every opportunity that Columbia County has had to explain its problems, it has shirked the issue.
        About a year ago the Observer was involved in a discussion with a high ranking Columbia County official. This official having had experience with Florida Crown and knowing people that had, explained that he/she was puzzled by Columbia County's issues with Florida Crown. He/she said, "I asked Dale [Columbia County Manager – Dale Williams] what the problem was with Florida Crown."
         The Observer asked, "What did he say?"
          The Official answered, "He just smiled and walked away."

Mr. Thompson:  I’ve tried to have this meeting several times ... It hasn’t happened... The expectations of the Columbia County representative go beyond what we can do. The dollars that the Workforce Board receives comes from a number of channels.

Mr. Thompson explained that there are specific guidelines on how "that money" can be spent, telling Com Weaver, "Our executive director and his staff have done an impeccable job making sure those funds were spent properly."

Mr. Weaver then brought up the Workforce Board in Tampa and said that he thought the county commission was going to have to repay funds that were misspent by that Workforce Board

FCWB Executive Director, John Chastain, explained that the funds disallowed by the state would have to be paid back by that Workforce Board.

Com Weaver, still not in the hunt for a solution asked Mr. Thompson, "Larry, in your opinion, what would happen if Columbia County didn’t rejoin [the Consortium]?

Mr. Thompson explained that the Governor would step in and added that at this time he didn’t believe the Work Force Boards would be realigned into super regions.

Mr. Thompson told Com Weaver that the discretionary percentage of the Fl Crown budget is a very small part of the overall budget.

Still not looking for a solution Com Weaver asked:  If Columbia County doesn’t rejoin would the region lose money?

Com Weaver asked Mr. Thompson, "We’ve been told that the current consortium members really don’t want Columbia County back in the consortium and really don’t want us to rejoin. Do you believe this to be true?"

Mr. Thompson answered, "No sir, I do not."

Executive Director Chastain said that the other consortium members are local people who just want to serve their communities. “They want you back.”

Com Weaver:  It is my job to work out any misunderstandings and come to an agreement.

Com Weaver reverted back to the possum:  Larry, what is your understanding of the problems between Columbia County and the Consortium?

Mr. Thompson explained that after seven years of dealing with Florida Crown on a daily basis he has learned that it is a very complex operation. "To my knowledge, nobody from Columbia County has been in there seeking information about what goes on with Florida Crown and how the money is spent."

Com Weaver: ... It’s time for me to meet face to face with the consortium members and get it resolved... How would you suggest we approach the Consortium members and how would you suggest we resolve any outstanding issues?

Mr. Thompson said that as far as regaining your seat, all you have to do is show up. "As far as issues go, I’ve been wondering about that for a long time. I have asked the question, 'what are your issues' and I’ve always heard the answer, 'I’ll get back with you on that.'”

Mr. Thompson: Give me some specifics that I can respond to... If you had a list today, I’d be glad to address it one by one.

Com Weaver then went into the legendary Columbia County shuck and jive: I understand that, but our issues are really not with the board, they’re with the Consortium.

Com Weaver did not explain why he turned down the opportunity to have the Consortium members present at the meeting.

After three years, still playing ignorant and doing one of the things that the legendary good old boy Columbia County does best, keeping the real issues out of the public's eye, Com Weaver explained that he has authorized the County Manager to play post office.

Com Weaver: I’ve asked Dale to meet with the other commissioners individually and give me an in-depth list from each commissioner. They won’t be Dewey Weaver’s issues; they will be the Board’s issues. And I’ve also asked Dale to meet with the County Attorney and any issues that he has and include those and I’ll address them one by one with the Consortium and we’ll resolve them hopefully that day and move forward.

The meeting adjourned and as the Observer was leaving the building, Columbia County Board Chairman Ronald Williams was heading in.

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Florida Crown Affair:

  County gives up battle to destroy Fl Crown - Good old boys play possum to the end (posted October 11, 2010 05:00 am)
 • Florida Crown remains in the lurch
(posted April 21, 2010)
 • Florida Crown on top again (posted April 14, 2010) 
Florida Crown - Columbia County -Time for a little mercy (posted March 19, 2010)
  Florida Crown Invitation Com Langford steps up – it takes a woman (posted March 15, 2010)
Florida Crown Soars $402,000 Wings Grant Awarded (posted Oct 28, 2009)
 Difficult economic times - Florida Crown stretched thin and working overtime (posted Nov 26, 2009)
  Florida Crown Affair • Search Continues For Columbia County Issues (Part II) (posted June 18, 2009)
  Florida Crown Affair • Search Continues For Columbia County Issues (Part I) (posted June 17, 2009)
Florida Crown Affair moves to Gilchrist County (posted June 2, 2009)
  County Commission ignores rule of law
(posted May 26, 2009)
 • The Observer responds to County Manager Dale Williams (May 21, 2009)
 Florida Crown Receives Florida Literacy Award (posted May 20, 2009)
 Florida Crown's harassment continues
(Part II)
(posted April 16, 2009)
 Columbia County Commission leaves Florida Crown in the lurch – again
(Part 1)
(posted April 15, 2009)
  Florida Crown Gets Clean Bill of Health (posted March 23, 2009)
  George Skinner, former Columbia County Commissioner, weighs in on the Florida Crown controversy. (posted March 16, 2009)
  Florida Crown Workforce Board -- To good to leave (Posted March 12, 2009)