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County 5 Has a Busy Day In Lake City Today: TDC & Fort White On the Docket. Confusion & Lack of Effective Leadership Causing Confusion & Trouble

Photo: Anna Shvets via Pexels | Coluumbia County Observer graphic

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – The County Commission (County 5) will be having a busy day today in Lake City. At 2 pm, the County 5 and the County's Tourist Development Council (TDC) are meeting in the LC Holiday Inn for a “Meet and Greet.”

Then, at 6 pm, the County scheduled a joint meeting between the County 5 and the Fort White Town Council. Unfortunately, the County never asked if the Fort White Town Council or its Attorney was available for the meeting before scheduling it.

TDC “Meet and Greet”: “Final candidates will be introduced”

On the County Calendar, listed for today is the item for a “Meet and Greet” for the “Executive Director candidate of the TDC.

The County explains the event: “The Columbia County Board of County Commissioners has retained SearchWide Global, a full-service executive search firm, to find the new Columbia County Tourist Development Council Executive Director. During this event, final candidates will be introduced to the search committee and key stakeholders.”

It is unknown who will be doing the "introducing," who is on the search committee, and who the "key stakeholders" are.

Event flyerFrom the one document available, an event flyer-agenda, the event is sponsored by the TDC.

The County has interviewed five candidates. It is not clear if SearchWide Global provided all of them.

The Observer has requested the applications and resumes of the candidates. The County doesn’t have them.

Your reporter asked the County Manager how the County could interview candidates without applications or resumes. The answer: “We know what questions to ask.”

SearchWide Global states in its online resume and application site: “Please note: All resume submissions will remain confidential and adhere to our privacy policy.”

If SearchWide Global is acting as the agent for Columbia County – it is – applications and resumes are public records.

The agreement between SearchWide Global-Columbia County has a barebones and misleading statement about SearchWide Global’s responsibilities to comply with Florida’s Public Record Law.

It is unknown who provided the SearchWide Global-Columbia County contract, and it has not been approved for form and legality by Columbia County's County Attorney, Joel Foreman.

The Observer is waiting for the executed contract, which will have a statement of fees and possibly the responsibilities of SearchWide Global.

Of the five candidates interviewed – via Zoom – there were three finalists.

Rather than present the top three, the County decided on only two finalists, who are both from Texas.

One of the finalists took another job, which leaves only one choice and one candidate at today’s “Meet and Greet.”

Don't Like the County Personnel Policy – Ignore it

The County's approved Personnel Manual states, "All employees will be hired in accordance with policies established by the Board…Applicants will complete the County’s standard employment application as found on the website or in the Human Resources Office.”

For the position of TDC Executive Director, neither the TDC nor the County 5 have completed applications or resumes in their possession.

It is unknown if resumes or applications will suddenly appear at the “Meet and Greet.”

Under the leadership of County Chairman Rocky Ford, last-minute surprises are becoming a way of life in the way the County 5 conducts its business.

6 pm: The County 5 and Fort White Town Council Meeting

As reported on October 20, 2023, Columbia County 5 – Rules of Procedure – What’s That? Ignoring Their Own Rules Is a Way of Life, as the October 19 meeting of the County 5 drew to a close, The 5 mugged the Fort White Town Council and all of Columbia County after everyone went home.

Rocky Ford-fileAs the meeting drew to a close, Chairman Ford (photo) told the County Manager to schedule a meeting with the Fort White Town Council for today, November 1.

The County, which is in partnership with Fort White on water and wastewater development in Fort White and the South End, does not treat Fort White like an equal partner or a partner at all.

On Friday, October 20, the County advised Fort White that the County had scheduled the joint meeting.

On Monday, October 23, the Fort White Town Clerk advised the County that both the Mayor and Fort White Attorney would not be available for the joint meeting.

Also, on October 23, Fort White's Attorney sent a letter to the County asking for clarification of three utility issues. On October 31, County Attorney Joel Foreman weighed in with a memo.

Fort White's Mayor, Ronnie Frazier, also weighed in on October 23 via email, calling the County 5 discourteous for "randomly" calling meetings without checking with the Town first.

Neither Mayor Frazier’s’ words nor the unavailability of Fort White’s Attorney would dissuade the County from meeting without its “partner.”

That was made crystal clear on October 19 at The 5 when long-time County Commissioner Ronald Williams said, "If Fort White decides not to come, I want to meet anyway because we need to make decisions.”

As we wrote on October 20:

"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."

Tonight, sometime after 6 pm, the public will discover exactly what the infamous County 5 has up its sleeve.

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