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Columbia County 5 – Rules of Procedure – What’s That? Ignoring Their Own Rules Is a Way of Life

The Columbia County 5 with headline: Ignoring their own rules, the County 5 mugged the Ft. White Town Council and all of Columbia County after everyone went home.
In the center County Chair Rocky Ford (Dist. 2). Clockwise from upper left: Ronald Williams (Dist. 1), Robbie Hollingsworth (Dist. 3), Tim Murphy (Dist. 5), Everett Phillips (Dist. 4).

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – Last night's Columbia County 5 (the County Commission) meeting was going silky smooth. After the meeting was gaveled to order, The 5 approved the agenda with one addition. During the proceedings, Chairman Rocky Ford recognized those who wanted to participate, and the speakers were not interrupted by Commission members. Then, 45 minutes into the meeting, Chairman Ford threw The 5's approved Rules of Procedure out of the window.

For months, the County 5 has been trying to schedule a meeting with the Fort White Town Council – the issue – utilities.


As we have reported earlier, three of the Town Council members work day jobs and run businesses; 8:30 am meetings have been a non-starter for the Town, but The 5 paid no attention, preferring to have ill-attended meetings rather than adapting its schedule to accommodate Fort White.

The Town has also made its wishes known that it prefers a joint Town-County meeting to be held in the Fort White Community Center, where those in the Town and surrounding South End of the County could easily attend without having to drive into Lake City.

The County 5 has resisted a meeting in the South End. The County's South End residents are concerned about the Town, the environment, the planned Rocky Ford subdivision (Gwynn Farms), the rivers, and the aquifer. They show up at meetings, asking questions and voicing opinions. Many folks in the South End, whether or not inside the Town limits, are concerned about Fort White’s independence.

The Board's Rules of ProcedureThe County 5 Rules of Procedure
Important Things to Know

In 2017, County Attorney Joel Foreman, with a few modifications, modified the St. John's County Rules and Policies, and the County 5 adopted them as their own.

The Columbia County Rules are self-contained and do not defer to Robert's Rules or Sturgis.

As with most elected boards and others, agendas are modified and approved at the beginning of meetings.

If the rules are followed, items cannot just be added willy-nilly.

In Columbia County, adding an item after agenda approval calls for a supermajority vote to suspend the rules and add the item.

The County Attorney is the County 5's parliamentarian, whose job is to assist the Board on questions of parliamentary procedure when requested by any board member.

Many boards require their parliamentarians to advise the chair if they notice something being done that is out of order. In Columbia County, this is not in their rules.

Over the years, complaints about The 5 improperly adding agenda items at the tail end of its meetings, after just about everyone has gone home, have been ignored.

Last Night, Chairman Rocky Ford and the Rest of The 5 Demonstrated Once Again the Rules They Approved for Their Own Conduct Are Meaningless.

Forty-four minutes into the meeting, as the public comment period was about to begin, Chairman Ford said, “Before we do three-minute comments, let's (unintelligible). Okay, we still have a meeting scheduled for the 25th with the Town of Fort White. All indications are they are not gonna show up at that meeting. I've been told they've scheduled a workshop that night. At this time, I would like to have the Board set a date for another meeting with the Town -- if we could. Maybe we could get this meeting done."

"I would like to schedule this for the first Wednesday in November, which would be November first. Can everybody make that meeting? The reason I say Wednesday is the attorney of the town of Fort White says the only night he has open is Wednesday night."

Chairman Ford addressed the County Manager, "David, can you send notice to the Town to schedule a meeting for them for the first?"

County Manager David Kraus said he would.

Commissioner Murphy made a motion to schedule the meeting for November 1. The motion passed unanimously.

It is unclear how many members of The 5 knew the Town wanted to meet with the County in Fort White. Chairman Ford knew, never mentioning the location of the meeting.

Commissioner Robbie Hollingsworth asked, "Where will that meeting be?"

Only then did Chairman Ford mention the meeting would be held at the TDC Conference Room in Lake City.

Fifteen minutes later, Commissioner Williams said, “The meeting on the fourth. If Fort White decides not to come, I want to meet anyway because we need to make decisions.”

Chairman Ford said, “November first, we're definitely going to meet on November first.

Commissioner Hollingsworth opined, “With or without them – whatever -- we've got to talk about it.”

Your reporter learned earlier today that Town of Fort White Mayor Ronnie Frazier is scheduled to be out of Town on November first. At the time of publication, it is unknown if the other Fort White Council members will be available.


In the civilized world, the County Manager and the Town Clerk would have cleared their respective Board member schedules before a meeting was scheduled.

Nobody tells Rocky Ford and the rest of The 5 what to do, neither common courtesy, nor the rules they have approved which state, "The Board shall [must] avoid attempts to surprise or ambush Commissioners, staff, or members of the general public."

The Columbia County 5, the legend continues.

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