The Lake County Board of County Commissioners met in special session on Tuesday, June 6, 1995, at 9:00 a.m., in the Board of County Commissioner's Meeting Room, Lake County Administration Building, Tavares, Florida. Commissioners present at the meeting were: Rhonda H. Gerber, Chairman; William "Bill" H. Good, Vice Chairman; G. Richard Swartz, Jr.; Catherine C. Hanson; and Welton G. Cadwell. Others present were: Sue Whittle, Interim County Manager; Rolon Reed, Interim County Attorney; Ava Kronz, BCC Office Manager; Barbara Lehman, Chief Deputy Clerk, Finance, Audit & Budgets; and Sandra Carter, Deputy Clerk.
The Chairman opened the meeting.
COUNTY EMPLOYEES/COUNTY ATTORNEY
A questionnaire had been provided to the Board by David M. Griffith & Associates, Inc., to aide them in conducting the interviews for County Attorney. The Board was also provided with a Recruitment and Selection Rating Sheet for each of the candidates, to aid them in their evaluations, rating the candidates from their interest in the position and the County to their personality and approach, their technical skills and knowledge, communication and interpersonal relationship skills, background experience, and strongest qualities and weaknesses.
The candidates were interviewed and asked to respond to a series of questions, ranging from how they felt their background prepared them for the County Attorney position, to how they would motivate staff, what actions they would take to establish a sound relationship with the members of the Board, whether they would participate in community activities and events and to what extent they felt a County Attorney should be active and visible in the community, how they would balance the role of providing legal and policy advice, their level of expertise in the areas of land use and development, personnel, labor relations, contracts, etc., what types of legal services they felt the County should keep in-house and what should be contracted out, what their career goals were, what they perceived to be the opportunities and challenges facing Lake County now and in the future, what their experience had been in the Joint Planning Area Agreements/Negotiations and innovations that they may have seen, or been a part of, in the past, in the City/County Joint Planning Area Plan, and their personal and professional code of ethics and how they would expect employees in County government to adhere to a code of ethics, in terms of people they may deal with on a daily basis. Following is a summation of the interviews:
GORDON B. LINN - DEERFIELD BEACH, FLORIDA
Mr. Linn stated that his varied background prepared him for the job of County Attorney, noting that he had started out from law school with a General Practice firm, however, due to the fact that he was a licensed optometrist, decided he wanted to use his skills in that area, to do personal injury work, which he did for five years. He then went into real estate and land use planning and worked for a firm for five years that dedicated itself to real estate and related matters, mostly representing developers, after which he went to work with the City of Pompano Beach, working in all phases of the City Attorney's Office. He noted that he was presently the Acting City Attorney for Pompano Beach. He stated that he felt the skills he learned as an optometrist, in relating to people, would be helpful in this job and that, while working in real estate, he ran a title company, which helped him develop some business skills. He prided himself in the fact that he had always been able to deal with people.
Mr. Linn stated that he saw the role of a County Attorney as that of a legal advisor, representing the County, but one that would not get involved in political issues. He stated that he liked to give as many options as possible to questions, or issues, and felt that being a creative lawyer was the crux of it.
Mr. Linn stated that he had been involved in all phases of Joint Planning Area Plans and had had to deal with the Department of Community Affairs (DCA) regarding same. He discussed the most controversial issue he had to deal with, in his present job, and how he dealt with it. He noted that his style was to negotiate, or mediate, rather than litigate, because it was usually the best route, economically, to take, however, noted that he was not afraid to litigate. He stated that, in describing his philosophy of practicing law, he always used the guideline of the "sit well" doctrine - does this issue "sit well", "sound like", or
"look like" it is going to step on anyone's rights, or create any problems or ramifications. He stated that he always made it a point to keep up on the Statutes, to keep everyone apprised.
Mr. Linn briefly discussed his experience in dealing with land use and development issues, personnel issues, labor relations, and contract law. He stated that he liked to keep as much legal work in-house as possible, however, realized that some issues would have to be sent out, such as personal injury cases and some of the larger cases. He stated that he usually sought help in dealing with bond issues and labor issues.
Mr. Linn stated that the County Attorney position was a position that he looked forward to holding, some time during his life, and that he would like to move to the Lake County area, because the Pompano Beach area was becoming too congested. He stated that he was looking for a long term relationship with a governmental employer. He stated that he was a cyclist and had come to the Lake County area quite a few times, while participating in various bicycling events, and had always liked the people he met.
Mr. Linn discussed differences he felt existed between the offices of the City Attorney and the County Attorney and experiences he had had in dealing with city issues that he might have to confront as a County Attorney. He stated that he did not feel there was a great deal of difference between the two, however, noted that, due to the fact that the County Attorney's Office often has more power, there are often differences that need to be worked out. He stated that he felt some planning issues were a little more involved on the County level than the City, however, due to his experience in that area, felt he could fill that requirement.
Mr. Linn stated that, in dealing with issues where there may be disagreement between the Board and the Constitutional Officers, he would give as many options as possible, to help settle the issues, but, if they were not legal issues, he would not get involved, noting that he did not feel he would have the authority to get involved. He stated that, in giving legal opinions, he would state what the law was, what the case was, what his opinion was, and what the ramifications would be, if the Board did not follow the law, however, would try not to bring any negative ramifications to the Board's attention in front of the general public. He stated that he would do so in the form of a memorandum. He stated that he liked to handle such issues before they come up, so that he could give the Board the information they needed, to make a decision about the case. He stated that he felt he would have to be both a working attorney and an office administrator, noting that, if one does not spend time administrating, things do not work smoothly.
Mr. Linn stated that he liked to be active in the community, noting that he was active in his church and was involved in Habitat for Humanity, however, did not like to get involved in anything that was political. He stated that he saw the role of the County Attorney as being an invitation to become a leader in the County legal community, at which time he noted that he was presently preparing to do some lectures for continuing education. He stated that, if he were hired, even though he would have less experience than many of the various City Attorneys, he did not see a problem with it, due to the fact that he had done the best he could to remain knowledgeable and keep up on the law, because it was constantly changing.
Mr. Linn described the relationship he had with the City Manager and the City Manager's staff, in Pompano Beach, and how he dealt with various issues involving them, as well as how he dealt with the attorneys in his own department. He stated that, if there were disagreements, he would discuss the issues with them and allow them to give their opinions, however, it was his ultimate responsibility, therefore, he would make the final decision, because he was the one that would have to answer for it.
Mr. Linn briefly discussed the issue of Special Masters and how he would deal with decisions made by same. He noted that Special Masters were supposed to be independent, therefore, his job would be to try to make sure that the person selected was qualified for the job. He discussed how he would pump the County Attorney's staff up to win a case and how much the cost to the County would be a factor, noting that he liked to use a "stop gap" method. He stated that he did not believe in litigating just for the sake of litigating.
Mr. Linn stated that he felt his greatest strengths were (1) that he was a good organizer, (2) that he believed he was fairly intelligent, and (3) that he got along well with people and that his weaknesses would be that (1) he sometimes got down on himself, if things did not go the way he felt they should, and (2) on rare occasions he would lose his temper.
Mr. Linn stated that he tried to reward people the best he could, within the budget guidelines given to him. He stated that, with regard to ex parte communication and the new ruling on it, he felt it had a lot of negative implications, which he elaborated on. He stated that he had not had to deal with said issue, up to this point in time, however, had warned his Commissioners not to knowingly participate in any such issues. He stated that he was not familiar with current statutory and case law, with regard to how the Board should operate, to be in conformance with same, therefore, did not want to respond. He stated that he saw potential in Lake County and found it exciting.
Mr. Linn questioned what the Board foresaw as necessary qualities, or traits, to be a successful County Attorney.
RECESS AND REASSEMBLY
At 10:00 a.m, the Chairman announced that the Board would take a fifteen minute recess.
MR. DAVID W. WAGNER - GAINESVILLE, FLORIDA
Mr. Wagner stated that he had had extensive experience in government and management and was fascinated with the practice of law, as it relates to local government, especially land use issues. He stated that he felt, in the State of Florida, land use issues were extremely challenging and a dynamic area that was going to get more challenging. He stated that he had 20 years experience in the military, two in private practice, and approximately three years in local government. He stated that he felt the challenge of local government was the constant change in law, especially in Tallahassee, and the dynamics of the process, where constituents have access to local elected officials. He stated that he felt his varied background, in a number of different situations, and his recent extensive land use experience in Alachua County qualified him for the job.
Mr. Wagner stated that, in dealing with municipal and constitutional officers, he liked to approach them with a complete open agenda, noting that he felt, in government, one has to be completely open. He stated that, should disagreements arise about what the law states, he felt they would need to sit down and talk about it, especially from the local government standpoint, and not try to ambush people. He stated that, with regard to his approach to dealing with cities and Joint Planning Areas, from the County's perspective, he left the planning function in the hands of the planners, because it was policy making at the Board's direction and his office stayed out of the policy making business. He stated that, as far as coordinating with the attorneys, the City Attorney had a large legal staff, therefore, they would coordinate with them, when there was an issue that they needed to work on together. Mr. Wagner described his philosophy of practicing law, stating that he felt (1) the County Attorney had to be totally honest and (2) he felt that, if an issue was laid out on the table and the Board and the County Attorney disagreed on the issue, then it was time to go to litigation and, given the resources available in the office, they would pursue the direction of the Board and try to take advantage of every opportunity to win the case, based on that direction.
Mr. Wagner described his expertise and depth of experience in land use and development, at which time he discussed several cases that he was involved with, in Alachua County, and where said cases presently are, with regard to the Courts. He stated that he did not have much experience in the areas of personnel and labor relations, noting that one of the other attorneys in his office handled those types of cases. He stated that he did a lot of contract law, noting that for the last three years, he was the key player in the contracting process for Alachua County.
Mr. Wagner stated that, with regard to determining which services to keep in-house and which ones to contract out, he felt he would need to determine how much in-house work his office could handle, based on the size of staff. He stated that he was a firm believer that the more the County Attorney's Office could handle in-house, the better advice they would get, unless there was an extremely specialized area that would need the expertise of an outside attorney.
Mr. Wagner stated that, in dealing with the city attorneys in Lake County who will have more governmental experience than him, he would meet with them and hear their side of the story and then do his homework and research the issue. He stated that he found meeting with other County Attorneys and sharing problems and solutions was very beneficial. He stated that, in dealing with the Board, individually, where some of the Commissioners may have different views on the law and may have different views from that of the County Attorney's Office, the first thing he would do would be responsive. He stated that he felt the best way to handle a situation where he was asked a question that he did not know the answer to would be to state that he did not know the answer, but that he would get back to them with one. He stated that he felt it was important, in the very stressful environment of practicing law, to keep a sense of humor and try to like one another, even though you may not like one another's position. He stated that, as far as he was concerned, the County Attorney would not have a position on issues, his job would be to provide legal advice to the Board. He stated that he would give them his best shot and, if they disagreed, he would go with whatever the Board's decision was. He stated that he would explain the risks involved with their decisions, as far as future litigation and costs that their decisions might cause the County to incur, but it would be their decision.
Mr. Wagner stated that he felt his three greatest strengths were (1) integrity, (2) that he did not get involved in policy issues, and (3) a combination of hard work and the fact that he genuinely liked people - he liked meeting people and helping people. He stated that a weakness would be that he did not have a lot of local government experience and would have to overcome it by hard work. He could not think of any other weaknesses. He stated that he had yet to go into a position where he failed, noting that he always went into a position with the attitude that he would be a success.
Mr. Wagner stated how he would expect the County Attorney's office to handle litigation cases, however, noted that he would prefer not to have a lot of litigation, because he felt staff's time could be better spent assisting the County Manager in accomplishing the directives of the Board.
Mr. Wagner stated that he was active in his community and believed the County Attorney should be involved in the community, because it gave him a chance to meet people. He stated that he also felt it was important to have an open line of communication to all the attorneys in the County, which he elaborated on. He stated that, as far as a management approach was concerned, he felt it was important in government that employees be happy, get along, like one another, and be nice and considerate to one another. He stated that he believed in getting good people and delegating as much authority as possible to them. He stated that he felt constant communication was the key and that, as far as the budget aspect was concerned, he felt the pay scale should compete with the local market place, whatever that may be.
Mr. Wagner stated that county government excited him, because there was never a dull moment and he liked that environment. He stated that he felt it was natural for one to want to go to the next level and that he felt he had a lot of qualities that matched the profile for this position and that was the reason he responded to the letter from David M. Griffith & Associates about the position. He stated that he was very happy in his current position and could not ask for a nicer environment to work in and that his boss would not be happy to see him leave, however, would be very supportive of the move. He stated that he enjoyed hard work and challenges and that, as long as he was having fun, would want to stay in Lake County. He stated that Lake County was an area of Florida that he felt he would like to live, noting that he liked to live in small communities, places that have approximately 200,000 people, fascinating legal issues, and a nice quality of life.
Mr. Wagner stated that, should he be selected for the position, he felt he could start work within a relatively short period of time, possibly 30 days, however, would want to address it with his boss in Alachua County first. He stated that he had responsibilities at home, as well, noting that he had three children and a wife and there were certain things he would have to take care of.
Mr. Wagner questioned whether the Board had given any thought to what the Private Property Rights Protection Act was going to do to the State. He stated that he had started to form his legal perspective of it, however, would like to know what the Board felt was going to happen, from a policy perspective. He expressed a concern that the two previous County Attorneys were no longer with the County, however, noted that it made the position more challenging to him. He thanked the Board for the opportunity to meet them and be interviewed and noted that he and his wife had enjoyed the reception that was held the night before at the Lake County Judicial Center for the County Manager and County Attorney candidates.
RECESS AND REASSEMBLY
At 11:25 a.m., the Chairman announced that the Board would take a fifteen minute recess.
MR. SAUL SMOLAR - DELRAY BEACH, FLORIDA
Mr. Smolar stated that he had sent David M. Griffith & Associates a list of his accomplishments and questioned whether the Board had received same. The Board had not, however, was furnished with the list at this time, for their perusal.
Mr. Smolar submitted a video (The Raincatcher) that he had worked on, produced by the City of Delray Beach, pertaining to wetlands and environmental issues, which the Board reviewed and later discussed with Mr. Smolar.
Mr. Smolar stated that, since leaving law school, he had always remained in government and this position would be another step up, in that it is a higher ranking position than what he had formerly held. He stated that he would like to stay in government, in a position such as this one.
Mr. Smolar stated that he liked to pride himself in intergovernmental relations, noting that he had created a good relationship with the School Board, County Commissioners, and taxing districts in his present county. He stated that he found, by working together, they could achieve mutual goals. He stated that he felt the Board set the policy and it was the County Attorney's job to implement that policy.
Mr. Smolar stated that he felt his position as County Attorney would be that of a problem solver and facilitator for the elected officials, noting that it would be very easy to just say that the Board could not do something and drop the matter, but he felt it would be important to see if there was a way to handle the matter, always keeping in mind that what the County Attorney put forward would have to be legally defensible. He stated that the most controversial issue he had to deal with and defend dealt with growth management.
Mr. Smolar stated that he had some budgeting experience, however, did not elaborate on the matter. He stated that, with regard to personnel and labor relations experience, he had handled two cases that involved employment termination matters and prevailed in both cases. He stated that he had done some collective bargaining negotiations and provided general advice to the Personnel Division, on labor relations.
Mr. Smolar stated that, in determining which services to keep in house and which ones to contract out, he would have to look at what cases the County currently had and discuss them with the Board. He stated that the County could get into some specialized areas that would require outside legal expertise, however, noted that he would never consider hiring outside counsel without the Board's prior approval.
Mr. Smolar stated that he felt his three greatest assets would be (1) substantive legal knowledge, (2) flexibility, and (3) that he was a facilitator. He stated that he felt an area of weakness would be the fact that he had never been a County Attorney. He could not think of any other weaknesses.
Mr. Smolar stated that, in dealing with five different Commissioners, with five different personalities and positions on issues, and keeping them informed, he felt the most important aspect of that relationship would be communication, noting that he felt, if those lines of communication were broken, then everything would be gone.
Mr. Smolar stated that he had been in his present position for six years and was ready to try something more dynamic and different. He stated that, in preparing for this interview, he went to the local library and read news articles about the County, noting that he found them very interesting.
Mr. Smolar stated that he belonged to the Rotary Club in West Palm Beach County, as well as the Bar Association, and that he felt the County Attorney should be as active as possible in the community.
Mr. Smolar stated that he majored in Political Science in college, so government interested him very much. He stated that he was also very interested in historical preservation, noting that he always included historical sites in his travels.
Mr. Smolar questioned the Board about the number of attorneys in the County Attorney's Office and what they saw as the future of staffing in that office.
A brief discussion occurred regarding the intentions of the Board, from this point on, regarding the candidates. It was noted that the Commissioners would meet, individually, with the candidates, for both County Manager and County Attorney, and reconvene later this date, to discuss and shortlist them.
RECESS AND REASSEMBLY
At 12:35 p.m., the Chairman announced that the Board would recess and reconvene at 6:00 p.m.
COUNTY EMPLOYEES/COUNTY ATTORNEY (CONT'D.)
Mr. David Donaldson, David M. Griffith & Associates, Ltd., suggested that the Board rank the candidates from one to five (County Manager) and one to three (County Attorney) and he would list the rankings, to see if a pattern emerged, in terms of a unanimous choice for somebody as number one and somebody as number five. He stated that this would be a good starting point for focusing any discussion that the Board might want to have.
Commr. Cadwell thanked Mr. Donaldson for guiding the Board through the process which they utilized, noting that he was a little reluctant about it, at first, however, felt that it worked well.
The Board ranked the candidates, as follows:
Mr. David Wagner
Mr. Gordon Linn
Mr. Saul Smolar
Mr. Thomas Frame
Mr. C. William Hargett
Mr. R. Lee Gilmour
Mr. Eugene T. Lauer
Mr. Charles C. Saddler, III
Discussion occurred regarding what steps the Board would take, in considering the number one choice for County Attorney, Mr. David Wagner, and the number one choice for County Manager, Mr. Thomas Frame. It was determined that Commr. Swartz would visit Alachua County and meet with some of Mr. Wagner's constituents and Commr. Cadwell would visit Port Charlotte and meet with some of Mr. Frame's constituents, in approximately one week, and both Commissioners would report their findings back to the Board at the June 20, 1995 Board Meeting.
There being no further business to be brought to the attention of the Board, the meeting was adjourned at 7:00 p.m.
RHONDA H. GERBER, CHAIRMAN
JAMES C. WATKINS, CLERK