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Lake City News

Lake City IT: 3 Men Couldn’t Do What LC's Former IT Director ‘Could,' Proving It Takes a Woman

Mandy Rand recording a City Council meeting to the Zoom cloud.
Lake City's former IT Director, Mandy Rand recording a City Council meeting to the Zoom cloud, something the City's new IT leadership can't do.

LAKE CITY, COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL –  The departure of Lake City’s IT Department Director Mandy Rand left a big hole in the ability of Lake City’s IT to post its Zoom meetings without lag time. Under the former direction of Ms. Rand, the Zoom meetings made it to the net generally within minutes.

The new IT team, now being overseen by Utility [water & wastewater] Director Paul Dyal, and newly minted IT Director Adam Boatright, took two days to post Saturday's important Police Advisory Committee workshop.

Lake City is reeling with morale, financial, and other problems. Fringe elements and power blocks make it almost impossible for City Manager Joe Helfenberger to make decisions and stick by them.

Some in the City believe that the last person who has the City Manager's ear is all-controlling, with the result that the City is careening out of control.

This weekend’s City Council Police Advisory Committee workshop demonstrated that three IT men involved in the Zoom production could not do the job of one woman, posting a meeting to the Zoom cloud.

Background: The City Council decides to have two workshops

City Councilman Todd Sampson
Councilman Todd Sampson (file)

During the April 19, 2021 City Council meeting, Councilman Sampson proposed two workshops, one at Richardson Community Center and one at the School Board Administrative Auditorium. There were no caveats or alternatives in the motion. It was clear, specific, and straightforward.

One meeting was to be held at the Community Center, the other at the Administrative Auditorium.

Recently, it was discovered that the Administrative Auditorium was not available for the second meeting.

Richardson Community Center

The first of two workshops were held at Richardson Community Center (Community Center).

The Community Center is the responsibility of Columbia County icon Mario Coppock. The IT needs of the Center are provided by Columbia County’s IT team, directed by Todd Manning, a known expert in IT and IT security.

As Saturday’s meeting was being Zoomed, your reporter noticed that the little recording light, which shows that the meeting is being recorded to the Zoom cloud, was missing.

There are advantages to using the Zoom cloud: cleaner audio, chats, which are public records, are saved, who is logged in is saved, and almost immediate posting of the Zoom meeting to the web.

Recorded Zoom cloud meetings can also be downloaded by a City-provided Zoom link and saved to one's computer.

Mandy Rand, Lake City’s former IT Director made sure all this happened, and meetings were available.

The City’s new IT lead team, now consisting of overseer Paul Dyal and IT Director Adam Boatright, couldn’t make this happen.

Richardson Community Center
Three IT men attended the workshop. It took over two days to post the meeting to the web. Richardson Community gym and community space.

After the meeting, your reporter asked Director Boatright if the meeting was recorded to the Zoom Cloud. In on the conversation or observing were City Manager Helfenberger, IT Overseer Paul Dyal, Director Boatright, City Clerk Audrey Sikes, audio board operator Osteen, and City Councilman Eugene Jefferson.

The Workshop – Not in the Zoom Cloud
Richardson has a “hard wired fiber internet connection”

Yesterday, Monday May 10, your reporter spoke with both County IT Director Todd Manning and County Manager David Kraus.

Your reporter asked Mr. Manning about the internet connection and WI-FI at the Richardson Community Center.

Mr. Manning said, “It has a fiber internet connection. I installed it myself.”

Your reporter said, “I guess it doesn’t get better than that.”

County Manager David Kraus was asked about recording Zoom meetings at Richardson.

Mr. Kraus said, “We do Zoom meetings there all the time. We don’t have any problems. They should have called us.”

Back to the City

At the end of the workshop, there was a discussion regarding the place of the next workshop. It was scheduled for the following weekend.

Your reporter pointed out that the Community Center space worked fine and that IT knew the setup.

The City Manager agreed that it would be a good idea to hold the second workshop at Richardson.

The Clerk said it would be no problem "because the meeting wasn't advertised yet."

IT Overseer Dyal said that worked for him.

Sylvester Warren appears at the Feb. 1, 2021, City Council meeting
Sylvester Warren was a major force behind the workshop. Here he is at the February 1, 2021 City Council meeting.

Sylvester Warren, the community activist behind the workshops and the force behind a Civilian Complaint Review Board, thought having the next meeting at Richardson would be a good idea.

Councilman Jefferson said he didn’t have a problem with it, but the City Manager needed to poll the other Council members.

Richardson Community Center representative Linda Caldwell told the gathering that the Community Center could be available for next Saturday.

Mr. Helfenberger called the Mayor and said he couldn’t reach him.

Mr. Helfenberger said he had to reach out to Councilman Sampson, who wasn’t at the workshop. It is not clear if he did.

Councilman Greene got into a conversation with the City Manager. The City Manager looked harried.

City Manager Helfenberger was not able to make the decision to keep Richardson as the location for the next workshop or switch it to Richardson Middle School (now the sixth-grade academy), which at the time seemed like it would have entailed researching the new location and figuring out a setup all over again.

Nothing is Simple in Lake City

Joe Helfenberger, Lake City City Manager
City Manager Joe Helfenberger. Lake City is beginning to take its toll.         (file)

Your reporter asked the City Manager to let him know where the next meeting would be.

Mr. Helfenberger said, “I’ll let you know as soon as I find out.”

By the end of Saturday, Mr. Helfenberger still hadn't made a decision. At 1:17 am Sunday, Clerk Sikes emailed him asking for “the decision.”

At 5:06 pm, Sunday, Mr. Helfenberger emailed Ms. Sikes, “The location will be the Richardson Community Center Auditorium.”

At 5:22 am, Ms. Sikes thanked Mr. Helfenberger for the information.

At 8:10 pm, your reporter sent a text message to Mr. Helfenberger informing him that the workshop had not been uploaded to the internet, reminding him that if former IT Director Rand was “in charge, it would have been available and posted.”

Your reporter asked, “You were going to let me know about the location of next week's redo. Will it be held at Richardson Community Center again?”

Mr. Helfenberger ignored the text message.

On Monday, May 10, at 8:41 am, Records Coordinator Nikki Starling emailed Clerk Sikes, “Mr. Helfenberger came into the office this morning and said that he made a mistake in his email. The workshop for May 15, 2021, will be held at the Richardson Middle School Auditorium.

Then, at 8:48 am, Mr. Helfenberger emailed Clerk Sikes and others, "I made a mistake.  The location I meant to say was Richardson Middle School Auditorium. This is the original location and we need to stick with it.”

Mr. Helfenberger didn’t say why he needed to “stick with it.”

The Richardson Middle School Auditorium was not the original location. The School Board Administrative Auditorium was the “original” location.

Once the Administrative Auditorium became unavailable, the second meeting was ‘finito,' canceled, finished. According to City rules, the City Manager had four options: have a special meeting to have the City Council decide on another location, call the meeting, have the mayor call the meeting, or wait for the Council to determine if it was necessary to hold another meeting.

Your reporter twice asked Mr. Helfenberger for an explanation of, “Why we have to stick with it [Richardson Middle School].”

Finally, he came up with one.

Today, in an email, at 8:27 am, Mr. Helfenberger wrote: “The City Council originally decided to hold two workshops in two different locations. The Richardson Middle School provides a different location.”

Mario Coppock: A man on whom you can depend

As it turned out, according to Richardson Community Center Director Mario Coppock, things would have been tight next weekend at the Community Center as there was a basketball game at 10 am, which would have made the Community Center available at noon.

Mr. Coppock explained he had previously worked with the School District to arrange for the workshop to be held at the Richardson Middle School.

Mr. Coppock told your reporter, “They are all set up and ready to go.”


It is not clear if anyone is telling the City Manager what is going on or if this next meeting will be saved in the Zoom cloud, something the last IT Director could have accomplished in ‘her’ sleep.

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