Stew Lilker’s

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Columbia County Charter Review, February 13  Part I: A Past of Openness & Inclusion Discarded

The Columbia County Charter Review Commission
From the back of the School District auditorium the Commissioners look like candles on the top of a birthday cake, who many times can barely be heard or understood.

CRC (Charter Review Commission) news linksCOLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – Columbia County's infamous 'good ole' boys' have turned the 2020 charter review process into a scheme of "political" overreach, which has some charter review commissioners being the water boys for those who appointed them.

County Attorney Joel Foreman, who was approved as the general counsel for the commission, is not micromanaging. The Charter Review Commission (CRC) is being run by Commission Chairman Robert "Rambo" Lane.

The Real Commission Work
Done During the Day in Committee Meetings

CRC Commissioner Robert "Rambo" Lane
CRC Chairman Robert "Rambo" Lane

The 2020 charter review cycle has broken with Columbia County charter review tradition, which had all its meetings scheduled at a time when most people were home from work and could attend if they desired.

There was minimal use of CRC subcommittees in the previous three charter review cycles (2002, 2006, 2012). Committees were established for housekeeping and scheduling, not for doing the business of the Commission, which in 2002 was conducting a "comprehensive study of the operation of county government and the ways in which the conduct of county government might be improved or reorganized." (FL Stat § 125.63)

In the 2006 and 2012 cycles the charge of the Commission was to review the charter.

In the 2002 cycle, a subcommittee was formed in the beginning of the cycle "to find ways to advertise the meetings for the purpose of increased attendance" and another subcommittee was formed as the cycle wound down to attend to "odds and ends."

All other meetings of the CRC in the 2002 cycle were held during after work hours where the charter was pieced together, reviewed and discussed in full public view.

The minutes of the cycle were thorough and generally left nothing to the imagination. See the CRC minutes of January 15, 2002 or March 18, 2002.

Judge Leandra JohnsonNote: the chairperson of the 2002 Charter Review Commission was Leandra Johnson, who in 2006 became a circuit court judge. She is highly regarded and known to be diligent, concerned with details, and one of the hardest working judges in the circuit.

In 2002, the CRC minutes were prepared by the Clerk of the Courts.

Chairman Lane and the CRC rejected the Clerk's proposal for accurate and complete minutes during the 2020 cycle. (Epilogue)

Public Involvement: a concern and a challenge

During the 2006 cycle there was much concern about public involvement.

CRC Commissioner Greg Delgato suggested that a professional poll would assist in obtaining information from the public.

CRC member David Roundtree told the Commission members that "ideas will need to be obtained from the public."

The 2006 CRC also had subcommittees, such as a subcommittee to find sites for meetings and another to come up with a calendar for the purpose of identifying and scheduling discussion items for placement on the agenda and to identify and schedule persons to address the Charter Review Commission, the full Commission, not a handful of Chairman's handpicked Commission members, as is presently being done in 2020.

The subcommittee also came up with a list of "possible topics of interest from the public and commission members."

Of note, in 2006 when it was suggested that all subcommittees, membership, and meeting dates should be listed on the county’s website, CRC member Mario Coppock (also on the 2020 CRC) voted against it, along with then Republican political operative and future LSHA member, Koby Adams.

2012 followed the pattern of 2002 and 2006 when it came to subcommittees; in 2012 there was only one, an Education Committee established after amendments were approved for the ballot.

The 2012 charter review cycle was dismally attended by the public. The 2012 Review Commission did not seem to care.

The Berry Amendment: 2012

CRC Chairman Koby Adams (left) and Berry Amendment provocateur, Jackson "Jack" P. Berry (right), along with other members of the CRC, view a PowerPoint presentation by KS&A, consultants to the CRC.

A political move, which became known as the Berry Amendment, to remove the 2006 Charter requirement that the County publish its agendas and backup material on the internet, was spearheaded by political operative and former Republican leader Jackson P. "Jack" Berry.

Read: Charter Review Commission Ignores Public Comments and South End Residents

In the end, even this was too much for the County's good ole' boys and the amendment never made it to the ballot, being removed for consideration at the last minute, with the only vote against the amendment in 2006, Koby Adams, changing his mind at the 12th hour in 2012.

During the 2012 cycle, the CRC minutes took on the character of the de minimis  County minutes, a move which was spearheaded by then County Manager Dale Williams.

What members of the public and the commissioners had to say in 2012 was mostly not included, other than a brief interlude in the minutes of March 29, 2012.


Part II will bring you up to date in the 2020 Charter Review cycle and its overreach and disregard of the charge of the County Charter, which is to "review the Charter of the county" and not do a top down review of the County government because they feel like it.

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