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Lake City Mayor Loses Control – Allows Vile & Uncontrolled Meeting Behavior Once Again

Auto    spinning tires with headline: Lake City Mayor loses control. Allows file and uncontrolled meeting behavior once again.
Photo: Mikes-Photography via Pixabay | Columbia County Observer graphic

LAKE CITY, FL – Mayor Stephen Witt once was a model for presiding over open and respectful meetings. Those are now bygone days. Mayor Witt has allowed the City’s once-model meetings to deteriorate into free-for-alls and vile exchanges between the City Council and community activist Sylvester Warren.

Council members and your reporter have discussed the degradation of Council meetings with Mayor Witt. While the Mayor admits things have gotten out of control and has, from time to time, mentioned that Lake City is "a laughing stock," nothing changes.

At times, the Mayor and Mr. Warren agreed that things would calm down. They haven’t.

Monday evening’s City Council meeting reached another new low as community activist Warren was allowed another trip off the deep end at the expense of Lake City’s diminished reputation.

You will not see a report like this in the County's mainstream media, which is generally more concerned about publishing legal notices, press releases, and press release like news unless it is on a vendetta against someone.

What you are about to read or hear may call for a Dramamine. However, Mayor Witt has allowed the discourse to sink so low in City Hall that "Sunshine" is the only disinfectant strong enough to cure the problem.

Sylvester Warren addresses the City Council
Community activist Sylvester Warren addresses the City Council on Monday evening. (screen grab via Youtube)

Monday Evening In City Hall

Beginning on May 3, 2021, after Mr. Warren's behavior continued off the charts, Mayor Witt started to read the following at the opening of the meetings.

“Ladies and Gentlemen. The Lake City Council has opened its public meeting. Since 1968, the City Code has prohibited any person from making personal, impertinent, or slanderous remarks or becoming boisterous while addressing the City Council...”

The City has a three-minute time limit for citizens' comments. This three-minute rule is commonplace.

Mayor Witt allows people to finish remarks and usually does not cut them off midsentence, allowing them to “wrap it up.”

On Monday evening, Mr. Warren came to the microphone, told the Mayor he had someplace to go, and said, "Hopefully, you'll give me a few more minutes."

Mayor Witt did not object. Mr. Warren spoke for six minutes, did not leave the meeting, and took his seat.

Twenty-three minutes into the meeting, Mr. Warren still had not left when the Mayor announced item three, a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), which had been awarded to the City.

City Manager Paul Dyal said, “I really don't support this grant."

There was discussion among the Council members. County Manager David Kraus was in attendance to answer questions.

The purpose of the CDBG was to make improvements to the Richardson Community Center and the area surrounding the Community Center. The grant award was $2,000,000.

After almost ten minutes of discussion, Councilman Todd Sampson said, “Not too often [do] you get a chance or a bite at $2 million that is available.”

Mr. Warren walked to the podium and was recognized by the Mayor.

The next three minutes of text are what was said. It is adult material:

Sylvester Warren:  Here's the problem, Mr. Mayor. First of all, Mr. Sampson don't know nothin’ about that.

Councilman Sampson:  Point of order. Mr. Mayor. Shut it down.

Mayor Witt:  (To Mr. Warren)  Hold on. Just talk to us.
Image of sound with link to audio file of Sylvester Warren addressing the Council

Sylvester Warren:  I'm telling you about the grant. I was the one (grant writer). Me. Mr. Sweat, and Thomas [Thomas Henry, former  public works director].

Councilman Sampson:  Point of order. Mr. Mayor, that's a lie.

Mayor Witt:  OK (unintelligible)

Councilman Sampson:  Point of order, Mr. Mayor.

Sylvester Warren:  Hold on. You can't tell me. This is what this boy or girl can't tell me.

Councilman Sampson:  Point of order, Mr. Mayor.

Sylvester Warren:  No. Mister Girl.

Councilman Sampson:  Mr. Boy to you. You're the one that wears the dress.

Sylvester Warren: Yeah. When you come, pull it up.

Councilman Sampson:  Mr. Mayor, shut it down.

Mayor Witt:  (Unintelligible in the background)

Sylvester Warren: Yeah. You shut it down.

Mayor Witt: (Unintelligible Mayor in the background)

Councilman Sampson: Mr. Mayor, move over. Let me sit there. I'll shut it down.

Sylvester Warren:  Now, you wanna sit there, boy. You're not sittin' nowhere.

Councilman Sampson:  Mr. Boy, to you. Mr. Boy to you, Mr. Boy to you.

Mayor Witt:  Mr. Warren (Unintelligible)

Councilman Sampson:  Mr. Mayor, the prison Bride. I would have him sit down if I were you.

Sylvester Warren: The what?

Mayor Witt: I'm askin' you to sit down.

Sylvester Warren: No, Mr. Mayor, I'm not sittin' down cause I'm gonna speak to the issue that I got up to speak on. I wrote - I wrote - I helped write the grant. He can't tell me who wrote the grant. I wrote the grant with, with Mr. Sweat.

Mayor Witt:  This thing about callin' names in here is done.

Sylvester Warren: He called a point of order because I'm correcting him. His point of information.

Mayor Witt:  Anyway, we know what's goin' on.

Sylvester Warren: His point of information. He can't holler a point of order every time I come and clear up a lie.

Mayor Witt: OK.

Councilman Sampson: Point of order, Mr. Mayor. It's not a lie.

Mayor Witt: OK, when we're done with (unintelligible)

Sylvester Warren: What are we done with, Mr. Mayor?

Mayor Witt: Any public comments? We're dealin' with it up here.

Mayor Witt: Say, what's the Council's pleasure?

Sylvester Warren: If you had a grant writer, Mayor.

Todd Sampson: I make a recommendation that we see what we can modify.

Sylvester Warren: (keeps talking; Mayor ignores his talking without permission, unintelligible)

Sylvester Warren: You can't modify.

Councilman Sampson:  Mr. Mayor, point of order. Mr. Mayor, point of order.

Sylvester Warren: You can't modify.

Councilman Sampson:  Mr. Mayor, point of order.

Mayor Witt: OK, let's talk among the Council. The audience is out of this.

Spinning Out of Control

With its reputation on the rocks, Lake City continues to spin out of control.

The City Council has proven unable to control Mr. Warren.

Mayor Stephen Witt has proven incapable of controlling Mr. Warren.

The City's charter and rules do not contain a mechanism to have someone other than the Mayor preside over City Council meetings unless the Mayor is not attending.


There are two reasonable options: the Mayor resigns or hands the gavel to the Vice Mayor and has him preside over the meetings.

It is unclear how much longer the City can survive this vile and unconscionable discourse.

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