Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Columbia County News

County gives up battle to destroy Fl Crown
Good old boys play possum to the end

Thursday evening, October 7, 2010, the Columbia County Commission officially gave up its three year battle to destroy or take over one of Florida's premier workforce boards, Region 7's award winning Florida Crown Workforce Board. The takeover battle, begun by Commissioner Stephen Bailey and ramped into high gear by Commissioner Jody DuPree, was characterized by Columbia County's mindless attacks, which demonstrated a complete misunderstanding of almost all the issues that related to Florida Crown and Workforce.

The beginning - A commissioner looking to make a name for himself

During three years of turmoil caused by Columbia County (the County), which has proven time and time again that it will stoop to nothing to get its own way, Region 7's other member counties, Dixie, Gilchrist, and Union stood their ground, refusing to be bullied by the big boys on the block.

As previously documented in the Observer, the real push to destroy Workforce Region 7 began in earnest on February 19, 2009, by a newly elected commissioner looking to make a name for himself, Commissioner Jody DuPree.

During the February 19th Board meeting, Com DuPree surprised the public by reaching into his jacket pocket and reading a motion that was typed earlier in the day by County Manager Dale Williams' staff.

Com DuPree's surprise motion listed four unsubstantiated charges (see lines 25 to 40) against Florida Crown and called for for the County to withdraw from Workforce Region 7 on June 30, 2009.

No one on the County Commission was surprised and all had ready comments.

The County set off a chain of events which would ultimately cost Florida's citizens tens of thousands of wasted taxpayer dollars - business as usual for Columbia County's good old boys.

The state and a former board member weigh in

On March 5, 2009, despite the fact that the state advised the County that it must show attempts to mediate the Florida Crown matter and could not approach the Governor without first obtaining an agreement with another county workforce region that would be willing to accept them, the County passed a resolution to advise the other three counties that it was withdrawing from the region.

On March 18, 2009, Craig Womer, a former FCWB (Florida Crown Workforce Board) member and vice chairman, and an expert in Economic Development, did his own investigation of the Columbia County charges. His investigation established the fact that was reestablished time and time again – Commissioner DuPree's charges had no basis in fact.

Between March 18, 2009 and April, 2010, the County's demands and meetings resulted in the squandering hundreds of hours and tens of thousands of dollars. The County's legendary rogue behavior would continue to the end.

County chooses Com Weaver to negotiate the end game

On April 15, 2010 the County chose outgoing Commissioner, Dewey Weaver, to negotiate for the County and resolve the outstanding issues between Florida Crown and the County.

The County's Official Minutes, in relevant part, put it this way:

Commissioner Weaver wanted everyone to be clear that he was being asked to negotiate on behalf of all commissioners without bringing the matter back before the Board for further discussion or action.

The Chairman said that unless the Board objects, he would authorize Commissioner Weaver to meet and make final decisions on behalf of the Board, based on the feelings already expressed by the Board. He asked if the Board concurred or whether they wanted the matter brought back before them.

The Chair stated that he would entertain a motion to authorize Commissioner Weaver to “bring this deal with Florida Crown to a closure.” He said that Commissioner Weaver has a good understanding of the Board’s concerns.

The motion carried unanimously.

On April 20, 2010, Com Weaver met in the county offices with FCWB Chairman Larry Thompson, FCWB Executive Director "JC" Chastain, and County Manager Dale Williams. That meeting is reported here.

County chooses to keep working in the shadows

In a continuing effort to keep the matter out of the public eye, Com Weaver explained that he had asked the CM to discuss individually in his office, the issues that each County Commissioner had with Florida Crown. This kind of back room dealing, which treads the tightrope of legality, is common practice in Columbia County, which always schemes to keep public debate to a minimum.

Commissioner Weaver put it this way:  "I’ve asked Dale to meet with the other commissioners individually and give me an in depth list from each commissioner. They won’t be Dewey Weaver’s issues they will be the Board’s issues. And I’ve also asked Dale to meet with the County Attorney and any issues that he has and include those and I’ll address them one by one with the Consortium and we’ll resolve them hopefully that day and move forward."

In other places on the planet it would have been over
All issues resolved

On June 15, 2010, the Florida Crown Affair finally looked like it was drawing to an end during the Region 7 Workforce Board and Consortium meetings.

Florida Crown asked Lois Scott and Tony Carter to come over from Tallahassee and to be available to answer any of Commissioner Weaver's questions. These two people, who represent the state as an Employ Florida Partner, are two of Florida's premier experts in the field and considered geniuses by the folks that know them and work with them.

One by one Ms. Scott and Mr. Carter went over the multitude of questions presented by the County. One by one, all the parties agreed that the questions were resolved.

Com Weaver said, "We have resolved our economic development issues."

Executive Director Chastain asked, "We need to move on and get on with our work. Can we consider these issues closed at this point?"

Com Weaver answered, "They're closed as far as I'm concerned."

Then out of the blue, Com Weaver added, "I will make a recommendation to my Board. My Board will take action and hopefully this will be behind us. I will make a recommendation to my Board that we move forward and I am satisfied with the answers to these questions and hopefully that will be the end of it."

There is no record anywhere of the County rescinding Com Weaver's authority to act on behalf of the Board or the County Attorney, Marlin Feagle, sending an email or presenting a decision that it was not legal to do what every other Consortium member in Florida does, that is represent and vote for their counties.

The duplicitous and untrustworthy Columbia County never fails to disappoint.

County Manager announces the issues aren't resolved

On August 19, 2010, Columbia County's County Manager, Dale Williams announced the following to the County Commission:

"You are all aware that Commissioner Williams appointed Com Weaver to serve on the FCWB as a Consortium member and based on the reports that Mr. Weaver has given, he is well on the way to resolving some of the issues that we have with that agency." (emphasis added)

On August 21, 2010, the Observer asked FCWB Executive Director, JC Chastain if there had been any contact with Com Weaver or the County regarding the resolved Columbia County issues.

Executive Director Chastain said, "We have had no contact since the last meeting. Commissioner Weaver proposed absolutely no action on any of the issues brought up at both the Workforce meeting and the Consortium meeting [the June 15th meetings]. The State was there and answered all the County's questions. Mr. Weaver had no objections or questions to any of the remarks by the state."

Florida Crown thought the issues were resolved

On October 6, 2010, at 10:00 am, the FCWB Executive Committee met. The Observer asked if anyone had heard that there were still unresolved issues between Columbia County and Region 7. Executive Director Chastain, former FCWB Chairman Larry Thompson and the new Chairman, Jeff Hudson, all agreed that as far as they knew and understood, "All issues between Region 7 and Columbia County were resolved."

It was reported to the Observer that sometime during the afternoon of October 6th, Larry Thompson called Dale Williams to inquire about the "unresolved" issues.

On October 7th the Columbia County Commission met - Another surprise motion - All issues resolved again

At the beginning of the Board meeting, Chairman Ronald Williams asked if there was anything to be added to the agenda. No one reported anything.

Then, after all the business of the Board was concluded, just as it began twenty months ago there was another surprise motion.

Commissioner Weaver, without warning reported to the Board that he was recommending that Columbia County "stay active in the Florida Crown Workforce." He told the County Commission, "I've met with the board and the consortium board, also with representatives from the state.  I feel like we have worked out the issues that we had."

In these difficult economic times, the services that the FCWB contributes to the four counties: Columbia, Dixie, Gilchrist and Union are immeasurable and a county appointment to the Consortium affects the lives of over 100,000 people and is one of the most important appointments a county can make, except in Columbia County.

Com Weaver concluded his remarks about the Florida Crown appointment with a snicker and a laugh as he said, "And I assume this is one of the favorite appointments, it will be the new guy on the board (laughing) that will get this one. (The other board members joined in the laughter). With that said that is my recommendation Mr. Chairman."

For now, the Florida Crown Affair is over. But in the infamous Columbia County, everyone knows that could just be a mirage.

This work by the Columbia County Observer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License.

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Florida Crown Affair:

  County gives up battle to destroy Fl Crown - Good old boys play possum to the end (posted October 11, 2010 05:00 am)
 • Florida Crown remains in the lurch
(posted April 21, 2010)
 • Florida Crown on top again (posted April 14, 2010) 
Florida Crown - Columbia County -Time for a little mercy (posted March 19, 2010)
 Florida Crown Invitation Com Langford steps up – it takes a woman (posted March 15, 2010)
Florida Crown Soars $402,000 Wings Grant Awarded (posted Oct 28, 2009)
 Difficult economic times - Florida Crown stretched thin and working overtime (posted Nov 26, 2009)
  Florida Crown Affair • Search Continues For Columbia County Issues (Part II) (posted June 18, 2009)
  Florida Crown Affair • Search Continues For Columbia County Issues (Part I) (posted June 17, 2009)
Florida Crown Affair moves to Gilchrist County (posted June 2, 2009)
  County Commission ignores rule of law
(posted May 26, 2009)
 • The Observer responds to County Manager Dale Williams (May 21, 2009)
 Florida Crown Receives Florida Literacy Award (posted May 20, 2009)
 Florida Crown's harassment continues
(Part II)
(posted April 16, 2009)
 Columbia County Commission leaves Florida Crown in the lurch – again
(Part 1)
(posted April 15, 2009)
  Florida Crown Gets Clean Bill of Health (posted March 23, 2009)
  George Skinner, former Columbia County Commissioner, weighs in on the Florida Crown controversy. (posted March 16, 2009)
  Florida Crown Workforce Board -- To good to leave (Posted March 12, 2009)