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Columbia County Observer

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CRC: The Douglas Amendment – Controlling County Surplus Funds With Incomprehensible Language

The July 1 meeting had one attendee and Chairman Lane's wife in attendance. Attorney Foreman made virtual attendance only available for CRC members.

CRC (Charter Review Commission) news linksCOLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – The 2020 Charter Review Commission met again on Wednesday evening for its second round of public hearings in the charter fiasco orchestrated by the charter inexperienced County Attorney Joel Foreman.


The 2020 Columbia County Charter Review Cycle was characterized by a Charter Review Commission which never publically reviewed the County Charter. Instead, right out of the gate, committees were formed to do an unauthorized forensic study of the government. If the Charter was reviewed, it is not clear who did it or if and when it was done.

Finance Committee

On August 12, 2019, after some backroom maneuvering, 5 committees were approved by the CRC. One of them was the Finance Committee whose approved purpose was "dealing with budget and spending issues within the County government." (CRC minutes)

On August 26, 2019, CRC Chairman Robert "Rambo" Lane appointed 5 CRC members to the Finance Committee and named Stephen Douglas the Chairman.

The other members were political activist Glenel Bowden, retired government worker Tom Ottum, local businessman Glenn Owens, and former local businessman and the CRC Attorney's father, Ronald Foreman.

It is unknown how Chairman Lane decided on his appointments; if he asked Commission members for their preferences; if he pulled the names out of a hat; or asked for volunteers; or if he had a surrogate do that for him.

All that is known is that on August 26, 2019, Chairman Lane named three other committees: Operations, Administration/Safety, Charter Compliance, along with their chairpersons and members.

Stephen Douglas's Finance Committee met at a time when it was impossible for the working public to attend.

Its agendas were form agendas which gave no relevant information other than the meeting location.

March 13, 2020, Stephen Douglas at the joint Finance-Operations meeting.

This changed at 11:00 am on March 13, 2020, when the Finance Committee agenda announced that it was meeting jointly with the Operations Committee to discuss excess funds.

Both committees had five members each which met the requirements for a quorum of the Charter Review Commission.

Your reporter inquired of CRC/County Attorney Joel Foreman, who attended the meeting, mentioning that this was not a committee meeting, but a meeting of the Commission.

Attorney Foreman said, "They are doing nothing wrong."

They were. The Chairman of the CRC and the Vice Chairman of the CRC were in attendance for the joint meeting, as was Attorney Foreman's father, Ronald Foreman, a member of the Finance committee.

As of today, July 3, 2020, there are no recorded minutes of the March 13 Finance-Operations (Charter Review Commission) meeting.

CRC Chairman Lane, with Operations Committee member DuPree (left) and Finance Committee member Glenel Bowden (right) at the March 13, 2020, Finance Committee meeting. The meeting was really an unannounced CRC meeting.

Wednesday's CRC Public Hearing
The Douglas Amendment: Surplus Funds

The Charter addition: incomprehensible attorney double-speak.

2.12 Surplus Year-end Funds (the proposed addition)

With respect to any surplus arising from an excess of the estimated cash balance over the estimated amount of unpaid obligations to be carried over in a fund at the end of any fiscal year, all such surplus shall be transferred to any of the other funds of the county, and the amount so transferred shall be budgeted as a receipt to such other funds. Said excess funds shall not be expended except as through such funds for those purposes approved through the annual budget process for the then-current fiscal year.

This Charter addition has to do with the allocation of year end surplus funds. What this makes perfectly clear is that Attorney Foreman does not believe in plain English.

Besides double speak, the CRC is adding this to micro-manage the County Commission, whose prime responsibility is its fiduciary obligation to manage the funds of the County.

CRC member Charlie Keith, who is also running for County Commission, said he is concerned about County year end funds, but believes this amendment to the Charter ties the commissioner's hands. "I think as it is written now I would not be in agreement with it," he said.

County Attorney Joel Foreman intruded in all business of the CRC. Here he is at the March 13, 2020 Finance-Operations Committee meeting.

CRC member Glenn Owens weighed in, "The whole purpose of the thing was never to tie their hands. The purpose was for them to budget correctly and budget capital improvement projects. When you have 4 to 7 million dollars in a left over fund that is too much money... It encourages them to put capital improvement projects in the budget... It was by design. They wanted to have 4 to 7 million and spend it for capital improvement projects the way they wanted."

Finance Committee Chair Stephen Douglas said, "This is just taxpayer money left over. Taxpayer money... We're not tying their hands per se. I don't understand why that is being said..."

Mr. Douglas claimed that in the past two or three years they have "a second layer of budget process. They have a budget in their fiscal year – they end it. And then they mess around with it with their excess funds a second time... I don't understand why they get a second bite of the apple."

Mr. Keith added, "I know in theory what we were for. It takes away the desire to pad certain departments to have excess funds. And when you look at what they did with the excess funds from the three years that I looked at... There was a lot of money obviously wasted on the jail project... They are not handling the money properly. I agree."

Mr. Douglas said the budget is their main job responsibility, but the budget process was designed to give them funds to "dilly-dally around with."

He continued, "I'm gonna' be real frank, historically, the county administration and probably the five county commissioners play around with that money."

An unidentified CRC member asked, "What does that mean?"

Stephen Douglas: "It's not being done..."

Mr. Douglas explained, "They played around with that money for political reasons. It's being done better. It's not being done with the current administration that way anymore. I think it's gotten somewhat fixed, but who is to say that the next county administration and that county commissioner body decides to revert back – 10 or 15 years the way it was being done. We can fix it now."

CRC member John O'Neal weighed in. Unfortunately, Mr. O'Neal did not move his microphone close to him and most of what he said was unintelligible in the audience.

Attending remotely was CRC member Sandra Buck-Camp who said she couldn't understand Mr. O'Neal.

CRC member Ron Foreman said, "We are not usurping their authority. All we wanted to do was transparency."

The Charter language mentions nothing about transparency.

CRC member Glenel Bowden was also attending remotely. It was not clear if Mr. Bowden could hear what was going on or understood the proposition before the Commission. He said, "The voters should have a chance to vote on it."

CRC member Wally Germany weighed in even though Mr. Owens had called for a vote, "I don't think we are tying their hands at all... We don't want to tell them what to do. We are just offering a different way to do it a little bit better."

It was not clear if any other CRC member had anything to add. They had not all weighed in. Cutting off debate was a trend begun by CRC/County Attorney Joel Foreman's father/CRC member Ron Foreman.

CRC member Charlie Keith.

The CRC voted with only one nay, Sandra Buck-Camp.


After the meeting, CRC member Keith said he will be reconsidering his votes for the next CRC meeting.

Other members may be doing this as well.


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