Intellectual Dishonesty at the BOCC

Lake City Reporter Editor Robert Bridges

The Lake City Reporter has the following editorial today, Feb. 22, 2017 regarding the shameful actions of the commission chair at last Thursday’s meeting.  Ron Williams ramrodded the defeat of an amendment which would have benefited our county, aquifer, residents, and yes, small farmers.  Mr. Williams, who is woefully ignorant of Columbia County and North Florida’s water problems,  is now at odds with his county attorney, Joel Williams.  Read on for the editorial in the Lake City Reporter.

Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum.
-A river is like a life:  once taken, it cannot be brought back-

Chair of the commission Ron Williams


Intellectual dishonesty at BOCC County Commission Chair Ron Williams got the answer he wanted concerning the legality of a proposed amendment to county land use regs last week, but he had to work at it. Namely by asking a question that wasn’t remotely relevant to begin with.

As detailed in a story on today’s front page, Williams, seeking cover to shoot down an amendment that would have limited intensive agricultural operations near environmentally sensitive areas, sent the proposed changes to the office of Florida Secretary of Agriculture Adam Putnam for vetting.

Putnam’s legal staff, having been wrongly informed by Williams that the regulation itself was new, and not just an amendment to an existing measure, wrote back that the county lacked authority to put such a rule in place.

Williams trumpeted the finding before a packed house at Thursday’s commission meeting, to the cheers of hundreds there to protest the proposed change.

That would have been fine, had the Putnam team been given the right information to work with. But as it turns out, the proposed amendment — whether you think it a wise move or not — was clearly not a violation of state law. Since the underlying measure had long been in place, we had effectively been grandfathered in.

Folks at the meeting who cheered Williams’ theatrics may never know he was dead wrong, especially if they don’t see the story on today’s front page.

Columbia County Attorney Joel Foreman

But state and local officials may see something else. Even had Williams been right on the facts, he could have been wrong on the law — as in, on the wrong side of it.

According to County Attorney Joel Foreman, who drafted the proposed amendment at the behest of the board, seeking outside legal help without first getting the permission of fellow commissioners could itself violate state law.

The problem isn’t that Williams just wanted to know more before casting his own vote. He used the faulty information he received from Putnam’s office to try to influence other board members during the meeting.

It’s times like these one wishes the county hadn’t dragged its feet on Foreman’s long-delayed ethics proposal, which may or may not ever see the light of day.

Of course, new rules might not matter to someone who doesn’t bother to follow those already in place.