The March 15, 2017 edition of the Lake City Reporter has the following article about ethic reforms for the county commission. We agree with Mr. Foreman that the commission needs to improve its ethics as well as the its conduct when running meetings. Mr. Williams ran the last public meeting with an iron hand and did not allow discourse/rebuttal, nor did he allow anyone to correct misconceptions and errors. That meeting was not a meeting where problems could be aired and discussed, just the opposite.
We applaud Mr. Foreman’s efforts to correct this problem.
In preparation for this important meeting, Mr. Foreman has facilitated a 146 page packet on ethics which he encourages each board member to read before the meeting. You can see it here; http://www.columbiacountyfla.com/MeetingDocuments/2017/03-March/16/20170310125942782-BCC-SM%20(AGENDA)-rev1.pdf
Go to this link for the original article in the Lake City Reporter.
Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum.
-A river is like a life: once taken, it cannot be brought back-
Commission to consider ethics reforms Thursday
By Carl McKinney
A comprehensive set of ethics reforms could be coming to county government. The county commission will hold a workshop at 3 p.m. Thursday to discuss a comprehensive ethics policy proposed by County Attorney Joel Foreman.
Foreman originally suggested the reforms back in August, saying there were too many opportunities for violations of the county charter to occur. For instance, the charter has a non-interference clause prohibiting county commissioners from directly giving orders to employees under the county manager’s supervision.
However, the current ethics codes provides for no process to investigate and penalize offenders, Foreman wrote in a September memo. In advance of the workshop, the county attorney provided commissioners and the public copies of ethics codes adopted by Charlotte, Leon, Palm Beach and St. Johns counties.
“I reviewed many different sets of rules, and those were some that just had merit,” Foreman said. Many of the other counties’ policies were put in place in response to convictions and charges stemming from ethics violations, he said. “Palm Beach and Leon County had issues,” he added. Columbia County’s reforms will provide a mechanism for violators to be punished by public reprimand, he said.
In a February county commission meeting, Foreman said he would propose during the ethics workshop a rule requiring all solicitations of outside legal advice to go through him. He announced the need for the policy directly after a tense standoff with County Commission Chairman Ron Williams, who asked a state agency to weigh in on the legality of a proposed ordinance to limit high-concentration animal feeding operations.
Foreman also suggested polices to tighten up the rules for public meetings and standardizing procedures across the various entities within county government. “So that members of the public can come into any meeting and know what to expect,” he said.
When Foreman outlined his ethics reforms in a memo to commissioners last year, he wrote that technical issues with the projector and sound system at board meetings might actually conflict with the state’s broad government transparency rules.
The board will likely focus on St. Johns County, which has an exceptionally concise and well-organized code of ethics, Foreman said. The county commission meets at the School Board Administrative Complex, 372 W. Duval St.