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CRC Chairman Robert "Rambo" Lane's Coup Fails: CRC Attorney Foreman Stays

CRC (Charter Review Commission) news linksCOLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – The Columbia County Charter Review Commission was in big trouble. County Attorney Joel Foreman, who is the only elected county attorney in Florida, was hired by the Columbia County 5 in April of 2019 to be the attorney for the 2020 CRC. Chairman Robert "Rambo" Lane apparently didn't like Mr. Forman's legal opinion for CRC public hearings, so he relieved him of his duties and directed NGN Attorney Lynn Hoshihara to take over.


On April 21, 2019, the County 5 voted to hire County Attorney Joel Foreman to be the Attorney for the upcoming 2020 Charter Review cycle. A special clause in his contract with the County allows him to perform "extraordinary services" for the County and he was contracted under that clause; an amendment to his contract had to be written.

While neither County Attorney Foreman, nor the County Manager could find the contract, it was located in the County files. The wording couldn't be clearer: "The Attorney shall represent the Charter Review Commission for Columbia County..."

When The 5 approved the agreement, Mr. Foreman advised it that once the CRC was established, "They could change that. They could say, 'Joel, we don't like you and believe me, that's fine.'"

CRC Commissioner Jody DuPree

In October 2019, former legendary member of the County 5, Jody DuPree, convinced the CRC to hire outside counsel. He pushed for NGN out of Tallahassee; eventually they were hired.

After that, Lynn Hoshihara, a partner at NGN, began doing work for the CRC. It was not clear how it was decided what she would do and who directed her to do it. A look at the minutes of the CRC show that the only time NGN was mentioned was in October 2019.

As time progressed, NGN's Hoshihara became the center of Mr. DuPree's universe and was doing work for his operations committee, and maybe others. No one from the public and it appears some on the CRC, had no idea of the extent of Ms. Hoshihara's involvement.

This is not the first time NGN has not been transparent (read: North Florida Broadband Authority: Blood in the street ).

Real Time: the run-up to last night's meeting

Attorney Joel Foreman      (file)

On April 2, 2020, County Attorney Foreman told the County 5 that he thought public hearings would "not" be allowed under the coronavirus guidelines.

On April 3, at 11:53 am, CRC chairman Lane sent NGN's Hoshihara an email telling her she was taking over from Mr. Foreman as the Attorney for the CRC.

Chairman Lane wrote:  I am submitting this attached letter of guidance as Chairman of the Columbia County CRC Board. If there are areas of question, please feel free to contact me with your recommendations. The main point of guidance is that YOU will be the point of contact for the committees and myself... I will rely on guidance from you in moving the CRC forward. Please see the attached letter and send your recommendations."

Chairman Lane was crystal clear in what he expected from Ms. Hoshihara: "You will be responsible from this point forward in working with the CRC with all aspects of our work to include scheduling, noticing, and preparing documents required for our work."

This was Mr. Foreman's job.

Mr. Lane did not copy Mr. Foreman on the email. Ms. Hoshihara, who clearly knew Mr. Foreman was the CRC attorney, did not forward a copy of Mr. Lane's email to Mr. Foreman.

On April 6, Mr. Foreman sent an email to Mr. Lane looking to set up a meeting and advising him that he thought public hearings would not be possible under the pandemic circumstances.

Mr. Lane emailed him back regarding a proposed virtual meeting and did not tell him that three days ago he removed him of his duties.

Also on April 6, NGN's Hoshihara emailed Mr. Foreman telling him she could participate in a virtual meeting and asked him about the logistics. She did not mention one word about her charge from Chairman Lane.

Finally, on April 7, Chairman Lane emailed Mr. Foreman explaining that he had sent Ms. Hoshihara his directive, which he included in the email and copied Ms. Hoshihara with the email.

Ms. Hoshihara then reached out to Mr. Foreman: "Please give me a call to discuss."

At least for days had passed.

At 2 pm on April 7, Mr. Foreman sent an email to Chairman Lane: "Understood. I will coordinate handoff to Lynn [Hoshihara] today."

On April 15, Mr. Foreman sent an email to Mr. Lane. The subject line: "Final Invoice for Services."

Glenel Bowden, CRC member
Glenel Bowden          (file)

On April 17, Chairman Lane notified the CRC commissioners that he had relieved Mr. Foreman of his duties, but that "Mrs. Hoshihara has and will continue to utilize Mr. foreman (sic) in assisting with the CRC Board.

On April 17, CRC member Glenel Bowden, after receiving Chairman Lane's notice that he was relieving Mr. Foreman for some sort of "conflict," emailed Mr. Lane, "The public deserves and must know what the conflict is..."

Mr. Bowden copied the rest of the CRC, the County staff, and Commissioner Toby Witt.

Ms. Hoshihara followed up and told the CRC members not to reply all "as doing so may be deemed a Sunshine Law violation."

Attorney General Opinion 2001-20 and 96-35 covered emails between board members thoroughly. As long as the members don't debate among themselves there is no violation? Indeed, sometime after Mr. Bowden sent the email the matter of Mr. Foreman's removal was added to the agenda for last night's meeting.

After more back and forth during the next couple of days, Mr. Foreman appeared to have had a change of heart from his April 15 email: "Final Invoice for Services."

In an April 21 email sent out at the close of business, Mr. Foreman explained his conflicts, or lack of conflicts: "I was neither asked about any specific emerging "conflict" issues, nor was I asked whether I was of the opinion that any conflict existed or might come to exist that would preclude my continuing to facilitate the CRC's business going forward. In short, I have not declared a "conflict" to exist."

Mr. Foreman concluded his April 21 email with the following: "As the chair is without authority to end my service to the CRC, I must request that the issue be placed before the CRC for action."

It was and last night after an explanation by Chairman Lane, and a motion by Commissioner DuPree, only two CRC members voted to remove Mr. Foreman: Chairman Lane and Commissioner Jody DuPree."

Before the vote, Mr. Bowden gave his take on Mr. Lane's and Mr. DuPree's perceived conflict of Mr. Foreman. Mr. Bowden said, "There is conflict. There is politics. And there is bullshit and this is bullshit. We need to get this out of the way and start talking about what's in the best interest of the community."

Most of the CRC members agreed, with only Mr. Lane and Mr. DuPree voting to remove Mr. Foreman.

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