CHARTER REVIEW COMMISSION
November 21, 2017
CHARTER COMMISSION: District 1 – Josh Strzalko
- Tom Boyko
- Tom O’Hanlon
District 2 - Edward L. Schons
- Colleen Hufford
District 3 - Robert Levy
- Pasha Baker
District 4 - Kevin Grace
- Larry Strickler
District 5 - Robert Turnage
- Michelle Smith
- James Dicks
ABSENT: District 2 – Michelle Ertel
District 3 – Robert O’Malley
District 4 – Bob McMillan
Dennis Lemma, Seminole County Sheriff
Grant Maloy, Clerk of Court & Comptroller
Desmond Morrell, Assistant County Attorney
Kyla Spencer, Deputy Clerk
The following is a non-verbatim transcript of the CHARTER REVIEW COMMISSION MEETING, held at 6:30 p.m., on Tuesday, November 21, 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 reminded that the Commission tries its best to keep each meeting at an hour and a half and noted he believes their retention level improves the shorter the meetings are. He stated through the Charter Review process, this Commission is making an attempt to become better educated about the role that the Board of County Commissioners (BCC) and the Constitutional Officers have with each other. The Commission feels that there are too many taxpaying citizens who think anything with a Seminole County title falls under the umbrella of the BCC. He explained they are trying to understand what the roles are, what the relationship is, where the responsibilities are, and where the accountability is.
The October 3 and 17, 2017, CRC Minutes were presented for approval.
Chairman Strickler asked if everyone received a copy of the minutes from those meetings, and Mr. Boyko answered he did not. Chairman Strickler asked if anyone had any corrections for either set of minutes and no one voiced that they did.
Motion by Kevin Grace, seconded by Pasha Baker, to approve the October 3 and 17, 2017, minutes as submitted.
All members in attendance voted AYE.
PRESENTATIONS BY CONSTITUTIONAL OFFICERS
Chairman Strickler advised tonight the Commission will listen to presentations from the Sheriff and the Clerk of Court and Comptroller regarding their role with respect to Seminole County and the BCC so that the Commission has a better understanding as they go through the charter review process.
Presentation by the Sheriff’s Office
Sheriff Dennis Lemma thanked the Commission for allowing him to make a presentation tonight. He discussed his extensive history in law enforcement, degrees, qualifications and certifications. He reviewed the four primary responsibilities of the Sheriff’s Office listed in his presentation package (received and filed). These responsibilities include being the Chief Law Enforcement Officer of the county, the Chief Administrative and Executive Officer of the County Circuit Courts, the Chief Correctional Officer of the county, and the conservator of peace.
Sheriff Lemma stated the Sheriff’s Office is comprised of 1,400 employees with an operating budget of over $130 million and discussed the various duties of his office. He explained his office could not do what it does without the support of the BCC. The BCC is passionate about providing service, and they are extremely supportive of public safety. He provided some examples of how the BCC has supported the Sheriff’s Office including a county juvenile detention center, county probation and county code enforcement responsibilities.
Sheriff Lemma expressed one of the reasons he has a wonderful relationship with the BCC is largely because they allow him to work independently. He emphasized the importance of independence in the Constitutional Officers’ offices. Sheriff Lemma stated his office is one of the most accredited law enforcement organizations in the state. They have nine independent accrediting bodies that come in every one to three years to run the office through the paces of all that they have going on. His office is in the top one percent of accredited law enforcement agencies in the state. He reviewed the auditing process and regulations included in the presentation package. He pointed out they have two CPAs on their team including Chief Lisa Spriggs who oversees the Administrative Services operation and Mary Hope. He informed the Commission of the various accreditations of his office.
Sheriff Lemma explained how crime rate has a great effect on every citizen in Seminole County. When the crime rates are high, no one wants to move into the county or do business in the county and it leads to a diminished property value and a diminished overall quality of life. He reviewed the crime rate in the county and noted over the last 40 years the county’s population has increased by more than 220% but the crime per capita has been reduced significantly by over 70%.
Sheriff Lemma discussed several ways his office shows transparency including car cameras, body cameras and public records requests. He added he speaks five or six times a week with hundreds of people at citizen groups, community meetings and HOA meetings. He talked about specialty programs, duties and functions within the organization.
In regard to the BCC, Sheriff Lemma stated he hasn’t run into anyone in 25 years who thinks he works for the BCC. People recognize and support the independence of the Constitutional Officers’ offices. So when citizens talk to him, they know they are talking to the Sheriff, a person who is in a position to make decisions. He opined sometimes people get accustomed to saying things like separate and apart, but he likes to say separate and independent because every elected official in the county is working towards a common goal of doing what is right.
Sheriff Lemma advised Governor Scott talked about the crime rate in Central Florida being at a historic low. The average crime rate across the state of Florida is approximately 3,600 to 3,700 crimes per every 100,000 citizens. The crime rate in Seminole County is 1,700, nearly 50% lower than the historic low average crime rate across the state; and still the lowest in any contiguous county in the area. He reviewed the Uniform Crime Report (UCR) and Index Crime Rate information included in the presentation package.
Sheriff Lemma stated he has had a great working relationship with the Clerk of Court and Comptroller, Grant Maloy. He stated they have partnered together to streamline some dated communications and processes. He opined they have a lot of great things going on in Seminole County. He reiterated the BCC has been very generous and wonderful to the Sheriff’s Office.
Mr. Boyko asked if it is correct that all of the Sheriff’s Office’s funds come from taxes. Sheriff Lemma answered the majority of his funds do, but they also have some revenue that comes in. Mr. Boyko inquired if he generates monies from the summons that they issue. Sheriff Lemma replied his office does not. Mr. Boyko confirmed with Sheriff Lemma that the court keeps that money. Mr. Boyko asked what the Sheriff’s recourse is if the BCC doesn’t approve the Sheriff’s budget. Sheriff Lemma answered if needed, his recourse would be to the Governor. He explained his office prepares a budget that is fiscally conservative and they don’t ask for any more than what they need and they do it in a way that is open and transparent. When that process occurs, prior to budget work sessions, he and Chief Spriggs meet individually with each County Commissioner and explain what his office would like to do. If there are any capital purchases, they talk with the BCC in an effort to get their support in a very open and collaborative type of way. In the event that he felt there was an absolute need that was not being funded by the BCC, his recourse would be to the Governor. Mr. Boyko inquired about that process. Sheriff Lemma explained he would appeal to the Governor and the Governor would have a review body that would vote on it. Chief Spriggs added it is conducted like mediation. The BCC would provide information and the Sheriff would provide information to the review body, and then the Governor would rule on it. Mr. Boyko confirmed with Sheriff Lemma that the BCC would have to adhere to the Governor’s ruling.
Sheriff Lemma stated his office could not operate without the funding and support of the County. It is important to him that the County understands his operation because he doesn’t want to ask for anything that doesn’t make any sense. Chairman Strickler urged the Commission to watch the August 3 BCC Budget Work Session where Sheriff Lemma presented his tentative budget to the BCC. He stated the relationship between the Sheriff’s Department and the County is self-evident.
Tom O’Hanlon commended Sheriff Lemma for a phenomenal job. He asked if the Sheriff’s budget has reserves. Sheriff Lemma answered his office has contingency funds that the BCC allows them to have and it is in the neighborhood of $160,000. It doesn’t cover much and 85% of his budget is personnel. Sheriff Lemma commented that he can see that there is a financial theme to this meeting so he explained his philosophy is to civilianize as many positions as he possibly can to save money and offer a level of diversity when it comes to solving problems. He introduced his executive team including Chief Lou Tomeo, second in command; Chief Lisa Spriggs; Chief Sharon Bryan; Dr. Laura Bedard; and Chief of Staff Heather Smith. He pointed out that four out of the five are civilians with the exception of Chief Tomeo.
Sheriff Lemma stated he also tries to “flatten out,” which means one captain within the Sheriff’s Office may have a command of 250 people and there is a huge cost savings to doing that. He added when he took over office, he eliminated two executive positions saving in excess of $300,000; and he did that after consulting with all of the County Commissioners and laying out their plans. John Horan, BCC Chairman, explained the County’s budget carries a 20% to 25% general fund reserve, which is quite conservative. The Sheriff’s Budget is under the County’s budget; so consequently, if the Sheriff needs more money, they’re not limited to that $160,000 contingency. The Sheriff would go to the BCC, and the BCC would do a budget amendment request (BAR). He added the same thing would happen with any constitutional officer.
Mr. O’Hanlon stated the Commission is looking from the perspective of the taxpayers. He asked what type of financial report card the Sheriff utilizes to make sure the taxpayer is getting the best value for the money spent in the Sheriff’s Office. Sheriff Lemma answered the report card would be the independent reviews by the nine governing bodies that look not only at operations but also spending, the independent review of his office by Moore Stephens Lovelace, and the clear understanding that the BCC approves his budget. There are things that he is required by law to provide and he finds that laying things out and explaining what he does with his funding and how it is spent is probably most important. Chief Spriggs added the Sheriff’s Office is often audited by federal and state agencies because they have federal and state funding. In addition, they have outside auditors and the same statutes that apply to the County apply to the Sheriff’s Office, so just like the County, they follow the same regulations.
Michelle Smith asked Sheriff Lemma what he attributes to the 70% reduction in crime. Sheriff Lemma answered as a law enforcement agency, they are not solely responsible for that reduction. He explained in the late 70’s to early 80’s, there was a shift towards community policing which made everyone feel that it is everybody’s responsibility to reduce crime. The Sheriff’s Office became very aware that they have to protect people and teach them ways to minimize the likelihood of victimization. He thanked the Commission for hearing his presentation.
Presentation by the Clerk and Comptroller’s Office
Chairman Strickler introduced Grant Maloy, Clerk of Court and Comptroller. Mr. Maloy introduced Mary Moschler, Clerk Finance Director; Luanne Woodley, Director at the Records Center; Bill Carroll, Inspector General; Tony Landry, Chief Information Officer; and Jenny Spencer, Director of the Comptroller’s Office.
Mr. Maloy stated he appreciated the Sheriff’s kind words and it has been a pleasure working with him. About two weeks ago the Clerk’s Office started doing cost of investigation collections which has been a big benefit for the Sheriff’s Office, and they were able to do that by working together and having a better partnership.
Mr. Maloy stated if anyone has any questions, his office is an open book. He appreciates the Commission members who have stopped by his office and he invited anyone who hasn’t been to his office yet to come take a look at his operation. He stated he is new to the Clerk’s Office but was a County Commissioner for eight years. He believes he has a unique perspective because he was on the BCC, he appointed members to the CRC, he has served on the CRC and is now in a constitutional office.
Mr. Maloy presented a PowerPoint presentation entitled “Grant Maloy Clerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller” (received and filed). He discussed Essential Constitutional Roles which include providing services for the court system and keeping all the legal records, holding the checkbook and savings account for the County Commission to oversee spending and investments, and recording of property rights. He explained the Clerk’s Office is the foundation of local government and a lot of people don’t really know what his office does, so he tries to educate the public and speak to groups like the League of Women Voters.
Mr. Maloy reviewed Many Partnerships, Eight Locations, Four Court Locations, and Four Non-Court Locations. He discussed Budget Approval and stated there are a lot of different parts to his budget. He explained the biggest portion of his budget comes from the Clerk of Court Operations Corporation (CCOC). After Article V of the State Constitution came into play around the turn of the millennium, they changed the way clerks were funded. Now clerks go to a corporation to get their budgets approved. This year his budget is about $8.2 million for operating, and that can only be spent on things that are state related with court operations. Mr. Maloy noted there was about a $250,000 cut to his budget from last year. The IT trust fund is offline from that, so his office does have some additional revenue that can be set aside but just to be spent on IT improvements. He pointed out the Clerk’s revenue is at $2 million and they are thinking of ideas to boost those revenues like wedding packages. Mr. Maloy stated his office also goes to the BCC for funding, and for 2017-2018 they funded $2.6 million. Midyear the Clerk’s Office and the County Manager’s Office are going to review some IT things and there may be a midyear budget adjustment of about $200,000. He expressed 80% of his office is funded by fees, not taxes.
Mr. Maloy displayed Clerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller. He explained the CCOC sets the Clerk’s budget and it gets reviewed each month; and if there is a surplus, the Clerk sends a monthly check back to the State of Florida. In addition, at the end of the year whatever is excess, they send that back as well except for the IT trust fund, which the Clerk gets to keep some of, and then the budget goes back to zero. Seminole County is one of the few counties in the state that sends back more money than it gets. Mr. Maloy stated in regard to funding from the County for the Comptroller aspect, he goes before the BCC and submits his budget and what doesn’t get spent at the end of the year goes back to the Commission. He explained as far as Clerk’s revenue, the previous Clerk had a tradition of funding a lot of County things directly out of Clerk revenue, so that helped subsidize to a different budget; but at the end of the year if there is excess, it gets returned to the BCC.
Mr. Maloy reviewed Distribution of $777.2 Million in Revenues Collected by Clerks for State FY 2015-2016. He stated out of the $777.2 million, the Clerk’s Office kept about $422 million. These revenues have been dropping each year and the budget is about $1 million less than it was 10 years ago. Mr. Maloy discussed Efficient Comptroller Office. Chairman Strickler asked if the numbers on the graph were from the FY 2016-2017 budget, and Mr. Maloy answered yes. Mr. Maloy noted Orange County is not listed on the slide, but their per capita budget is $10.27. He stated they have a very efficient Comptroller’s Office and pointed out his office has the lowest per capita in comparison to other comparable counties.
The Comptroller’s Office slides were displayed and reviewed. In regard to the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR), Mr. Maloy stated for 32 years the Clerk’s Office has won the Award for Excellence in Reporting which helps out with the bond ratings for the County. Mr. Maloy reviewed the Investments slides. Ms. Smith asked what changes the Clerk has made to the investments. Mr. Maloy answered they have moved some funds around because interest rates have gone up but also they shifted some money out of things that were not paying that well to much better investments. Some of the money markets are renegotiated when interest rates go up. The Clerk’s Office put together an internal investment committee with safety being the main thing, but to also look at how they can best invest with the best return. Ms. Smith asked if that is a new committee, and Mr. Maloy answered yes.
Mr. Maloy displayed the Inspector General slides. He stated his office is a very important office to have independence. There is an anonymous, toll-free fraud and waste line for anyone to call and report abuse, and the Clerk has the ability to look into those reports. He explained it is not all adversarial and cited the example of County Management calling about a local charity that had some mismanagement going on, so the information was then provided to the County for proper action.
Mr. Maloy reviewed the Clerk’s website and technology improvements. At Chairman Strickler’s request, Mr. Landry discussed his credentials and work history. He noted some of the improvements he has done since joining the Clerk’s Office. Mr. Maloy added that Mr. Landry is active in a lot of state issues like the Florida Courts Technology Commission (FCTC) and has a depth of knowledge of what is going on statewide at other clerk’s offices. Chairman Strickler stated IT has always been at the back of the line as far as funding and it should be up at the front. He complimented Mr. Maloy for having such an experienced Chief Information Officer.
Robert Levy stated you often hear about public officials getting carried away with expenditures, but with the Clerk’s checks and balances it seems nearly impossible. He asked what kind of whistle-blower program the Clerk has to weed out people who are getting out of line. Mr. Maloy answered if there’s any expenditure over $500, it has to go to Clerk Finance and through Administration for a thorough review of it. The Clerk’s budgets have been cut so much, they try to watch everything they are doing.
Chairman Strickler left the meeting at this time.
Mr. Maloy stated the advantage he’s had and how he is able to make so many improvements with IT is because Clerk Morse left a lot of money in the IT trust funds. Part of that was because there weren’t many expenditures going on so it built up over the years. He expressed he walked into a very fortunate situation where there were resources available and he had the opportunity to take a look at what other counties are doing, what works and what doesn’t work so they can make the best choice. With IT support from the BCC, the Clerk’s Office has two full-time employees dedicated to real-time service for the financial software, which is a level of service that hasn’t occurred before.
Mr. Maloy stated the Inspector General is allowed to do internal audits of the Clerk’s Office now. He discussed Pinellas County and their “Spending in the Sunshine” online feature where all Clerk and County expenses are in a searchable database so everyone has the ability to look at how tax dollars are spent. Mr. Maloy added his office is not ready to do that, but it is something he would like to do in the future. He explained it should be fairly easy to do with the software the County and Clerk have and fairly inexpensive as well. James Dicks confirmed with Mr. Maloy that JD Edwards is Oracle based.
Chairman Strickler reentered the meeting at this time.
Mr. Maloy reviewed Accountability and explained how they are trying to be more transparent. Ms. Smith asked when Mr. Maloy expects the prior commission reports to be available online. Mr. Maloy answered the Popular Annual Financial Report (PAFR) is probably a year away and “Spending in the Sunshine” will hopefully be within a year.
Mr. Maloy displayed Efficiencies and stated his office has to look for efficiencies because his budget has been cut so much. One of the things his office is looking at is going paperless in the court system, which would create efficiencies in personnel and office space. In regard to customer service, Mr. Maloy stated he speaks to the public and talks to his employees. His office works directly for the citizens, and that is one of the great things about the independence of his office. Mr. Maloy reviewed First Year Achievements. He stated they are just getting started and believes his office could be the premier Clerk and Comptroller’s Office in the state of Florida.
Chairman Strickler asked what approximate percentage of the Clerk’s budget actually comes from taxpayer funds. Mr. Maloy answered over 80% comes from fines and fees, so it would be less than 20%. The County budget is $2.6 million, and the Clerk’s Office brings in $2 million in Clerk revenue, so about 10% to 15% comes from the County. Chairman Strickler inquired as the County reviews the Clerk’s annual budget, do they really have the most interest or the most control in taxpayer money. Mr. Maloy explained it would be the money the County appropriates to the Clerk directly. Chairman Strickler confirmed that would be less than 20% of the Clerk’s overall budget. Mr. Boyko asked if the investments that were increased by 50% over the last fiscal year were the existing investments or new investments. Mr. Maloy answered it is a comparison of apples to apples on what happened the previous year. They took the September report, which also happened to be the closing of the fiscal year, and did a simple measurement of how much was brought in last year compared to how much was brought in this year. Mr. Boyko asked again if they were the old investments, and Mr. Maloy answered no. He explained how they changed some things around, closed out some lower performing money markets and found some very competitive, qualified public depository (QPD) money markets. Mr. Boyko asked if the increase has anything to do with the market going up. Mr. Maloy answered that has something to do with it, but it is a combination of interest rates going up and switching a lot of money out of lower paying investments into higher paying investments.
Mr. Boyko asked if there was a mandate requiring the Clerk to give certain excess fees back to the State instead of the County. Mr. Maloy explained when it comes to the CCOC budget, the fines and fees the Clerk’s Office receives have to be returned to the State. When it comes to the Comptroller side and Clerk revenue that his office receives, that money goes back to the County. The Department of Fiscal Services audits the Clerk’s Office and they want to make sure the Clerk didn’t spend any State money on the County.
Commissioner Horan stated it’s important that the Commission realizes that Article V passed because the State wanted to equalize the courts. The local courts used to be funded by each particular county, and there were rich counties and there were poor counties. So when Article V passed, the courts began to be funded by the State. Out of the 67 Florida counties, there are about 29 that are referred to as fiscally-constrained counties that can’t pay their bills so the State has to fund them. One of those functions is the court function. The State sets the fees on the court side of the Clerk’s budget at such a level that not only is the Clerk giving money back to the State, but that excess money is being used to fund clerk’s offices and court systems in the fiscally-constrained counties. The State also takes some of that revenue and puts it into the general revenue as well. Mr. Maloy noted it’s about $150 million.
Edwards Schons inquired about some discussions going on between the BCC and the Clerk’s Office. Chairman Strickler indicated there is a current lawsuit, and Mr. Schons replied that is what he was referring to. Chairman Strickler stated he asked Mr. Maloy to not discuss it during his presentation. He explained the Court is going to decide whatever they decide unless the two entities decide to work it out amicably. He requested that the Commission not discuss the lawsuit. Mr. Grace stated he assumes the Commission will stay off of that topic when the BCC presents as well, and Chairman Strickler confirmed that assumption. Mr. Maloy commented if there is a way to work things out, he would love to do that and he thinks there are paths to that.
Mr. O’Hanlon asked what the Clerk’s total budget is for the year. Ms. Moschler answered it is around $13 million. Mr. O’Hanlon stated the CCOC gives the Clerk $8.2 million. He asked where that $8.2 million comes from. Mr. Maloy answered it comes from fines and fees. Mr. O’Hanlon confirmed with Mr. Maloy that money is collected from the citizens and the fees are set by state statutes. Mr. O’Hanlon stated out of the $13 million, $2.6 million comes from the BCC. He asked how much of the $2.6 million is refunded or how much is spent. Mr. Maloy answered his office returned $325,000 to the BCC this year which is money from the BCC’s General Fund and Clerk’s revenue. He reiterated the State sets the rates for his office. Mr. Maloy indicated there is some flexibility on the Clerk’s revenue but no flexibility on the CCOC side.
Mr. O’Hanlon stated the Clerk’s Office has made great progress in the IT Department. He asked if there is enough money in the IT fund to fix everything that still needs to be done so Seminole County can run as well as the other counties. Mr. Maloy answered Seminole County will run better. His office has already received compliments on the new system, that it is working faster and is easier to use than others. He stated they have enough funds to do it right and he is planning for the long haul. Mr. Maloy noted the County helped the Clerk move the IT Department over to the Criminal Justice Center (CJC) because they are trying to shift as much as they can for the future at the CJC. He indicated he has the right people in place to make sure his office is the premier clerk’s office in the state.
Chairman Strickler stated he asked Desmond Morrell, Assistant County Attorney, to give a report to the Commission as to what the County Attorney’s Office has done as far as advertising and the responses to those advertisements.
Mr. Morrell stated at the last meeting there were about five individuals who had applied for the special counsel position for the Commission. He explained at the request of the Commission, the County Attorney’s Office reopened the application pool whereby Mr. Morrell sent out several other advertisements particularly to the city and local government LISTSERVs and they also posted it on the Florida Association of County Attorneys website. Based on those additional sources, they did get several other applicants; and the Commission did receive, via email, the resumes and credentials of those applicants. Mr. Morrell asked the Commission to keep in mind that his office is still using the criteria that was agreed upon by the Commission at the first meeting and he reviewed the criteria. He indicated they have received four to five additional candidates and some applied individually as attorneys and some of them applied as firms. It is up to the Commission to decide the applicants’ qualifications. He noted he is available if the Commission has any questions. Copies of the résumés were received and filed.
Chairman Strickler stated the conflict of interest issue applies to an individual. He asked if that individual is representing a law firm and attorneys in that law firm have a conflict, does that cause a conflict for the applicant. Mr. Morrell answered there are several ways to look at it. If they are looking at it more conservatively, then the safer bet would be to not go with that individual who is a part of a firm that may represent the County or some other municipality. He noted if the Commission feels that applicant is the ideal candidate, the other alternative is to ensure that they insulate themselves from any other business with the County. In that case, the Commission would be relying on the honor system. Mr. Morrell cautioned that if the Commission decides to go with an individual whose firm represents the County or another municipality, they need to put all of the parameters out immediately so there is a clear understanding of where they stand, what they can and cannot do, and why. Chairman Strickler suggested those parameters need to be a part of the contract, and Mr. Morrell agreed.
Robert Levy stated he assumes that it is all privileged information. Mr. Morrell responded this is still a government entity so at any point, a public records request can be made. However, if there is sensitive information such as some sort of agreement with outside counsel whereby there might be attorney-client privilege, that sort of stuff is still protected. He reminded it is important to realize this is a government entity so if someone wants to make a public records request, they can still get a lot of that information.
Chairman Strickler stated when he went through all of the resumes and he checked the criteria, he came up with four qualified applicants. He asked if anyone came up with more than four and hearing no response, he identified the four he came up with which included William Reischmann, Jr., with Garganese, Weiss & D’Agresta; Mark Watts with Cobb Cole Attorneys at Law; Kimberly Kopp, Esquire; and Dana Crosby-Collier with Shuffield, Lowman & Wilson. Mr. Grace stated he did not have Kimberly Kopp on his list, but he did have Nabors, Giblin & Nickerson. Robert Turnage noted Nabors, Giblin & Nickerson stated they had no conflicts per the Commission’s criteria. Chairman Strickler stated the reason he didn’t include Nabors, Giblin & Nickerson is because their closest office is in Tampa and he was thinking about driving back and forth. Mr. Dicks stated the Commission had an issue with that last time. Discussion ensued regarding traveling.
Chairman Strickler asked if anyone wanted to venture past the four applicants that he identified and the members present replied in the negative. Mr. Dicks asked if anyone had any of those four at the top of their list. Mr. Turnage answered he liked Dana Crosby-Collier because of her experience in Orange County and the City of Ocoee and also her reasonable hourly rate. Mr. Grace reminded she was the first applicant. Chairman Strickler stated that application was a couple of months ago so they will have to check and make sure all of her information is still valid and that she still doesn’t have a conflict. In regard to Ms. Crosby-Collier, Mr. Morrell stated she did reapply when he sent the application information out the second time. Mr. Dicks asked if she was somewhat of a referral. Chairman Strickler responded he got her resume from the County Attorney. Mr. Morrell explained Ms. Crosby-Collier is currently the chair of the local government section of the Florida Bar so that is probably why her name was at the top of the list.
Mr. Grace stated he was uncomfortable with her initially because she was the only applicant; but now that the Commission received other applications, he is very comfortable with moving ahead with her. Mr. Schons indicated he was thinking the same thing, but then the Commission had other applications to look at and she still stood out.
Motion by Mr. Grace, seconded by Mr. Dicks, to engage Dana Crosby-Collier, with Shuffield, Lowman & Wilson; and authorize the Chairman to enter into negotiations.
All members in attendance voted AYE.
Mr. O’Hanlon stated he isn’t ready to hire somebody until the Commission has an issue they need an attorney for. Chairman Strickler responded even if they hire somebody, they don’t have to come to a meeting until the Commission is ready for them. Mr. Turnage stated they already have questions regarding what the Commission can do that they need an attorney to answer. Mr. O’Hanlon reiterated he is not ready to hire an attorney until they are ready to use one. Mr. Dicks stated that was the inefficiency the last time the Commission met. They would be in the middle of a meeting with no one to answer their questions so they would just have to adjourn. Chairman Strickler explained realistically if they engage someone, they will probably attend the next couple of meetings. As things come up, the Commission can get input and ideas and that will develop a trend where they will know how often they will need the attorney. He pointed out right now the Commission can’t even throw anything out on the table. Mr. Schons indicated the idea was that they get someone that is in place so that when the Commission has something come up that does require legal counsel, they don’t have any lag time.
Chairman Strickler stated his thought was if they can engage someone and get a contract signed, they could come to the next meeting and go from there. He doesn’t know if that person will come to each meeting or if they will even stay for a whole meeting. He opined it is really unfair to the County Attorney’s Office, but they have been very helpful in explaining everything. The attorney will be somebody that works for the Commission to advise the Commission on major issues, not the County. Mr. Turnage stated he can read the statutes in the presentations, but he knows it is not an answer; it is just how the statute has been interpreted. Mr. Grace expressed he doesn’t think it is a waste of money to have counsel available to the Commission to assist if they need it. The Commission has an important charge under the Charter and he thinks they need legal counsel.
Chairman Strickler suggested they have a backup attorney in case they can’t reach an agreement with Ms. Crosby-Collier.
Mr. Grace stated he would suggest William Reischmann, Jr., with the Garganese, Weiss & D’Agresta law firm. Mr. Turnage commented his only issue with Mr. Reischmann is they didn’t quote a fee. Chairman Strickler stated a quoted fee is what they want, it’s not necessarily what they get.
Motion by Mr. Grace, seconded by Colleen Hufford, to engage William Reischmann, Jr., with Garganese, Weiss & D’Agresta, in the event the Commission cannot reach an agreement with Dana Crosby-Collier with Shuffield, Lowman & Wilson; and authorize the Chairman to enter into negotiations.
All members in attendance voted AYE.
Chairman Strickler asked if anyone would like to help him with the negotiations, and the Commission suggested Mr. O’Hanlon. Mr. Boyko asked that they lay out the format on how the Commission will use the attorney. Chairman Strickler stated the attorney will be in attendance as needed. If there is a chance the Commission may need them, he would rather have the attorney available. Ms. Hufford expressed she thinks it will be organic because they will be discussing things and they will see the need to have an attorney available for the next meeting to answer questions. Chairman Strickler indicated he will try to reach out to Ms. Crosby-Collier tomorrow.
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 December 5 at 6:30 p.m. in Room 3024 of the County Services Building. He noted he isn’t sure what constitutional officers will be presenting because he hasn’t spoken with anyone. Mr. Grace asked if they will have two more meetings with constitutional officers. Chairman Strickler answered there are some constitutional officers that he needs to look at, and they still don’t have the Property Appraiser lined up. He added there are two more meetings before the end of the year, December 5 and 19; and he really wanted to get all of the presentations done before they enter into January.
Mr. O’Hanlon stated he would like to revisit the Tax Collector. He feels as though the Commission was misinformed to the fact that it is not taxpayer dollars that his office is spending. He explained the Tax Collector’s Office gets part of the property taxes that taxpayers pay every year, and then that money goes to fund his office; and the surplus of that gets refunded back to the County. He opined taxpayer money is funding his office. Mr. Grace responded the Tax Collector is allowed to collect a percentage for everything he collects, so he thinks that’s considered fee revenue. Mr. O’Hanlon replied maybe in the Tax Collector’s mind but certainly not in his mind as a taxpayer. He added it wasn’t until he watched the August 3 BCC Budget Work Session where the Tax Collector presented his budget to the BCC that he realized that is taxpayer money and this Commission is responsible for taxpayer money. He reiterated he would like to revisit some of those issues.
Mr. O’Hanlon asked if the Tax Collector needs revenue officers, why isn’t the Sheriff providing that service and protection. Mr. Turnage guessed he probably wasn’t asked, and Mr. O’Hanlon replied he has issues with that too. He indicated he feels misled on several issues.
Mr. Boyko asked if the Commission has any proposals at this time to add into the Charter, and Chairman Strickler answered no.
Hearing no objections, Chairman Strickler adjourned the meeting at 8:20 p.m., this same date.