Joe and I have waited for years to see the integrity that is finally bestowed upon the Citizens of White Springs, by those who now serve White Springs. It is Vice Mayor Anita Rivers to thank for bringing in Ms. Vanessa George as our interim Town Manager and for Ms. Vanessa George for bringing in professional staff including one of the most intelligent and law/statute abiding attorneys, Columbia County Attorney Joel Foreman, esquire.
Ms. George recently met with the interim attorney Mr. Joel Foreman and discussed the following.
- Charter Educational workshop – The Charter is the Town’s constitution and although possible changes may be brought forth for the Citizens to vote upon in the future, finally there is an interest in the Town’s constitution. In fact, you may have heard numerous times from Joe Griffin that we do not follow the charter. As such, he has been appointed to handle a charter review and Ms. George has provided him what is needed at this time to begin the process.
- Town Departments – Although much more has been discussed, it may be mentioned that Ms. Audrey Washington Lewis who brings much experience from Lake City will now serve the people of White Springs in her capacity as Town Clerk.
- Previous legal work. Mr. Foreman attempted to reach out to the previous town attorney to get caught up to speed but to no avail at the time of Ms. George’s report.
- Surplus Property– it was suggested that the town inventories all property which it owns and determines whether it would be more beneficial to deem it surplus and place it up for sale. Ray Vaughn has been working diligently with Ms. George on the inventories consisting of such items as Real Property and Chattel Property.
We have awaited an attorney of Mr. Foreman’s honesty, integrity and knowledge of the Statutes for years. Joe was impressed with Mr. Foreman’s acumen years prior and now we have an opportunity to hire him as our attorney. No other attorneys applied to our advertisements as of yet, and Mr. Foreman will be providing us with a proposal and contract for the council to consider in his being our Town Attorney.
Let me give you one instance on how Mr. Foreman operates in accordance with the Laws of the State of Florida. As you are aware, Don Wilson wished to initially rent the old jail and thereafter in one year secure a mortgage with his rental payments returned to him as a down payment on the mortgage. I initially was concerned because of the insurance costs of the Town under a lease agreement and suggested that we provide a contract for deed. Mr. Foremen told me in the meeting why I was incorrect in my assertions. Mr. Foremen advised that the contract for deed by statute is considered a mortgage per see and the Town should not wish to be involved in the mortgage business. Furthermore by statute, so there is no favoritism and for all to have equal opportunity under the law, it is necessary that the property be offered by advertisement in the newspapers and those wishing to purchase the property provide their sealed bid. That is how surplus is handled in accordance with the statute. Previously, the Town only sold to those who were favored. It is amazing that for such surplus properties a sealed bid will be required and it is confirmed that the Town is not in the business of being a mortgagee. Who would have thought it?….as Joe would have said.
- Future Community Center – due to the lack of progress made to complete the community center which began in 2018 and was to have been completed by June 2021, a meeting of all parties involved is scheduled for today, Wednesday January 13th at 2:00 p.m. at Joel Foreman’s law office in lake City.
Ms. George stated that if we return the money, we may lose points in the future toward securing additional grants of this kind, but there are many factors involved that need to be discussed with all parties and an update will be provided.
Again the facts are taken from Ms. Vanessa George’s paperwork and provided to us so that we may be transparent to the Town of White Springs.
Finally there is Transparency in White Springs and a Manager and Town Council who wishes to end corruption with the advice of an attorney with integrity.