Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

Real news from Florida for working families since 2007

County News

County Chairman Rocky Ford Resigns From Joint Fort White – Columbia County Utility Committee: The Unspoken Reason – ‘Cease & Desist’

Commissioner Rocky Ford
Columbia County Observer Photo

Read more about Gwynn Farms:
Oct.17, 2023  Gwynn Farms Subdivision Packs Fort White Town Hall – Document Issues Table Preliminary Plan Approval
August 23, 2023  County Chairman Rocky Ford Resigns From Joint Fort White – Columbia County Utility Committee
August 19, 2023  Fort White Gwynn Farms Subdivision: Citizens Gather

July 3, 2023  Fort  White Gwynn Farms Major Subdivision: Twists, Turns, & More Questions Than Answers for the Town Council
June 29, 2023  Fort White Town Council: South Columbia County Growth On Tap Tonight

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – Last Wednesday, August 16, 2023, at 8:30 a.m., County Chairman Rocky Ford, Chairman of the joint Fort White/Columbia County Utility Advisory Committee, resigned from the Committee just after the meeting got underway and illegally appointed Commissioner Tim Murphy to fill his seat. Was Commissioner Ford straight up about the reason for his resignation? It didn’t look like it.

Commissioner Ford told the Committee, “I think everybody knows how hard I've worked on this utility. I’ve been involved in it for four and a half years. I'm really proud of where it's come to and where we're at with it right now. And this is a very important issue for the Town of Fort White and the south end of Columbia County…, but some things have developed between me and the Town of Fort White on personal issues involving me and my wife.”

Commissioner Ford then criticized Fort White’s Mayor Ronnie Frazier, “I don't think that the Mayor can distinguish one issue from the other. So, I don't want to be an excuse for why the Mayor don't attend these meetings, and I don't wanna be a distraction for this utility moving forward.”

Fort White & Columbia County

Fort White Town Manager Connie Brecheen
Town Manager Connie Brecheen has been keeping the Town Council informed. Here she is attending the Aug. 16 Utility meeting.

For as long as anyone can remember, Fort White has been the "Red Headed Step Child" of Columbia County, a place where County Commissioners did “stuff” to accumulate votes and stay elected.

Almost forever, the Town Council wasn't paying the attention that it should have to the many issues facing the Town. Over time, with the changing of a couple of Town Councilman, the hiring of an astute and qualified Town Manager, who is not a politician hooked up with Columbia County's infamous 'Good Ole' Boys,' and the hiring of a town attorney who is also not a Columbia County political Good Ole’ Boy, the Town has taken a turn.

Fort White is now paying more attention to good governance, the law, and its future.

A Backroom Deal Not In the Rules
Commissioner Ford Ignores Bylaws He Approved

Commissioner Ford continued, “I'm gonna remove myself from this Committee. I'm gonna ask Commissioner Murphy to take my place on the Committee.”

On March 17, 2022, after a walk-on (an item not on the County agenda) by County Attorney Joel Foreman, the County 5 approved the Utility Committee bylaws. The bylaws are specific; the County 5 (i.e., the whole County Commission) appoints members to the Utility Committee.

District 3 Commissioner Everett Phillips, not Commissioner Murphy, represents the south end of the County and Ellisville, where water and wastewater (sewer) construction and development are ongoing and expanding.

Commissioner Ford then stepped down and appointed Commissioner Ron Williams to chair the Committee. There is no mention in the bylaws about the choosing of a Chairman.

The August 16 Utility Committee meeting continued with Commissioner Ford sitting in the back and participating as though he was still on the Committee.

The elected officials of Fort White, Mayor Ronnie Frazier and Town Councilman Travis King, were absent. The County has fixed the time and place of these meetings to be as inconvenient for the Town's elected officials – who work – to attend the early morning meetings.

County Commissioner Rocky Ford is mostly retired; County Commissioner Ron Williams is retired; Commissioner Tim Murphy is retired.

The Real Reason Mr. Ford Stepped Down:
The Rest of the Story

Commissioner Ford's wife is building a 109-unit – 150 acre – subdivision, Gwynn Farms, in the south end of Columbia County, just inside the Town of Fort White limits. A couple of years ago, Gwynn Farms was just outside the Town. Lisa Ford, Commissioner Ford's wife, decided to ask the Town to annex it. The Town did.

The Town Council has recently discovered developmental issues in the subdivision. Issues that it feels will affect the quality of life in the subdivision and the Town. Fort White residents and those in the Fort White area believe environmental issues in the subdivision also need to be addressed.

It was reported to your reporter that Commissioner Ford visited Town Councilman Travis King in his place of business on August 15, something which Mr. Ford has not denied.

It was also reported that Mr. Ford caused a scene and disrupted Mr. King's business, which Mr. Ford denied.

At the request of Commissioner Ford, On August 14, County Attorney Joel Foreman wrote a legal opinion for Commissioner Ford regarding “Voting Conflicts and Disclosure Requirements.”

A County ordinance provides that County commissioners may request legal opinions from the County Attorney.

Purportedly, Mr. Ford took the opinion to Mr. King's business, dropped it off, and had words about his wife's subdivision.

Mr. Ford had previously hired a certified land attorney to represent him and should not have been talking to Mr. King, a Councilman of Fort White.

Town Attorney Lindsey Lander Got a Complaint
Commissioner Ford should 'cease and desist'

Lindsey Lander, Fort White Town Attorney
Fort White Town Attorney Lindsey Lander (file)

On August 15, at 1:18 p.m., Town Attorney Lindsey Lander wrote an email to the County Attorney and Mr. Ford’s attorney, Patrice Boyes.

Attorney Lander wrote:  “I got information from Councilman Travis King this morning that Rocky Ford had come to Mr. King's place of business (for the second time in recent weeks) and made a disturbance related to Gwynn Farms. Specifically, he delivered to Mr. King a memorandum written yesterday by Mr. Foreman that outlined what constituted conflicts of interest for voting members of public bodies and the potential criminal and ethical consequences for violating the pertinent chapters.”

Mr. Lander concluded his email by asking Attorney Boyes, "Ms. Boyes, please inform Mr. Ford that he should have no further contact with Mr. King or any member of the Town Council or staff as his behavior is intolerable.”


At 8:30 a.m. on August 16, Mr. Ford resigned from the Fort White/Columbia County Utility Committee.

One of the big issues facing Gwynn Farms is Fort White utility services, something the joint Fort White/Columbia County Utility Committee is discussing.

Updated: Aug. 23, 2023, changed Sally Ford to Lisa Ford.

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.