Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

Real news from Florida for working families since 2007

County News

Columbia County 5: “Of the People, By the People, For the People,” Out the Window, Along with Rules & Fairness

In a Sneak Attack, A Bellwether of the Black Community, Richardson Community Center, Fell Victim to the County’s Great White Fathers

Photo: Louis Quintero | Columbia County Observer graphic

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – Yesterday morning, the County 5 reached an all-time new low in agenda preparation and a new high in ways to disrespect and mug the public. Richardson Community Center, a bellwether of the Black community and a historical marker of Columbia County, fell victim to the chopping block of the infamous Columbia County 5.

Background: Columbia County History Keeps Repeating Itself

Commissioner Rocky Ford - Columbia County, FL
Commissioner Rocky Ford - Following rules he approved is not high on his agenda. (file photo)

On September 20, 2022, it came to light that community activist Sylvester Warren allegedly harangued county staff members with what some considered questionable tactics.

As the meeting drew to a close, in a fit of pique, the County 5's Rocky Ford made an illegal motion (neither the subject nor the motion was on the agenda) to give Richardson Community Center back to Lake City. While it wasn't clear how The 5 would do that, without hesitation Commissioner Tim Murphy jumped on board and seconded Mr. Ford's illegal motion.

See: The Columbia County 5: On the Docket Tonight Richardson – A Part of Black Community Culture

County Attorney Joel Foreman recommended The 5 not vote. It was good advice; it didn’t.

County rules require information for agenda items to be turned in to the County Manager eight days before the meeting with the associated backup material to allow intelligent discussion.

The motion was tabled to October 4, 2022.

On October 4, the public was prepared. They showed up and spoke up.

See: Richardson Community Center Pt-II: Community Members Kept Coming to the Microphone

Yesterday Morning: Basically, A Do-Over of September 20

Yesterday’s County 5 agenda was a roadmap for another County mugging.

The approved board rules were still in effect: information for agenda items be turned in to the County Manager eight days before the meeting with the associated backup material to allow intelligent discussion.

Yesterday’s agenda was published on the Web last Friday. County 5 Chairman Rocky Ford had the following item added to the agenda: (7) Update on City of Lake City/Columbia County Issues.

On its face, that seemed innocent and informational.

However, a deep dive into Commissioner Ford’s Agenda Item Request Form was a little more enlightening. It explained the nature and purpose of the agenda item this way: “Discussion topics involving Columbia County and City of Lake City to include, but not limited to, actions taken by City Council on January 3 (two days before yesterday’s meeting), future City projects impacting County maintained roads…."

There was no supporting material and no explanation of any exigent circumstance requiring immediate action by The 5 regarding Richardson Community Center. It appeared this continued to be a discussion item.

Chairman Ford’s further explanation revealed the sham: “Recommended Motion/Action To Be Determined based on Discussion.”

So much for the public knowing about the pendency of the actions of its elected body or being able to plan to comment.

The County Attorney Memo & Unanimous Verdict

Mr. Foreman showed up at the meeting with a memo which was completed on Thursday after 5 pm. The memo gave three Richardson Community Center options for The 5’s consideration. It chose the third option unanimously:

Notify the City of the County’s election to terminate its tenancy at Richardson, release the City from the Interlocal Agreement between the City and the County, and remove all County material and personnel from the premises, and surrender the premises.

The Civilized World

Stunts such as these are generally not found in the civilized world. County Commissions and City Councils may be cagey, but nothing like this: “Motion to be determined based on discussion.” The item explanation was clear. It was an informational "update."

There was no exigent circumstance. The 5 could have weighed its options after the public update and tabled the motion to the next meeting where the people could have come to the meeting and had their say (read: petition their government), or it could have taken up the matter at its next meeting and provided supporting information and notice.

In this part of the Deep South, the Columbia County 5 has shown, once again, it is a relic of the past.

Some of the County’s brethren in Lake City are no different.

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.