Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Commissioner Tim Murphy Robbed of County Chairmanship – Commissioner Ford Under A Cloud

County 5 Odd-Ball Coup

Photo: Bess Hamiti via Pixabay | Columbia County Observer graphic

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – The election of Rocky Ford as County Chair during the December 5 County Annual Organizational meeting went against decades of County practice and unwritten policy. When the voting is examined, it was pretty hinky, too.

Before this year’s Organizational Meeting, there was only one time that anyone could remember when the County Vice-Chair did not move into the Chairmanship at the Organizational meeting.

The County Charter

The County Charter is a formal written document that resembles state or federal constitutions. It must be approved, along with any amendments, by the County voters.

The Charter requires that every year at its organizational meeting the Board elects a chair and vice-chair by majority vote to serve for one year.

Robby Hollingsworth
Robby Hollingsworth (file)

This year’s Organizational Meeting began with Chairman Hollingsworth thanking the public and the Board for the opportunity to be Chairman. He followed that by asking for a nomination for County Chairman. Commissioner Murphy was the vice chair.

There was a pregnant silence. No one nominated Mr. Murphy; barely audible after the pause was Mr. Murphy nominating himself. "I'm the vice-chair. I guess I'll nominate myself."

It is unclear why Chairman Hollingsworth didn't hear Mr. Murphy's motion or was confused, as he was sitting next to him.

Mr. Hollingsworth asked, “Do I have a motion?”

Someone may have said something to Mr. Hollingsworth. Mr. Hollingsworth responded, “No. No. Do I have a motion from any of the commissioners?”

(Another pause) Mr. Hollingsworth continued, “Hearing no motion, I will move that – oh you didn’t. OK. So we have a motion.” Another inaudible comment to the chair.

County Commission meetings are supposed to be in the “Sunshine.” That means, the public is supposed to be able to hear what is going on.

County Attorney Foreman joined the fray, “You have a motion for nomination for …."

Unidentified person talks over the County Atty.

Mr. Hollingsworth continued, "Go ahead and make a motion."

Commissioner Tim Murphy
Commissioner Tim Murphy (file)

Mr. Murphy said, "I make a motion as vice-chair as Tim Murphy to be the chair."

Mr. Hollingsworth said, "Do I have a second?"

Nothing can be heard.

Mr. Hollingsworth continues, "All right, we have a motion and a second. All in favor?”

Mr. Murphy and Mr. Phillips voted “aye.”

Mr. Hollingsworth said, “All opposed? No. Motion fails.”

From the meeting video, one can barely make out a sound other than Mr. Hollingsworth's "No.” The sound was thought to come from Commissioner Ford, who has demonstrated over time that using a microphone is not something he likes to do.

Examining the video and the clerk’s audio recording, it is clear that Commissioner Ronald Williams did not vote.

Not voting is against Florida law and the County Charter, which states: "All commissioners in attendance, including the chair or presiding officer, shall vote on all Board of County Commissioners actions except when prevented from doing so by a provision of general law.”

Governmental bodies, including Lake City, have codified silence to be votes in the affirmative.

Columbia County's County Attorney, Joel Foreman, incorporated the St. Johns County rules of procedure into Columbia County's. St. Johns County omitted any reference to silence and voting. Joel Foreman left out any reference to silence and voting.

In most of Florida, Commissioner Tim Murphy would be the County chairman today.

Com Williams Thought Silence Is Considered a “Yes” Vote

Commissioner Frisina took it in stride during the coup.
                      (file photo)

On December 4, 2014, after a coup robbed Commissioner Scarlet Frisina of the Chairmanship, your reporter asked that The 5 consider having the Clerk poll the Board when it votes, telling The 5, "So we know how people vote. Sometimes people don't move their mouths, and you don't know if they are voting for or against."

See: Columbia County's Bloodless Coup: A New Era at The County 5?
Vote a Sham: "You can't make this stuff up"

At that time, Commissioner Williams opined that Board members don't have to vote. He said that Robert's Rules (of Order) considers a non-vote a "yes" vote.

Robert’s Rules do not consider a silent vote a “yes” vote. The 5 doesn’t use Robert’s rules. A couple of decades ago, then County Attorney Marlin Feagle said Robert’s Rules were too difficult for them (County 5) to understand.

With two audible votes in favor and Commissioner Williams silent vote, Commissioner Murphy became the chairman. It was obvious that Mr. Hollingsworth had a different plan.

The next move should have been for Mr. Murphy to take the gavel and move on with the election of a vice-chair.

There was another vote. Commissioner Ford was elected chair 3-2.


In the land of the Columbia 5, where one votes no by voting yes – anything goes; never mind that the County Rules of Procedure require a “NAY” vote when voting against something. A few years ago, Mr. Foreman reminded The 5 of that. It did not make a difference.

Routinely, one County 5 member or another does not use the microphone.

For the next year, Chairman Rocky Ford will be operating under a cloud, with the County's rightful Chairman, Tim Murphy, sitting one seat away.

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