CHARTER REVIEW COMMISSION
October 17, 2017
CHARTER COMMISSION: District 1 – Josh Strzalko (6:34 p.m.)
- Tom Boyko
- Tom O’Hanlon
District 2 - Edward L. Schons
- Michelle Ertel
District 3 - Robert O’Malley (6:37 p.m.)
- Robert Levy
- Pasha Baker
District 4 - Kevin Grace
- Larry Strickler
District 5 - Robert Turnage
- Michelle Smith
- James Dicks
ABSENT: District 2 - Colleen Hufford
District 4 - Bob McMillan
Nicole Guillet, County Manager
Bryant Applegate, County Attorney
Michael Ertel, Supervisor of Elections
Joel Greenberg, Tax Collector
Bill Carroll, Clerk & Comptroller’s Office
Desmond Morrell, Assistant County Attorney
Terri Porter, Deputy Clerk
The following is a non-verbatim transcript of the CHARTER REVIEW COMMISSION MEETING, held at 6:34 p.m., on Tuesday, October 17, 2017, in Room 3024 of the Seminole County Services Building at Sanford, Florida.
CALL TO ORDER AND ROLL CALL
Chairman Larry Strickler announced that they have a quorum and called the meeting to order. Tom Boyko led the Pledge of Allegiance. Chairman Strickler asked Deputy Clerk Terri Porter to make note of those in attendance and of those that may come in later.
The Rules of Procedure for the Seminole County Charter Review Commission were distributed (received and filed).
Josh Strzalko entered the meeting at this time.
DISCUSSION REGARDING OCTOBER 3, 2017 MEETING MINUTES
Chairman Strickler explained the miscommunication that occurred in regard to the Commission members not yet receiving the minutes from the October 3rd meeting. He added his thinking was that as long as he gets them at the meeting, he does not care if he receives them before the meeting. He noted he will speak to Mr. Maloy, Clerk of Court and Comptroller, about their needs to see if they can make sure it does not happen again. He expressed his concern that they could forget about details from the last meeting and he believes it is better to get those to approve when their minds are somewhat fresh. Also, he uses the minutes in order to give input into the upcoming agenda; it helps him to ensure action items are not forgotten. For tonight, he has asked the Vice Chairman to make note of any action items so they can be included in the upcoming agenda.
Desmond Morrell, Assistant County Attorney, advised that a copy of the advertisement (received and filed) that was sent out about two weeks ago soliciting applicants for Special Legal Counsel to the Charter Review Commission has been distributed to the Commission members. He noted he included all the locations that the advertisement was sent to and they only received five applications in that two-week period. Those resumes and the resume they received at the last meeting from Mr. Applegate were also distributed to the Commission members (received and filed). Mr. Morrell pointed out, though, that none of the five applicants meet all of the qualifications that the Chairman put forth and that the CRC members had voted upon; only the one from last week meets all five qualifications. Vice Chairman O’Hanlon thanked Mr. Morrell for his efforts in this regard.
Bob O’Malley entered the meeting at this time.
PRESENTATIONS BY CONSTITUTIONAL OFFICERS
Chairman Strickler stated that at the last meeting, they talked about the need for the CRC members to become educated about how county government works, the Constitutional Officers, etc. He noted the relationship between the Board of County Commissioners and the Constitutional Officers varies by Constitutional Officer. He opined if you stopped the average voter on the street in Seminole County, if they even understood there is a county commission, most of them would think anything with a county name on it comes under the purview of the Board of County Commissioners. He said that is really what they have to deal with here; they have to educate themselves and the public. And moving forward, he thinks they have got to come up with a way of guaranteeing that this education process continues under the Charter; whether that turns out to be a legal thing they can do, he does not know.
Chairman Strickler noted in an effort to provide the Commission members with some education, they have invited the Constitutional Officers to make a presentation to them. Some of the bullet points they talked about at the last meeting that the Commission is interested in include the following: the role and responsibilities of the Constitutional Officers, their budget approval process (Who approves their budgets; is it the BCC or is it someone else?), approval of expenditures (Does it vary by level or does the local Constitutional Officer make all those decisions with no one overseeing the process?), the auditing process, how do they measure customer service and cost efficiency, and how is total transparency achieved.
Presentation by the Supervisor of Elections
Michael Ertel, Supervisor of Elections, distributed a one-page document entitled Fiscal Year 2017/2018 Budget Report (received and filed) and noted it is also on their website. He stated their roles and responsibilities are in their Mission Statement which is on the back of the Voter Guide (not received and filed). They include Efficient Elections, Excellent Service, Fiduciary Conservatism, and Voter Confidence.
Mr. Ertel stated their goal is to run efficient elections and they measure how they do things based on their Mission Statement. He then expounded upon how they measure that goal of efficient elections. He noted the Orlando Sentinel did a study a few years ago on all Central Florida counties, as far as which county got voters through the line the fastest, and they reported it was Seminole County. Mr. Ertel stated in 1992, they had 125,000 registered voters and now they have 290,000 registered voters; in 1992, they had more than 150 precincts and now there are 80 precincts. He discussed efficiencies and how they process double the people through half the number of precincts. He also discussed early voting and excellent service.
Mr. Ertel then discussed fiduciary conservatism stating his office is the only government entity that does not bring money into the county. Therefore, they have to do what they do as inexpensively as possible because they cannot alter their operations or increase taxes. He pointed out they take pride in being the lowest funded county in the entire Central Florida region. He added they have the lowest budget per voter by far; in Seminole County last year it was $11 per voter, Orange County was $16 per voter, and Osceola County was $19 per voter, so they do it as inexpensively as possible.
Finally, Mr. Ertel talked about voter confidence because people have to trust that their vote counts, so they do everything they can to ensure the people that their vote does count. He noted they are constantly communicating to the citizens even in the off season. Mr. Ertel then explained the different processes they have in place to ensure the trust of the people.
In regard to approval of their budget, Mr. Ertel advised the County Manager and the BCC look closely at their budget and the County Commission approves it. He noted the CRC wanted to know who signs or approves expenses. He explained there are only two people in his office that can approve and sign for expenditures and they include himself and the Assistant Supervisor of Elections. Chairman Strickler asked if that is individually or jointly. Mr. Ertel advised they both look at expenditures and he signs them. If he has an expense on a purchasing card, the Assistant Supervisor reviews those expenses, and if she has any expenses, Mr. Ertel reviews them. They both review every expense that takes place in the office.
Pasha Baker asked who does their audits. Mr. Ertel responded there is an independent audit done of the financial operations, and his Office does an audit after every single election by picking a random contest and a random precinct with a hand recount to ensure the machines have worked correctly. Upon inquiry by Michelle Smith, Mr. Ertel explained what happens if the count does not match. Bob Levy asked about filling out the sample ballots prior to voting, and Mr. Ertel replied they send out a sample ballot to every single voter because it does speed up the process. They also advise on the sample ballot that you do not have to vote on every contest on that ballot because a lot of people think they have to vote on everything.
Tom Boyko mentioned that Mr. Ertel had an article in the Sentinel about write-ins. He asked whether that is an issue they may want to include in changes to the charter. Mr. Ertel advised that it is not really a “charter” question; it is more of a “state law” question. He explained the way write-ins work and noted that is an opinion by the Department of State in which he does not agree with. Mr. Dicks stated from a voter’s perspective, whether there is anything Mr. Ertel could think of that this CRC could do to assist, look at, or help create any efficiency for what he does. Mr. Ertel says that speaking as a voter, if there is a change that needs to be made at a performance level, it is done at the performance level; it is not done at the charter level, much like the constitution. As a voter, he also likes the fact that their Constitutional Officers are independent; they are siloed on purpose, because if the Chairman of the BCC, for example, writes your paycheck and you count his votes, there should not be the possibility where a County Commissioner could lean heavily on a Constitutional Officer to maybe count the votes one way, or maybe not arrest their daughter for a DUI that just happened, or approve an expenditure that should not be approved. He stated the Chairman was talking earlier about how he thinks that most voters feel that everybody works for the County, and Mr. Ertel said that is not an issue where they need to change the structure of their government because that is how most voters think. That is a communication issue on the government entity’s part that they need to communicate to the voters about the importance of independence.
Robert Turnage asked about the Retirement Contributions line item on the Budget Report, if that is Defined Contribution and not Defined Benefit. Mr. Ertel pointed out the shaded areas on the report and noted they have no control over those. He explained that is something that is based upon the employee’s length of service and their time with FRS as well as social security and things like that. He noted executive salaries are also set by state statute. Mr. Turnage questioned if there is any unfunded liability like the municipalities are getting into trouble with, and Mr. Ertel said there are not. He added they are a very small operation when looking at their budget and they could choose to have their own individual budget department, but they choose to have the County do that function for them; and if the County makes an H.R. change, they also look at that for their office as well, so they don’t have to pay someone to be a specialist in that area.
Chairman Strickler stated he plans to ask all the Constitutional Officers for a public records request; he wants the CRC to have a copy of each Constitutional Officer’s expenditure report for the last fiscal year. Ms. Guillet noted that the Clerk’s Office writes the checks for the County Commission and any expenditures are run through the Clerk’s Office as well. Commissioner Horan added if they look at the CAFR (Comprehensive Annual Financial Report), it shows the balance sheets and also the income statements of each one of the Constitutional Officers. Chairman Strickler asked whether it would show individual expenditures. Commissioner Horan clarified that Chairman Strickler wants the individual ledger. Chairman Strickler added if something huge is being spent, it will jump out “like a sore thumb” and he thinks it is important for the CRC to see that. Commissioner Horan explained if Chairman Strickler is looking for the general ledger of expenditures for the Sheriff’s Office, that would run upwards of thousands of pages. Chairman Strickler wondered if they could just put the request in for a limited amount, in other words, anything over $25,000. Ms. Guillet said the Clerk’s Office prints theirs once a month, but she doesn’t know how the other offices are handled.
Chairman Strickler stated they will find out more as they move through the process; he just wants the CRC to get a sense of how frugal or not so frugal some of these entities are because the taxpayer is paying the bill and he feels it needs to be asked. He asked whether any of the CRC members disagree with that. Mr. O’Hanlon clarified that he thinks they want a copy of the last audit and Commissioner Horan advised that would be the CAFR; it is an audited financial statement. Ms. Guillet noted that will not show the level of detail Chairman Strickler is looking for. Mr. O’Hanlon stated though it does have the last page that says either you are doing a good job or you are not and these are the things they need to improve on; he said he would like to see that. Kevin Grace said he thinks they could really get bogged down in a lot of details trying to do what Chairman Strickler is suggesting, and he doesn’t know that that is their function, to audit the financials of these offices. He added that would be heading in the wrong direction. Chairman Strickler stated they started out by saying the average voter doesn’t understand that everything doesn’t come under the County Commission, and if they have a Constitutional Officer who is wildly spending, then that person needs to explain why they are wildly spending because unless the newspaper gets on it, the public is not even going to know. Mr. Grace reiterated he does not think that is their job.
Michelle Ertel remarked if there is a problem with a Constitutional Officer spending wildly, that gets taken care of in an election. Chairman Strickler stated that is four years apart to which Ms. Ertel replied that that is not their responsibility. She said you don’t change government because someone is not being frugal. Mr. Grace said he agrees 100%. Ms. Ertel added that you don’t change the way government runs or the constitution based upon like or dislike of policies of somebody that is just sitting in that office for four years; that is the responsibility of the voters. If they want to see expenses, they could just do something like asking folks to put their expenditures on their websites and things like that. The Tax Collector, Joel Greenberg, stated he believes his presentation will address all of this.
Mr. Morrell indicated they could put forth a public records request and narrow it down to those officers. He does not think that is necessarily the CRC’s role, but if they would like to take a look at that for their own edification or for the Commission as a whole, they can make those specific requests. Chairman Strickler expressed he does not want to do anything unless the majority of the group agrees with it.
Bob O’Malley stated he thought that was why they were having the individual officers come in and give a presentation. He noted that Mr. Ertel shared his budget and explained the oversight that the County Commission has over his budget. With regard to just Mr. Ertel’s office, Mr. O’Malley said that he has given him a comfort level that he is frugal. So if there is a particular Constitutional Officer that anyone thinks is not spending frugally, they should then ask that person when they are here.
Motion by James Dicks, seconded by Tom O’Hanlon, to request that the Constitutional Officers include in their presentation to the Charter Review Commission a hard copy of their budget.
All members present voted AYE.
Mr. Dicks thanked Mr. Ertel for a great presentation. He asked whether they track volunteer hours to which Mr. Ertel advised they do not use volunteers; they pay their poll workers and they do track that. In the last election, they had 684 of them. Mr. Dicks then wondered if there was a reason they do not use volunteers. Mr. Ertel stated it is against Florida law.
Presentation by the Tax Collector
Joel Greenberg, Tax Collector, displayed a PowerPoint presentation (received and filed) and stated the role of the Tax Collector is unique in that they are the only office that comes in contact with nearly every citizen of the county. In regard to Roles and Responsibilities, he stated their job is to provide state services at the local level which include taxes, registration and title work for DMV services, drivers’ licenses, hunting and fishing licenses, concealed weapons licenses, birth certificates, and voter registrations. In all of these services they act as agents of the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Revenue, the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, the Department of Health, and the Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission. He explained the Tax Collector’s Office is a “fee” office so they are not funded by tax revenue, rather they are entirely self-supporting. He advised their budget is presented to the Department of Revenue for their approval. His Office must maintain and manage their budget within the boundaries of the fees and commissions earned by the Office, and the Office is audited annually by an independent outside auditor, with the results of the audit being delivered to the Board of County Commissioners.
The Checks and Balances slide was shown. Mr. Greenberg stated the establishment of the County Constitutional Officers as being independently elected is an important element of ensuring transparency in their government. One of the main ways this is accomplished is by ensuring a separation of powers and duties in the system of checks and balances. The result of this is the elimination of the ability to make decisions which would favor one or be detrimental to the other.
In regard to being responsible and responsive to the citizens they serve, Mr. Greenberg stated one of the promises he made during the election was for better transparency in the Tax Collector’s Office. Mr. Greenberg pointed out that in the beginning of the year, he implemented a new ethics policy which forbids the Tax Collector, the former Tax Collector, or employees of the Tax Collector, from participating in a tax certificate sale. It also requires other county employees or officials wishing to participate to pre-register and disclose their intention to participate in the auction, and it requires the post-auction disclosure of any awarded certificates. The policy went into effect before this year’s tax certificate sale, and for the first time in 11 years, the Seminole County Tax Collector sold 100% of all the available tax certificates.
Mr. Greenberg indicated their new website will also help in greater transparencies in their office. It will allow users to access all of their data, including software which will allow users to access their budget, revenue, and expenses, and it will break every item down to the smallest line item, all externally, with no humans needed. The transparency involved at their office has the ability to act in a way that is not unduly influenced at the local level, which is another reason why the Department of Revenue approves his budget.
In regard to Customer Service, Mr. Greenberg stated on any given day, they serve a few thousand people from all areas of Central Florida. Over the next two years, their number of transactions is expected to double and they already have 30% of their customers coming in from Orange County. He stated in lieu of this anticipated explosion in growth, they have put the following measures on high priority or in several instances, have already completed processes which will allow for the Office to serve their customers while still being able to adapt to the increase in the number of expected transactions. The redesign of their website has made it easier to use and mobile friendly. The more transactions that can be done online, the more time you save and it costs them significantly less. Also, on their website is Jo-E-Bot, the newest member of their team and the first and only artificial intelligence virtual customer service rep in the State of Florida. He noted that Jo-E-Bot is available 24-7 and can answer any question you might have about their office including directions, letting you know where and when they are open, what documents to bring, and what will be needed for specific services. And starting next week, Jo-E-Bot will speak Spanish too. Jo-E-Bot can serve thousands of customers at once and will eventually help you spend your money by processing customer transactions at any time, day or night. The Tax Collector’s call center currently has six employees working the phones, and they expect Jo-E-Bot to take over most of those customer interactions, leaving the need for maybe one person to manage the call center. Mr. Greenberg stated they realize your time is valuable and this is one way they are there to help expedite your day.
The Strong Digital Presence for Improved Customer Convenience slide was displayed. Mr. Greenberg pointed out they also have developed a very effective social media presence. Their Facebook page has seen an explosive traffic pattern with many customers choosing to engage them directly on that page. Customers organically check in while at their offices sharing valuable data with them and letting their friends know where they are. Each office has its own Facebook page where customers can check in, post comments, and leave feedback and reviews of their experience. He stated this is free and valuable data and allows them to gauge customer service by location, day of the week, gender, age, socio-economic, and other demographic makeups. This allows for a constant portal of information to be shared from and to the public.
The next slide, Modernization Plan, was shown and Mr. Greenberg stated according to the Department of Revenue, their office has more transactions per employee than any other Tax Collector in the State of Florida. To ease the workload on their staff and to continue providing the public with the most efficiency possible, they have taken measures over the last several months, which include the addition of a new branch location in Winter Springs and locating their Altamonte Springs office to a facility three times the size in Longwood. The Longwood branch replaces an outdated branch facility where long lines were constant and certain services were not able to be offered. The new facility has ample parking and opens next week, and will save the County nearly $100,000 per year due to the fact that at the previous location, the County was paying rent on the Tax Collector’s behalf. They took on the responsibility to pay their own rent at the new location out of their excess fees. The Winter Springs office is a remodeled bank complete with a drive-through service area for expedited transactions. Mr. Greenberg noted they expect this office to be operational by the end of this year. All of the new offices are equipped with self-serving touch kiosks for checking in.
Mr. Greenberg reported that they have also built a new Concealed Weapons facility in the Sun Drive, Lake Mary location. He opined it is perhaps the finest in the state; customers literally drive from all over Central Florida to do business with them. They have seen a 50% increase in the number of concealed weapons licenses issued. He stated they take their customer safety seriously and to avoid the high cost of outsourcing this service, they have established a new position of Deputy Revenue Officer. They are the first and only Tax Collector’s Office to implement this program, but they will not be the last as dozens of other Tax Collectors have reached out inquiring about the program. The Revenue Officer’s responsibility is to prevent and deter any potential activity which could result in the harm or jeopardize the safety of staff, customers or property. They provide branch security and will assist in the seizure of property when needed. The officers are trained in first aid and have some form of law enforcement or military background.
Mr. Greenberg stated the last area he would like to talk about is the recently agreed-upon partnership with the Orange County Tax Collector to establish the Central Florida DMV. The Central Florida DMV will be a series of driver’s license-only facilities located along the Seminole and Orange County border. The new entity will accomplish several important functions including reducing the amount of Orange County customers in their main facilities, because they are mainly there to make driver’s license transactions; they are not paying taxes in Seminole County. He explained this is a way they can draw the Orange County residents out of their main facilities while still being able to provide services to them. This is happening inside of Seminole County, but the Orange County Tax Collector has agreed to cover the cost of it because they are expecting about 300,000 to 400,000 people from Puerto Rico to be moving here over the next couple of weeks. With the explosive growth they have had, particularly to Orange County, Scott Randolph (Orange County Tax Collector) is overwhelmed when it comes to the DMV, so people come to Seminole County. If they were to shut off the border to Orange County, it would be very detrimental to Scott Randolph. So he has agreed to enter into partnership and they are still fine tuning the details. This will establish a series of four to five smaller driver’s license-only facilities along the border. The Orange County Tax Collector has agreed to cover all, if not at least 50% of the cost, so it is a win-win for everybody.
Mr. Greenberg stated the final phase of the Modernization Plan will involve harnessing the Office’s ability to maintain title and act as an anchor to go in and purchase distressed properties. He asked that they think about all of the distressed retail centers, and said unique to his Office is the ability to drive traffic, so they are going to harness that ability to specific locations while maintaining title to that real estate. They can fix them up and have tenants pay rent creating an economic impact on a certain area that might need it, which would benefit not only the public sector but the private sector while providing services for everyone. He opined this is a major win-win that needs to be examined and taken advantage of. Driver’s licenses are 75% of what they do and they lose money on those transactions but they are mandated by the State to do it. So they can do this until they get to the point where they’ve put in enough offices to compensate for that. He believes this is a solution to the problem while ultimately providing great service to customers and greater access to that service.
Mr. Boyko asked if Mr. Greenberg stated that his organization is self-supporting to which Mr. Greenberg said yes. Mr. Boyko confirmed with Mr. Greenberg that they don’t derive any money out of taxes. Mr. Greenberg explained his office is a fee office and they have enough volume in transactions where the fees and commissions ultimately end up paying for the office. He added that collecting taxes is about 15% of what they do and the rest is mostly DMV. Any unused revenues that they choose to not invest or reinvest into their office is turned over to the Board of County Commissioners. He is elected to provide and continue to provide the level of service that Seminole County residents have come to expect, which is where the recent investments have come into play. Mr. Boyko further questioned with the new modernization, how many employees has he brought in. Mr. Greenberg indicated there were around 80 employees when he started and they will have about 115, and then pointed out the chart showing Transactions per FTE by county. He said the bar chart shows they are so far ahead of any other office in the State of Florida that the rate they were going was unsustainable, so even by adding 25 additional customer service reps, they are still number one when it comes to transactions per full-time employee. This has lowered the wait time and they are able to process more transactions.
Mr. Boyko stated he knows there is a debate right now going on as to how much in excess funds he is returning to the County. Mr. Greenberg noted that just like in any business or operation, there are upfront costs for long-term gain. So, they are investing right now so long-term this will give dividends for all parties involved.
Mr. Levy pointed out that Mr. Greenberg had mentioned previously at a different meeting that a lot of people pay their real estate taxes in cash and that anytime they could have a couple hundred thousand dollars in cash, and he asked how they deal with that security. Mr. Greenberg explained this is where they have implemented their Deputy Revenue Officer program. Mr. Grace questioned who is armed, and Mr. Greenberg replied just the Deputy Revenue Officers.
Mr. Dicks stated in his background with the Department of Defense, he works with all state law enforcement and has done 450 hours of high liability training with FDLE and so forth. He asked about their training and who bears the responsibility of the liability resulting from their actions. Ms. Guillet stated the County would ultimately be responsible. Mr. Greenberg advised they have already been trained and three of them came from the Sheriff’s Office and they were active deputies. The others were working internally and had been deputies and one was a DEA agent. Mr. Dicks said he believes the charter is absolutely affected by this and he hopes there is a written policy for it because clearly that helps indemnify, so to speak.
Mr. Dicks stated he is still trying to understand where the Tax Collector’s Office fits in with the voters. He could go ask 10 voters right now and 9 of them would have no idea how they fit in. He noted his concern is with optics, a non-sworn officer carrying a gun with a badge and Seminole County is responsible for their liability. He opined Seminole County needs to make sure that their liability covers that because if something happens, the first person getting sued is Seminole County and the second person is the Tax Collector; the third person is the person that did it and the fourth is the Tax Office. He thinks it is something they should look at.
Mr. Greenberg stated their Revenue Officers will be at their facilities and they are already trained. Mr. Dicks gave an example of his concern saying that if the Revenue Officer is at a convenience store pumping gas in his uniform, with a badge and a gun, nobody will distinguish him from a non-sworn officer not doing his job right now to a shoot, don’t-shoot situation. Mr. Greenberg introduced Chris Anderson, Chief Investigations Officer with the Tax Collector’s Office. Mr. Anderson stated he first wanted to quell the optics and spoke about the scenario Mr. Dicks put forth. Mr. Anderson advised the Deputy Revenue Officers program is policy driven. He noted he also has extensive high liability training, and the Revenue Officers will be receiving continuous training that will not stop. He addressed the scenario again stating the officers are encouraged to conceal because they do not want to bring any unnecessary attention to themselves and that that is a policy.
Edward Schons asked Mr. Greenberg to go back to the subject of the unproductive property that he was talking about to get them back in the tax roll because it sounds like an economic develop benefit to the community. He wanted to make sure he heard that correctly. Ms. Ertel asked if the general public will have the opportunity to compete in regard to the purchase of these properties. Mr. Greenberg opined that if the general public wanted to compete they would not be distressed to begin with. They would be competing over properties like strip centers that no one is using. He noted they want to go in and put in a driver’s license-only center and use that anchor ability to spur economic growth. He noted when the State DMVs went out of business, all those retail centers dried up, and now they have the ability to reverse that by going in and putting in these license centers in strategic locations. Ms. Ertel stated there is 90% of her that says that is awesome and then there is this 10% that is thinking is that the government’s role, to be a landlord. Mr. Greenberg said that just because it hasn’t been done, doesn’t mean they should not explore the benefit of doing it. Ms. Ertel asked if it was being done in other areas and Mr. Greenberg replied that it absolutely is, but not on such a large scale. He opined the more of these 1,500-square-foot license centers they put in around the county means your drive goes from 15 minutes to 3 minutes.
Mr. Grace stated it sounds like their online traffic is exploding and he wondered if the office traffic is increasing also. Mr. Greenberg said they both are. Mr. Grace confirmed that their in-office traffic is increasing to warrant the expansion. Mr. Greenberg pointed out that Orange County will not take any customers except those from Orange County, so they are working together to figure this out to create a system, because if you are on the website queuing system right now, it is insane. So why not consolidate it, at least in Central Florida where they can.
Chairman Strickler thanked Mr. Greenberg for his presentation and Mr. Dicks stated he thinks he is doing a great job and he loves the technology and the modernization, the new look and the social media aspect. Mr. Greenberg thanked them and noted that Lake County Bob McKee complimented them by saying that this is the first time in 20 years he has ever wanted to emulate something that another Tax Collector has done.
Mr. O’Hanlon addressed the County Manager to ask if there are any concerns she has about Deputy Reserve Officers. Ms. Guillet responded that their concern is about the liability that was discussed tonight. If an employee does something that is actionable, there is an issue there because they haven’t had to deal with that outside of law enforcement, so that is the one concern operationally that they have had internally. Firearms are not something they normally deal with. She advised, however, they have talked with Risk Management and she thinks those activities are covered under their liability insurance. Mr. O’Hanlon stated that she has answered his question that it is the County’s liability insurance and it is covered. Chairman Strickler asked Mr. O’Hanlon to keep that on their “bullet list” because he is still not clear what this might have to do with the charter.
Mr. O’Hanlon stated in regard to the Tax Collector buying real estate, this basically gets down to the Tax Collector’s Office running a business. He asked whether this has been discussed and if it is legal. Commissioner Horan said he really doesn’t know enough about it right now to give an opinion one way or another, but going out and buying commercial real estate right now is not something he would necessarily do because it is the only sector that is really down. Mr. Dicks stated the up side is he likes the creative idea. His concerns are this public entity out there now in the landlord business dealing with evictions and the Landlord and Tenant Act and their own liability of people maybe getting shot in front of their building or getting robbed, slips and falls, and car crashes, all the stuff that could happen on their properties. He does think the concept is great, if they can generate revenue, and it could also make a big difference to an area. If you look at where DMVs go, a lot of people go there and then all the businesses around there are either not happy because people are parking in their parking lot or happy because people are buying their services. He reiterated he thinks it’s a good idea but the liability should at least be looked at and addressed.
Mr. O’Hanlon opined this is a phenomenal idea because the Tax Collector is the business driver and they might as well get some revenue from it. He asked whether the County does this in any other form throughout the county. Ms. Guillet stated they do have some property that they lease; however, they did not purchase that property to lease or generate income; they have intentionally purchased property for future reasons and have tried to make it useful in the meantime. She said there are very few; not a lot of them out there. For example, Evolution Auto on 17-92 was purchased with the intent of eventually using it for a transfer station. In the meantime, they are leasing it to the auto dealer across the street for parking. So those are the kinds of circumstances where they might be a landlord. They have gotten recently some criticism for making some investment for economic development purposes so she thinks the BCC will take a look at that a little more closely about how they partner with the private sector to redevelop defunct sites. She can appreciate what Mr. Greenberg is trying to do because they have tried to do that from a county government standpoint and have gotten some criticism for that. She thinks if they can help economic development and if they can help redevelop some sites, it is a great idea; she hopes there is some support for that. She added they don’t do it as a business mechanism or as a development mechanism, but they do serve as a landlord. They really have not had issues but she does understand some of the concerns. Again, their liability insurance covers it. Mr. O’Hanlon noted that she has again answered his question, it is not unprecedented, it is done, and the Tax Collector actually has a great business driver, so it is a win-win situation.
Ms. Ertel stated that none of the resumes received met the requirements that they asked for and suggested they put the solicitation for legal counsel out there for a longer period of time. Several members noted that one resume did meet all five requirements and it was the one that was handed to them at the first Charter Review meeting. The Chairman discussed the reasons why he would like to get someone on board quickly. Mr. Grace asked about how many more meetings there will be with the Constitutionals presenting and said he does not think they are going to be diving into the issues of the charter until after they get through all the presentations.
Motion by Ms. Ertel, seconded by Mr. O’Hanlon, to extend the application period until November 21st for the Legal Counsel to the Charter Review Commission. Chairman Strickler suggested a friendly amendment to end the application period on November 18th, to which the seconder agreed.
Under discussion, Mr. Morrell advised that the County Attorney’s Office also had an ad out for a position in their office that ran around the same time, and that advertisement received about 100+ applicants, whereas this one only received about 5 or 6. He wondered if the CRC members would want to look at the advertisement again and look at the qualifications or just understand that it is a very specialized niche. Chairman Strickler stated the two key pieces are somebody that is local and someone who does not have a conflict of interest like someone who has worked for Seminole County or a charter review in Seminole County or someone who has worked for a city within Seminole County. His guess is that that is a major issue for most of those who are local.
Wade Vose, Attorney for the Tax Collector’s Office, stated he has worked with three Charter Review Commissions and suggested that in the additional time they have that they post it with the local government section of the Florida Bar and the Florida Association of Counties because that is where local government attorneys will look. Mr. O’Hanlon and Mr. Morrell agreed. Mr. Morrell stated though with posting on those resources they would incur fees; for example, they looked into posting it on the Florida Bar and it would cost $399 for 30 days. Mr. O’Hanlon said he will pass on that one. Mr. Vose stated the Local Government Listserv would be a good one, and Mr. O’Hanlon said they’ll take the free one.
Mr. Dicks suggested they follow Ms. Ertel’s motion and get the resumes in a timely fashion in order to review them. He noted they already have one candidate that meets all their criteria so there is no reason to reduce that, with the goal of getting one or two more. Mr. O’Hanlon clarified that Mr. Morrell will advertise this request on the free sites only.
All members present voted AYE.
With regard to public participation, no one in the audience spoke in support or in opposition and public input was closed.
NEXT SCHEDULED MEETING
Chairman Strickler announced the next meeting is scheduled for November 21st at 6:30 p.m. in Room 3024 of the County Services Building.
Hearing no objections, Chairman Strickler adjourned the meeting at 8:02 p.m., this same date.