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CRC: OPS Com Meeting - Will the County Attorney Be Paid as Much as a County Court Judge?

$151,822 plus-rent-health insurance-retirement & more

CRC (Charter Review Commission) news linksCOLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – The malaise of the Columbia County 2020 Charter Review Commission continues at 4 pm today. On its docket are the findings of the Operations Committee, prepared by Nabors Giblin Nickerson's attorney, Lynn Hoshihara.


In April 2019, the County 5 (Board of County Commissioners) hired County Attorney Joel Foreman to act as the attorney and organizer of the 2020 Charter Review cycle. Mr. Foreman made it clear that the Charter Review Commission could replace him once the Charter Review Commission (CRC) began meeting.

At its first official meeting, Mr. Foreman told the CRC that it could replace him if that was its wish. It didn't and instead eventually hired the law firm of Nabors Giblin Nickerson (NGN) to act as council for the CRC, along with Mr. Foreman.

The CRC never developed any policy or rule which explained which attorney, County Attorney Foreman or NGN's Lynn Hoshihara, would handle which issues.

While it was acknowledged in conversation during a CRC meeting that NGN would deal with any conflict issues, there is nothing in any minutes that shows any vote or discussion of conflicts or what would be considered a conflict.

It was clear that anything dealing with issues regarding Florida's only elected county attorney would be handled by NGN, as County Attorney Foreman would have a clear conflict formulating charter requirements for his own job, as well as his involvement with County departments and County staff.

County Attorney Writes to the CRC

On September 27, 2019, Attorney Foreman, in response to a request for information from CRC Chairman Lane, forwarded a three page letter to the CRC.

Mr. Foreman did not make a secret of his views and sent his response to everyone on the CRC, including alternates, and the media.

Rather than just responding with facts, Mr. Foreman gave wide ranging opinions in the evaluation of the County Attorney's Office and many other things, including his pay and an evaluation of his own ethical performance and opinions of how he thought the Charter should be modified.

Regarding his pay, Mr. Foreman opined that the County Attorney pay (his) might be set "in the same fashion that a County Judge is set."

Who is the Attorney for the Operations Committee?

An examination of the Operation Committee minutes shows that County Attorney Foreman was involved in all the meetings of the Operations Committee.

NGN attorney Lynn Hoshihara attended one meeting. (December 4, 2019)

On December 4, 2019, the committee discussed issues which clearly involved some interaction of the County Attorney in the performance of those County policies. Mr. Foreman did not recuse himself from those conversations.

However, when it came time to discuss the County Attorney position, Mr. Foreman left the room.

The committee minutes show there was a discussion of the Attorney position, which included the attorney's "duties and responsibilities."

Mr. Foreman's contract with The 5 states the functions of the elected attorney are described in the Florida statutes, which is true, although the contract does not mention the legislature's second 1961 session law.

There is no record in the minutes showing there was any discussion of the County Attorney salary, which is negotiated directly with the County 5 and memorialized via a contract between the County Attorney and the County 5.

Among other things, Mr. Foreman's contract states that he is paid a $9,900 dollars a month as a base salary. In order to receive that salary, Mr. Foreman must devote "up to 220 hours per quarter."

Translated, Mr. Foreman is compensated by Columbia County taxpayers at the rate of approximately $2,000 a week for approximately 17 hours of work per week.

The rest of the time Mr. Foreman may maintain his own private practice or go fishing.

The County pays Mr. Foreman's health insurance and retirement benefits in the Florida Retirement System, which last year amounted to over $50k.

NGN's Hoshihara's Findings for Committee Review:
County Attorney Salary Appears Suddenly

All of Ms. Hoshihara's transmittals (findings) to the CRC or the Operations Committee are undated, do not include any legal analysis for any of her findings, and do not state to whom the document is addressed.

Her first finding to the committee, which was created on February 20, 2020, does not have any mention of the County Attorney salary. The report did include information regarding qualifications and other information. Ms. Hoshihara sent the report to Mr. DuPree and Mr. Foreman for review.

On February 22, 2020, Operations Committee Chairman Jody DuPree made suggested changes to Ms. Hoshihara's findings. He did not add any language defining the amount of the salary of the County Attorney, other than writing that the County Attorney's salary "...renumeration (sic) will be consist (sic) with budgets submitted to comparable to other county attorney with like size population and tax base."

There is no indication in any minutes or any documents that indicates that the Operations Committee ever discussed paying Mr. Foreman the equivalent of a Florida County Court Judge, nor is there any record of how Ms. Hoshihara came to add the provision that: "Compensation for the County Attorney shall be equal to the statutorily governed compensation for the County Court Judge of Columbia County."

However, in an undated Hoshihara document which, according to its metadata, was created by Ms. Hoshihara on March 13, 2020 and revised 4 times, she added to the proposed County Attorney Charter Amendment the provision: "Compensation for the County Attorney shall be equal to the statutorily governed compensation for the County Court Judge of Columbia County."

Ms. Hoshihara did not explain how the County Court compensation suddenly appeared.

County Court Compensation

A Florida County Court Judge earns $151,822 plus benefits. They probably work more than 17 hours a week.


The Operations Committee will be meeting at 4 pm. On its agenda is an amendment dealing with Columbia County's elected County Attorney.

The Committee has a new Chairman, as well as a new member since the resignation of Chairman DuPree. The CRC Chairman also sits on the Committee.

The conversation should be interesting if it can be understood.

This is a virtual meeting:

Meeting URL: https://bccwebex.webex.com/bccwebex/j.php?MTID=m0b8225db9b6a2cf635aca7dc1fbf4790

Meeting Number: 796001189

Toll-Free Call in number: +1-844-992-4726 Access Code: 796 001 189

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