Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

Real news for working families.  An online news service

County News

CRC: Peeler Stands His Ground for At-Large Voting, But the Tide Turned, Measure Fails

CRC (Charter Review Commission) news linksCOLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – After almost three hours of discussion by in-person and email communications, the Columbia County Charter Review Commission, after barely hearing from its members, voted down the proposition to put at-large voting for county commission districts on the ballot.

While candidates would still have been required to reside in their districts, the whole county electorate would have voted for them, rather than just those residing in their districts.


As reported earlier in At-Large vs. Single-Dist. Cnty Commissioners - Since 2002 the Legal Issues Were Clear. The issues were clear.

Former County Manager Dale Williams summed it up in 2006:

"In 1984 a complaint was filed in the District Court alleging that at-large countywide voting for members of the Columbia County Commission excludes black representation and participation, by minimizing black voting strength in violation of their rights secured by the Voting Right Acts of 1965. As a result, a Declaratory Judgment was entered in December 1985 finding that rights had been violated providing full access to the political process under the Voting Rights Act as amended in 1982. As a result, Columbia County’s election of commissioners is now single district voting as of December 1985. The question has been raised several times as to whether this can be changed. It would take another court order to change the current Judgment. (CRC minutes)

The recent unsigned and undated findings by Nabors Giblin Nickerson's Lynn Hoshihara found and concluded the same thing for $275 an hour plus time for repeated readings.

NGN's Hoshihara was hired by the CRC to be the attorney for the CRC, but ended up being used on a selective basis as the personal attorney for the operations committee and former CRC Commissioner Jody DuPree.

Ms. Hoshihara, also pushed, on what she said was her own accord, for the County Attorney to be paid as a County Court Judge.

On May 11, during the last Operations Committee meeting, the committee voted unanimously for the at-large voting concept.

At that time, CRC Chairman Robert "Rambo" Lane opined that voters should decide how to elect its public officials. He wanted the matter to be put on the ballot.

Voting along with Chairman Lane were John O'Neal, Wally Germany and Republican rising star Hunter Peeler.

Last Night

During the May 11 CRC meeting, it was clear that the County's IT department could not, as other communities and Lake City have done, come to grips with facilitating virtual meetings, as once again the audio wen from bad to worse and back to bad.

The County Staff, led by County Manager Ben Scott, solved part of the problem by doing away with virtual meetings.

Last night, after almost three hours of in-person testimonials and the reading of over 100 comments, the Charter Review Commission had its chance to debate the issue.

CRC member Sandra Buck-Camp, attending remotely, made a motion to reject at-large voting and the motion was seconded by Sandra Smith, who was also attending remotely.

Unlike the Commissioners, the public was denied to chance to participate remotely.

CRC member Hunter Peeler discussed his support of the position and said that 40 other counties in Florida have at-large voting and they elect black representatives.

CRC member Mario Coppock, participating remotely, spoke against at-large voting.

Folks had hung out through hours testifying and then waited to hear what the CRC commissioners had to say.

Dr. Ron Foreman
Not a big fan of listening to fellow Commissioners

CRC member Dr. Ron Foreman, the father of County and CRC Attorney Joel Foreman, had no desire to hear from the other commissioners and he called the question, a trade-mark of his.

Professor Paul Brians of Washington State University said that "'calling the question' when done properly should be a rare occurrence."

CRC Commissioner Ron Foreman (file photo)

Generally, a vote is required to end debate to keep members from trampling the rights of others. Calling the question is clearly not meant to be used as a debate squelching mechanism by a board member looking to flex his dictatorial muscles and squelch debate as Dr. Foreman has done throughout the years.

Chairman Lane did not call for a vote as CRC member Glenel Bowden said he wanted to be heard. Chairman Lane just ignored Commissioner Foreman, this time.

County Attorney Foreman, who acts as the parliamentarian for the CRC, remained silent, giving Chairman Lane zero guidance on carrying the debate forward.

CRC member O'Neal spoke against at-large voting after Commissioner Bowden finished his presentation.

CRC Commissioner Hunter Peeler (file photo)

Did any of the other commissioners want to weigh in? No one had the chance to find out as once again Commissioner Ron Foreman inserted himself and called for a vote.

Again, his son (CRC Attorney Joel Foreman) was silent. This time Chairman Lane neither waited nor asked if any of the other commissioners wanted to weigh in.

Hunter Peeler stuck to his guns and of the fourteen votes, his was the only one for at-large voting.

Comments  (to add a comment go here) 

This work by the Columbia County Observer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License.

Meeting Calendar
No need to be confused - Find links to agendas and where your participation is welcome.

Make a comment • click here •
All comments are displayed at the end of the article and are moderated.