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City Attorney Fred Koberlein Invokes the Winnie-the-Pooh ‘Factor’ To Explain Fuzzy Resolution Title & Mystery $84k Prefab Building


Photo: R. John Wright Winnie-the-Pooh bear, FJW studio |  Columbia County Observer graphic

LAKE CITY, COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL –  Monday night’s City Council meeting was ill-attended; even the mainstream media didn’t show up, although it attended virtually, along with three other virtual attendees. The performance of the City Council, City Manager, City Attorney, and City Clerk over the last two years is an indicator of the confidence in the electorate and the performance of the public body.

The City's docket for Monday evening was jam-packed. Two resolutions stood out, along with City Attorney Fred Koberlein.

Problematic Resolutions
So, What’s Supposed to be in a Resolution?

The Florida Statutes [166.041(2)] sets the minimum requirements for what needs to be in a resolution. It is not complicated. "Each . . . resolution shall be introduced in writing and shall embrace but one subject and matters properly connected therewith. The subject shall be clearly stated in the title."

This is the minimum requirement. The City Council can pass a policy making the requirement more specific to ensure the public is apprised of the subject matter of the resolution.

The statute leaves it up to the producer of the resolution to determine what the subject is and what to include.

The title: the general rule of thumb for writing a title: "The title should be clear and concise and convey the general idea of the topic of the resolution." Pennsylvania Academy of Physicians and many others.

BoardEffect puts it this way: Form a title of the resolution that speaks to the issue you want to document. For example, "Resolution to Designate Funds of the 2016 Gala Fundraiser to the Marketing Fund."

Humboldt State University gives the following guideline: “The title of the resolution must appropriately reflect the intent.”

The Am Library Association produced this resolution title: “Resolution on Improving the Federal Depository Library Program and Public Access to Government Information.”

While this may sound simple enough, City Attorney Koberlein and the City Council don’t always get it.

The Mayor has the choice of asking that a resolution be read either by title or by reading the whole enchilada. Most often, Mayor Witt asks for the resolution, or ordinance, to be read by title.

The idea of reading the title is to give the Council and the public enough information to understand the substance of the resolution or ordinance.

In Lake City, the title of the resolution or ordinance is incorporated into the minutes, making for an accurate record of what the Council voted. This makes it essential that the title of resolutions reflect their substance.


Not many Lake City residents show an interest in the goings on at the City Council. Monday evenings turn tells the story. Other than three people, everyone is a member of the Lake City staff.

The Resolutions: Monday evening at the City Council

"City Council Resolution No. 2021-079 - A resolution of the City Council of the City of Lake City, Florida, accepting a bid from Slack Construction, Inc., related to the purchase and installation of a prefabricated metal building on an existing concrete foundation; providing for a contract price not to exceed $84,173.00; providing for the execution of the contract; and providing an effective date."

Your reporter read through the 46 pages of the resolution and couldn’t find where the building was being erected or its use.

Two sentences in the title would have answered those questions.

Long-time Councilman Eugene Jefferson made a motion to put the resolution on the table. Then, without a second, the resolution was opened for discussion. He didn't know where the building was going.

Your reporter was at the podium and permitted by the Mayor to inquire.

Your reporter: "There is no way to know what this is… I went through all the supporting information regarding the expenditure of $84,173. Where is this building going? It doesn't say where the building's going or what it's for."

Mayor Witt inquired of the City Manager, “Mr. Helfenberger.”

There was silence.

Your reporter, “Do you know? Does he know?”

(trouble with the microphones – once again).

City Manager Joe Helfenberger
City Manager Joe Helfenberger

City Manager Helfenberger: “The building is being used for utilities.”

Your reporter followed up:  “It’s a new building. Are they demoing an old building? It’s almost $100k.”

Your reporter looked at Councilman Greene.

Councilman Greene: (smiling) “I don’t know.”

Mayor Witt volunteered: “I don’t know.”

The other Council  members were silent. It was obvious, they also didn't know.

Utility Director Paul Dyal came to the microphone and explained the purpose and location of the building.

City Clerk Sikes announced: “We have a motion. We need a second.”

There was no second.

Mayor Witt:  “The motion dies.”

City Attorney Fred Koberlein approved this agenda item.

Resolution Number 2
What are they talking about?

City Attorney Koberlein read the resolution: “City Council Resolution No. 2021-080 - A resolution of the City Council of the City of Lake City, Florida, authorizing the City to join with the State of Florida and other local governmental units as a participant in the Florida Memorandum of Understanding and formal agreements implementing a unified plan; and providing an effective date.”

The resolution had everything to do with the present and past opioids crisis confronting Florida and America.

Your reporter addressed the Council and said that one would not have a clue what this was about by reading the title, adding that if one searched the minutes, one wouldn't know that this resolution had anything to do with opioids or any agreement… or lawsuits."

city IT guru Adam Boatright
City IT guru Adam Boatright riding the pots.

Your reporter asked, “How is the public, or you guys, supposed to know what's going on when you continue to allow this kind of inferior descriptions of the business… All these resolutions have to be approved by the Koberlein law firm. Clearly, anybody looking at this, if you went into court, and he wants to be a judge, and you ask somebody to explain what this was, Mr. Greene or Mr. Hill, can you tell me what this resolution is? Nobody could explain it.”

Councilman Sampson said, “I would mention that if you looked at page 249 of the agenda package we got Wednesday, you have the full proposal of the MOU there.”

Your reporter followed up, “I get that. But by looking at the minutes, you’d never know what was there.”

Winnie the PoohHere Comes Winnie-the-Pooh

City Attorney Koberlein gave his take.

Attorney Koberlein:  “On the first page of the resolution, it’s kinda like Winnie-the-Pooh book. The title is the title; that's at the top. If you'd like the summary, you usually go to the back of the book, or you read the book. The third whereas clause states, ‘The state of Florida’.”

Then there was a hum. It appeared that the battery in Mr. Koberlein’s microphone went dead. He didn’t ask for assistance, but pushed the microphone away. His audio dropped out and disappeared for a few moments. With his microphone gone, no one online could hear him.

Adam Boatright, the City’s new IT director, has had his hands full lately dealing with City squabbles and politics, with the result that he may have been gun-shy. Instead of changing the batteries or finding a different solution, Mr. Boatright tried to compensate electronically by jacking up the gain on othe nearby microphones.

With Attorney Koberlein’s short fuse and the general City management confusion and squabbling, it is hard to criticize Mr. Boatright for not getting up and trying to fix Mr. Koberlein’s microphone.

After this, Mr. Koberlein's audio was problematic. It was almost impossible to understand what he was saying.

Although difficult to understand, some of what Mr. Koberlein said could be made out in the reverberation and echo. Mr. Koberlein referred back to the previous resolution that the Council did not approve because the backup information did not state where the almost $100,000 building would be erected.

Mr. Koberlein said that the supporting information did include where the prefab building was going to be erected.

This was not true. The only thing provided with the supporting documentation was where the building materials were to be delivered. There was nothing provided in the material that stated where the building was going to be erected or what the building would be used for.

Epilogue

Winnie-the-Pooh has nothing to do with competent lawyering.

There was no rush for the City Council to pass City Council Resolution No. 2021-080, with its defective title, which didn’t mention the word opioid, which was what the resolution was about.

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