Government is a Necessary Evil

on Saturday, 29 January 2022.

Dear Readers:

Both Franklin County Board of Commissioners and the Franklin County School Board ostensibly function for the good of the people. Government, in general, is a necessary evil; good government is a blessing. Like most things in life, there’s good and bad in Franklin county’s two government agencies. Perfect, they are not. Bureaucratic, they are. All government agencies inevitably prioritize their own self-interest vs. their stated purpose of being public servants. It happens here, in Tallahassee and Washington. Every government entity has conflicts aligned along three opposing axes:

  1. Leadership—how good or how bad?
  2. Organizational Challenges—every government agency eventually starts to think it exists for their own needs and desires
  3. The needs of the people—are their needs being met and do they trust the government they have?

Working in government is very much like working in a for-profit company, except they’re not the same. Government employees don’t get laid off, don’t necessarily have to be as productive to keep their positions, and frequently make more than the people they serve measured in pay and benefits. That’s just a fact of life; get over it if you think differently. This takes nothing away from some really great people I’ve met working for the County and the School District.

I’ve been stirred up over the dialysis clinic issue that’s recently been discussed by the Commission. I’ll share with you an edited Letter to the Editor that I wrote for the Apalachicola Times and then share some additional thoughts with you

End-Stage Renal Disease. Sounds bad, and it is. More than a dozen Franklin County residents (at least 8 of them who are indigent) suffer the effects of requiring thrice- weekly kidney dialysis. All will likely require dialysis for the rest of their lives. With the closure last year of the dialysis clinic located on the Sacred Heart campus, the nearest dialysis clinic is either in Tallahassee or Panama City. That is a grueling long day, three times a week for each patient. I watched my father struggle with dialysis for the last couple of years of his life. It was hard.

These individuals were thrown a rare lifeline by neighboring Gulf County when they voted to subsidize the start-up costs for a new clinic, now to be run by Fresenius Medical Center. Jim McKnight, director of the Gulf County Economic Development Coalition received unanimous support from the Gulf County Commission for an annual subsidy of $100,000 for five years to defray start-up expenses that will likely be over a million dollars. Gulf County Chairman Sandy Quinn reached out to Franklin County to chip in a maximum of $25,000 a year for five years in support of those dialysis patients.

At the Franklin County Commission meeting on the 18th, of January, I watched a very sad discussion unfold. It started with a discussion of the next big pot of Covid money Franklin County is expecting. Salivating at the prospect of more free money from the next installment of the American Rescue Plan, Commissioner Lockley broke in to ask the consultant who was briefing Commissioners if he could get some of that relief money for himself personally! That set the tone for what followed.

When the Agenda item for the dialysis discussion came up, it became apparent early on that Commissioners had all kinds of ideas for taking care of the problem and not chipping in with Gulf County. Lockley stated, “This is not something we should do this year...we got no money.” Commissioner Boldt, not to be outdone, had a lightbulb moment when he suggested that Weems should start up its own Kidney Dialysis Clinic since Weems Hospital was "The Mecca of healthcare in Franklin County!" He actually said that. Unstated was where Weems would get the million dollars plus to create the clinic or how it could financially survive by splitting the small number of Franklin County dialysis patients with Gulf who might choose Weems. What was he smoking?

Weems made it clear they don’t want to chip in using Healthcare Trust Fund money. And, they gave the impression that they were so cash strapped that $25,000 a year would bankrupt them. County attorney Shuler stated the Healthcare Trust Fund can’t spend money that is going out of the County. Well, that’s funny. Don’t we spend thousands of dollars each month with Alliant; our hospital management company which is out of county? There are myriad other healthcare dollars that go “out of county” all the time. Why is this different?

The reality of the situation is simple. Franklin County spends thousands of dollars every year to transport frail dialysis patients on hundreds of distant trips. We could slash that expense by partnering with Gulf. We likely would save money overall. And, oh by the way, not inconsequentially, maybe one or two lives a year in the process. People miss their dialysis appointments all the time because of the stress involved in those long commutes and the very real fear of contracting Covid on one of those long commutes to very busy and crowded dialysis centers. One more thing. Gulf County voted to go it alone and then asked Franklin if they wanted to chip in. How do you think we would look if we snub them? Pretty much like dog doo. Another shining example of shooting yourself in the foot.

Come on Commissioners. This is a true no-brainer. Find the money and help the most unfortunate among us. After all, you might be the next one needing dialysis. I wonder what Lockley would have said if he was the one who needed dialysis?

Here’s the point ladies and gentlemen. At least with the Franklin County Commission, the distinction of being a representative of the people vs. being Kings and Queens have started to blur. When a commissioner asks questions publicly on how they can tap public money for their own purposes or another commissioner tries to figure out how to undertake unneeded projects for his political advantage, that might not be illegal, but it stinks to high heaven. The people’s business should never be entangled with the personal goals or aspirations of any commissioner. Frankly, this is old news. Commissioners all too often put their personal needs in front of the needs of their constituents. Commissioners must be honest and open when they communicate to the public. There can be no compromise on this issue.

I’ve gotten the impression that Commissioners don’t want to deal with issues with either the VFDs or water systems inside the county. Lanark Village VFD is the latest problem that has been brought to the Commission for a much-needed resolution.

Here’s a link to the so-called “Audit” of the Lanark Village VFD. As you can plainly see, it was not an audit. The CPA firm Roberson titled the short document “Report on Accounting Services.” From what I can see, this was basically a made-as-instructed inexpensive document designed to tamp down on high public concern and to make it look like the commission is on top of things. They aren’t. The CCFC is not passing judgment on the underlying issue, though there are obvious problems that must be addressed. We are focusing here on the dissemination and accompanying statements that had the effect of misleading the public. That’s our paramount concern on this issue, at this time.

Weems Hospital. We have mentioned before our concern that the Commission’s wholly- owned Weems Hospital may have illegally received over $900,000 in forgiven PPP loans. The CCFC has requested documents and tried to corroborate statements in support of the Franklin County Commission requesting and receiving Payroll Protection Plan proceeds. We have been blocked in our endeavor. The CCFC just received from Weems CEO an email that states in part “Our legal counsel has advised us to not meet with you.” I think you would agree with me that’s the opposite of transparency. The penalties for making false statements can be harsh, whether overtly or inadvertently:

“Making false statements to the Small Business Administration (SBA) is a federal criminal offense under 18 U.S.C. § 1014. The statute imposes penalties for anyone who, “knowingly makes any false statement or report . . . for the purpose of influencing in any way the action of the . . . Small Business Administration.” This verbiage is broad enough to include statements made on companies’ PPP loan applications (including their Borrower Application Forms), as well as companies’ certifications for loan forgiveness.”

We ask once again that Weems Hospital provide the supporting statements that would have allowed for the legal acquisition of PPP loans and subsequent forgiveness. Why is this even an issue? I sincerely hope that this has just been an oversight and bureaucratic inertia at its worst is on display.

Three issues demonstrate essentially the same hubris and attitudes. Our relationships with our government at multiple levels have been strained as of late. It does no one any good when we feel as if we cannot trust our governments to tell us the straight truth and do not display a willingness to fix mistakes. Love’em or hate’em, we need the government to work and achieve our shared societal and practical living needs. Come on Franklin, make peace with your detractors and those that rightfully prod you to do better.

Finally, the CCFC is finishing up its 2022 fundraising campaign. If you have already written your check to support us, many thanks. If you have not, or are sitting on the fence, please support the only organization in Franklin County devoted to representing your interests! Please write your non-tax deductive check to the address below.


Thank you.

Allan J. Feifer

Concerned Citizens of Franklin County, Inc.
P.O Box 990
Eastpoint, Florida 32328
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
(850) 653-5571

Commissioner Contacts:

Commissioner Bert Boldt - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 519-4966

Commissioner Smokey Parrish - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 653-8790

Commissioner Ricky Jones - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 653-8861

Chairman Noah Lockley - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 653-4452

Commissioner Jessica Ward - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - 653-9783

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