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Charter Review: Com. Murphy Interfering Where He Has No Business; X-Com DuPree Shifts Gears

Not counting the mainstream media, front row, the County Manager, second row, the Chairman's wife, back row, only two citizens were in attendance out of 70k residents.

CRC (Charter Review Commission) news linksCOLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – The Columbia County Charter Review Commission met for its second meeting and spoke about everything except the County Charter. The tag-team of Commissioner Murphy and X-Commissioner DuPree was making it difficult for the Commission to take care of its real business – the County Charter.


At the first Charter Review Commission (CRC) meeting (Charter Review 2020:  CRC Meets – Revving Up to Get Something Done – Looking at Rules) the fact that the County Commission (County 5) has been homeless for decades, once again reared its homeless head when it was brought up that the School District auditorium was not the ideal place for the 15 CRC members, their alternates, and members of the public and the press to meet.

Jody DuPree: Columbia County Charter Review CommissionerX County Commissioner and current CRC member Jody DuPree spent part of the first CRC meeting swooning over the "great" relationship that the College has with the County.

That relationship, besides being mostly in Mr. DuPree's head,  was about his relationship with the college's media chief, good ole' boy Mike McKee, the Director of Public Information and reportedly College President Barrett's right-hand man.

At the first CRC meeting, Chairman Lane set up a liaison committee: Ron Foreman, County Attorney Joel Foreman, and County Manager Ben Scott. They were to meet at the college with Mr. McKee to discuss the CRC meeting at the college library.

Enter: County 5 good ole' boy, Tim Murphy

County Commissioner Tim MurphyOver stepping his bounds is nothing new for Commissioner Murphy, who recently actively stopped the public and the press from asking questions of his friend, FGC's McKee at a County meeting about the college's efforts regarding workforce development.  (No Questions Allowed: Commissioner Tim Murphy Suspends Rules for FGC Brass)

Interfering with the Commission's work, Mr. Murphy, out of nowhere, called Mr. McKee about the CRC and the proposed use of the college facility for CRC meetings.

Monday Night At the CRC

County Manager Ben Scott announced that he had spoken with College President Barrett.

Dr. Ron Foreman
CRC member Ron Foreman

Before he could go any further, CRC member Ron Foreman spoke out, "Could I just make a comment before you start, because I was charged by the chairman to be a liaison to the college, not to the County Commission. I did talk to Mike McKee and low and behold Commissioner Murphy had already preceded me with that phone call... and I've been extricated from the loop of information. For the sake of economy, in the future, we should probably work a little more cooperative and feel free to call me any time."

Mr. Scott said OK and advised the CRC that the college would be glad to host the CRC at the college library.

Mr. Scott said, "It's a small enough room that I believe anyone can be heard in the room."

Mr. Scott's belief was not well founded. Mr. McKee and college never wired the room for competent sound amplification.

Commissioner Murphy standing in his new lumberjack shirt. Trying to understand him in the back of the room was impossible. As he usually does, Mr. Murphy refused to use the mic provided by the college.

At the last meeting Mr. DuPree's swoon included talk that he wanted the meetings recorded and simulcast.

County Manager Scott addressed the issue: "What I was told initially was 'no, we don't have the staff to that,' and then I was told, 'Well, if your IT guys can get with our IT guys maybe we can figure something out.'"

In short, after spending millions on the college library and media center, it's not wired for sound.

The College is sitting on almost $10,000,000 of unencumbered funds in the bank. So much money in fact, that the state told them to begin spending some of it.

Neither the college, nor the County, nor the College and the County, have the ability to record and simulcast the CRC meetings.

Mr. Scott said that to contract out the service would cost almost $100,000.

Mr. DuPree wouldn't let it go and wanted to know "if the County would want to continue using the service."

CRC Member Glenel Bowden:  For the people

Glenel Bowden: Columbia County Charter Review Commissioner Glenel Bowden addressed the Commission: "I have a concern. I understand it [the college] may be conducive for a meeting for us, but the location is problematic for me. It's east of town; the population of this county is in the City – west and south. It's not user friendly... I think you are removing this from the people... I don't think it is in the best interest for public participation... It is not centrally located. There has got to be some places that we can centrally locate this meeting."

CRC member Sandra Smith followed up: "I have to concur with Mr. Bowden."

Ms. Smith said that when they moved some programs with which she was involved to the college, "our numbers dropped immediately."

Ms. Smith continued, "A lot of the ladies in my age group don't like to drive out that way; they don't like to go after dark."

Swoon Over
DuPree Abandon's His Own Ship

Mr. DuPree, who always likes to be the center of attention, picked up the microphone: "I actually agree with Mr. Bowden."

CRC member Ron Foreman: "If we are going to stay in this building we need to do something about this auditory [nobody can hear] problem. It is a real problem."

Chairman Lane:  "I think that when the college was first mentioned it was about transparency – getting the meeting out to the public."

Charter Review Commission: Some of these folks are ready to end the rip-rap and get to work.

Mr. Bowden wanted to know about improving the audio.

CRC alternate Ms. Buck-Camp was opposed to going to the college.

CRC member Stephen Douglas: "I agree with Mr. Bowden. (Suggests getting more microphones)... We should be able to grab a couple of mics and get them up here."

CRC member Wally Germany, Commissioner Rocky Ford's pick, told the Commission, "It probably wouldn't take that much to improve the sound system. I am in that business. I know how to do it. I think we should stay right here and improve the sound system."

Mr. Germany's "I know how to do it" did not translate into "let me tell you how."

Indeed, Mr. Germany was not volunteering anymore information

Your reporter approached the microphone and was recognized by the chairman. He told the CRC that approximately $80k was spent on upgrading the sound system. "If you use the microphone – it works."

Citizen Don Moody addressed the Commission: "I can hear you fine if you use the microphone."

Power Plays & Jockeying for Position

The rest of the meeting was spent with the Commission spinning its wheels regarding attorneys and consultants.

Mr. DuPree, who is like a live hand grenade thrown into a crowd of people, led the discord without ever once asking or recommending the commission begin looking at the charter.

Some Smart People

The Commission is a varied collection of folks with wide ranging work and life experience.

It appears that in between all the chatter, some of them really want to begin looking at the charter.

Robert Lane: Columbia County Charter Review Commissioner and ChairmanChairman Lane is even and deliberate: good attributes for a commission such as this and it appears that he wants to do a good job.


Mr. Lane will set the agenda for the next meeting. He can postpone some of the rip-rap. He can schedule the start of the Charter review and the Commission can beginning doing what it is supposed to do.

Stay tuned.

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