REGULAR MEETING OF THE VALUE ADJUSTMENT BOARD
MAY 27, 2010
The Lake County Value Adjustment Board met in regular session on Monday, May 27, 2010, at 10:30 a.m., in the Board of County Commissioners’ Meeting Room, Lake County Administration Building, Tavares, Florida. Present at the meeting were: Commr. Jimmy Conner, Chairman; Commr. Linda Stewart; Larry Metz, Lake County School Board representative; Ralph Smith, and Will Walker, citizen members. Others present were: Leigh Tucker, Counsel for the Value Adjustment Board (VAB); and Brenda Press, Deputy Clerk.
call to order
The Chairman called the meeting to order.
approval of minutes
The Chairman asked for approval of the Minutes of April 12, 2010.
On a motion by Mr. Smith, seconded by Mr. Walker and carried unanimously by a 5-0 vote, the Board approved the Minutes of April 12, 2010, as presented.
NEW DEPARTMENT OF REVeNUE (DOR) RULE CHANGES
Ms. Tucker stated that the Department of Revenue (DOR) had solidified all the changes they had made through the rule making process and that the new 12D-9 and 12D-10 rules would be used by this Board for the 2010 season. She noted that the rules can be found on DOR’s website. She explained that a great deal of responsibility has been placed on the clerk. She commented in the past the County Attorney’s office represented the Property Appraiser, and explained that the motivation for changing the rules was to get the Property Appraiser’s Office and the County Attorney’s Office in a separate dynamic. She reported that after receiving input from various Florida counties, Value Adjustment Boards, Special Magistrates, and Clerk’s Offices, the clerk will now be responsible for duties that have historically been handled by other parties. The rules now state that VAB’s legal counsel will be responsible for advising the Board specifically on the way the rules read; but it is up to the clerk to operate the VAB process. She mentioned that the Clerk’s Office had done a wonderful job getting through these rule changes and deserve recognition. She explained that the process was huge and the clerks involved continued to perform their normal duties along with this process. She went on to say that this next year the duties of the clerk would be even more complex, but opined that they would do a great job. She reminded the Board to contact her if they had any questions.
There were no questions by the Board regarding the rule changes at this time.
consideration of recommendations for 2009 valuation special
magistrates paul macdermott and kathryn b. edmundson
category 1 - recommendations to deny Petitioners’ relief
Ms. Tucker stated that the newly appointed Special Magistrates, Mr. Paul MacDermott and Ms. Kathryn B. Edmundson, were conducting hearings for the first time; whereas Mr. David Taylor had performed that function heretofore. She commended both Special Magistrates on how well they completed their recommendations as well as the time and thought process in making the determinations. She stated that because it was Mr. MacDermott’s first year as a Special Magistrate, she attended two of his hearing sessions; noting that Ms. Edmundson had previously been a Special Magistrate for other counties. She reported that even with the volume of petitions this year, she was very impressed with Mr. MacDermott’s recommendations which were received in a timely, and very well prepared manner. She explained that Tab 3 of the notebook included recommended actions which had been color-coded in the spreadsheet. She commented that they had only received eight written responses back out of all the recommendations and those have been categorized accordingly. She mentioned that the Recommended Action sheet included all the recommendations to the Board. She noted that withdrawn petitions were highlighted in yellow; those in green indicate denials by the Special Magistrate and recommended the Board accept those recommendations in the green category by denying the request by the Petitioner, explaining that her opinion did not differ from that of the Special Magistrate. She commented that the blue category included special cases where the Special Magistrate recommended denying the request of the Petitioner, but in addition, the Petitioner decided to provide more explanation in addition to what they presented to the Special Magistrate. She stated that the deadline for receiving written responses from Petitioners was Friday, May 21, 2010, noting that the written response is the Petitioner’s opportunity to present to the Board their arguments with the Special Magistrate’s decision. She explained that no testimony would be allowed at this meeting. She remarked that the Petitioners were not asked to re-argue the facts presented to the Special Magistrate, and were only to address any problems they had with the process or the legal ramifications.
On a motion by Mr. Metz, seconded by Commr. Stewart and carried unanimously by a 5-0 vote, the Board accepted into the record, as an exhibit for the meeting, the Recommended Action Sheet and the accompanying Color-Coded document which had been transmitted with the clerk’s memo of May 26, 2010.
Commr. Stewart stated that she was unable to locate the second page of Petition No. 2009-152V which included the explanation of the recommendation and, accordingly, they were unaware of the Special Magistrate’s recommendation on this petition.
Ms. Tucker stated that the Special Magistrate submitted the two-page recommendation in each and every case; however, the second page of Petition 2009-152V was inadvertently omitted as a result of a copying error.
Mr. Frank Royce, Chief Deputy Property Appraiser’s Office, was in the audience and provided the Board with a copy of page 2 which each member reviewed.
Mr. Walker stated that he would like to exclude Petition Nos. 2009-506 through and including 2009-508, as well as 2009-510 and 2009-511 from the blanket motion.
The Chairman stated that would be acceptable.
On a motion by Mr. Walker, seconded by Commr. Stewart and carried unanimously by a 5-0 vote, the Board upheld the recommendations of the Special Magistrate denying Petitioners’ requests for relief under Category 1, excluding Petition Nos. 2009-506 through and including 2009-508, as well as Petition Nos. 2009-510 and 2009-511.
valuation petition nos. 2009-506 through 2009-508
Mr. Walker stated that he was concerned with the lack of information given by the Special Magistrate with regard to Petition Nos. 2009-506 through and including 2009-508. Without ample information he felt the Board could not give proper weight to the evidence entered at the hearing regarding income/expenses. He opined that the appraiser for the property owner performed an in-depth analysis and that there was a disagreement between the Property Appraiser’s Office and the property owner’s appraiser as to the methodology to be used. He explained that they were too brief and lacked enough information to provide proper consideration for these petitions.
Mr. Frank Royce, Chief Deputy, Property Appraiser’s Office, noted that Mr. Walker was referring to the agent’s appraiser and noted that the Special Magistrate was speaking of the Property Appraiser.
Mr. Walker stated that the Petitioner presented statements reflecting a 78 percent occupancy rate and questioned whether that was in line with the analysis the Property Appraiser had considered.
Mr. Royce stated that he would not argue the cases with him today, but was rather making sure he understood what was written on the findings within the recommendations.
A motion was made by Commr. Stewart and seconded by Mr. Metz asking that the Board uphold the Special Magistrate’s decision to deny Petitioners’ requests for relief with regard to Petition Nos. 2009-506 through and including 2009-508.
Under discussion, Mr. Metz stated he was trying to understand Mr. Walker’s concern referring to page 300. He commented that he respects Mr. Walker’s professional real estate opinion, but was trying to understand if his concern was the lack of detail in the report itself compared to the two reports on Home Depot which included breakdowns.
Mr. Walker stated that was correct.
Mr. Metz commented that as he understood the recommendation, there was no change in the assessment so the Petitioner wanted to have another alternative scenario approved and it was based on verbal testimony with respect to income and expenses, rent rolls, etc. and wanted a decrease in the assessment. He clarified that this particular Special Magistrate accepted the Property Appraiser’s in-depth analysis using actual income and expenses provided by the Petitioner and the second analysis using market data. He commented that he thought the concern, if he understood it correctly, was that there was no data in the report.
Mr. Walker stated that he had no idea what occupancy rate the Appraiser’s Office used. He stated that they were showing a vacancy rate of 78 percent and in this difficult market it is a very tough rent-up period. He explained that some people running commercial enterprises were making huge rent concessions which, of course, affect the income on the property. He explained that if the Property Appraiser’s Office used an occupancy rate and a rent-out approach which was different than the actual rate, it would seem that there was a possibility that an adjustment in this value might be forthcoming. He commented that most of the other recommendations included enough data to determine the actual approach of the Property Appraiser and in this particular case the Special Magistrate writes the recommendations differently than the other Special Magistrate. He stated that if there was a 78 percent vacancy rate, then there would be only a 22 percent occupancy rate with very little cash flow coming in and dims the prospects for renting-up. He commented that he does not have enough information to agree or disagree.
Commr. Stewart mentioned that it states the appraiser provides an in-depth analysis using actual income/expenses provided by the Petitioner.
Mr. Walker stated that there were two scenarios used in the recommendation. He explained that the first scenario used income/expenses provided by the Petitioner; the second scenario used market rents, typical vacancy, collection losses and expenses. He commented that he did not know which one was given weight in this decision. He explained that the income provided to them would have indicated a much lower value and that using market rents, etc. and some other scenario on what the rent-up would be, would produce a different result. He remarked that they were not privileged to see the information to determine which approach was given the weight. He stated he would like to see the information before supporting this recommendation.
The Chairman stated that there was a motion on the floor and asked for any further discussion.
Mr. Metz commented that he understands that the law provides that the Property Appraiser’s assessment shall be entitled to a presumption of correctness if there is a preponderance of the evidence supporting it. He explained that the Special Magistrate’s report indicated that there was a preponderance of the evidence supporting it. He commented that he shared in Mr. Walker’s concern about an inadequately described record, but must put some credence in the recommendation of the Special Magistrate.
The Chairman asked for any further discussion, and there being none, asked for a vote on the motion. The motion to uphold the Special Magistrate’s decision to deny Petitioner’s request for relief with regard to Petition Nos. 2009-506 through and including 2009-508 carried by a 3-2 vote. Mr. Walker and Mr. Smith both voted “no.”
valuation petition nos. 2009-510 and 2009-511
Mr. Walker stated that the same situation discussed in the previous petitions applied to Petition Nos. 2009-510 and 2009-511 in that the appraiser used market rents, consulted realty rates, estimated market expenses and vacancy collection losses of 15 percent. He commented that the occupancy according to the Petitioner on January 1, 2009, was 29 percent compared to 84 percent as of January 1, 2010. He stated that the increase resulted from rent concessions and, again, if they had to cut their rent considerably to try to maximize their occupancy, the income approach used for this could very well be off. He explained, however, based on what Mr. Metz stated earlier regarding preponderance of the evidence going to the appraiser, that he would withdraw his objection to both Petition Nos. 2009-510 and 2009-511.
On a motion by Mr. Walker, seconded by Commr. Stewart, and carried unanimously by a 5-0 vote, the Board upheld the recommendation of the Special Magistrate to deny Petitioner’s request for relief.
category 2 - recommendations to deny Petitioners’ relief for petitions with written responses
On a motion by Commr. Stewart, seconded by Mr. Walker and carried unanimously by a 5-0 vote, the Board upheld the Special Magistrates recommendation to deny Petitioners’ requests for relief on all petitions in Category 2 with the exception of Petition Nos. 2009-204, 2009-211, 2009-379 and 2009-158.
Petition No. 2009-204
Commr. Stewart stated that she was concerned because the report of the Property Appraiser indicated consideration of three sales for larger parcels of land and questioned whether or not the price would be higher for the larger parcels. She commented that it would seem if similar properties were compared, then they could not be compared to larger parcels. She explained that she supported the recommendation to deny the request given by the Special Magistrate, but was concerned about the comparison.
Commr. Stewart moved that the Board uphold the Special Magistrate’s recommendation to deny Petitioner’s request for relief regarding Petition No. 2009-204. The motion was seconded by Mr. Metz.
Under discussion, Mr. Metz stated that they have the recommendation of the Special Magistrate and the Petitioner’s submitted documentation which contains additional data in the form of comparables, and asked the VAB Counsel about the procedures in this instance. He questioned the Board’s ability to consider the new data submitted by the Petitioner and weigh it against the record evidence submitted by the Special Magistrate.
Ms. Tucker explained that they should keep in mind that the Petitioners were invited to respond with a legal argument if they disagreed with the Special Magistrate’s recommendation; however, they were not invited to resubmit evidence. She stated that the Special Magistrate sat before the Property Appraiser and the Petitioner and reviewed all the evidence at the hearing, and was contracted by this Board to mete-out all the evidence. She explained that the evidence submitted by the Petitioner and before the Board at this meeting was not to be considered. She commented that they were not aware if this was the exact manner in which the evidence was presented at the hearing. She stated that the Special Magistrate who reviewed the evidence may not have considered all these items. She commented that the Petitioner had the ability to have a hearing and present the evidence before the Special Magistrate. In summary, she stated that the evidence before the Board should not be considered.
Mr. Metz explained that he wanted to ensure that the VAB honored the procedural due process rights of the property owners. He commented that if the Board has the ability to readdress previously overlooked considerations, then they should. He remarked that if they were confident the procedure was conducted in accordance with the rules, then the Board should not go outside the record and consider new and additional evidence as expressed by Ms. Tucker.
There was no further discussion on this matter. The Chairman asked for a vote on the motion to uphold the Special Magistrate’s recommendation to deny Petitioner’s request for relief on Petition No. 2009-204. The motion carried unanimously by a 5-0 vote.
petition no. 2009-211
Mr. Walker stated that they had before them the Special Magistrate’s recommendation on Petition 2009-211 as well as the response from the Petitioner which included a market analysis. He reported that the Property Appraiser appealed by way of a worksheet. He commented that within the appeal Comparable No. 3 was listed on both the Comparative Market Analysis (CMA) and the Property Appraiser report, and reflects a considerable discrepancy between the data. He explained that the Property Appraiser indicated a value on Comparable No. 3 of $105.63 per square foot based on 1136 square feet; where the CMA shows it as 1400 square feet and indicated a square foot value of $85.71. He commented that if the CMA Comparable is correct, there might have been some indication at the hearing that there was a possible reason to consider a lower value. He noted that he could not determine which data was correct – the 1136 square feet or the 1400 square feet.
The Chairman asked Ms. Tucker to address this concern.
Ms. Tucker stated that she did not know the answer. She explained that presumably the Special Magistrate reviewed the evidence and made his determination accordingly.
Mr. Walker stated that he did not find anything in the Special Magistrate’s report that indicates that he found any problem with that comparable.
Mr. Royce interjected asking that they refer to the last paragraph on the bottom of the Special Magistrate’s report which states that the Petitioner was not present and did not present any evidence; therefore, the evidence before the Board is new and has not been verified.
Mr. Metz referred to an email from a representative for the property owner attaching their appraisal report on page 63 under Category 2 which indicates that the property owner did not receive notice of the hearing date and, therefore, did not attend the hearing. He questioned whether proper notice was given.
Ms. Tucker stated that the Clerk’s Office delivered all the notices timely. She explained that the rules state that if the notices have a time date stamped on them as to when they were mailed within the 25 days, then it is presumed prima facie evidence that they received notice. She stated that the Clerk’s Office did not fail once in getting the notice to any petitioner.
Mr. Metz stated that the evidence indicated the only letter the property owner received was a letter dated April 21, 2010, from Neil Kelly and he was not aware of the content of that letter.
Ms. Tucker explained that the April 21, 2010, letter was one that invited the Petitioner to reply with a written response and also provided the date of the hearing for recommendation by the Special Magistrate.
Mr. Metz clarified the matter by stating that, legally, there is a presumption that notice is given if the notice was mailed to the address of record. He stated that if anything came back undelivered it would be accounted for by the Clerk’s Office and would be presumed delivered otherwise.
Ms. Tucker responded that was correct.
There was no further discussion.
On a motion by Mr. Walker, seconded by Commr. Stewart and carried unanimously by a 5-0 vote, the Board upheld the Special Magistrate’s recommendation to deny Petitioner’s request for relief on Petition No. 2009-211.
petition no. 2009-379
Mr. Walker referred to page 68 under Category 2 where the Petitioner claimed there was no notice of the Property Appraiser’s comparables in the time frame required prior to the Special Magistrate’s hearing. He commented that the Petitioner states the comparables were personally delivered to him and received at approximately 10:00 a.m. on February 17, 2010, which did not allow him ample time to prepare for the hearing. He noted that if the Petitioner was correct in stating that he was not given adequate notice this petition should be reheard.
Commr. Conner questioned whether or not the Petitioner attended the hearing or was it simply that he did not have time to adequately prepare for the hearing.
The Chairman asked Counsel if public input was allowed at this meeting.
Ms. Tucker stated that there was no opportunity at this meeting for anyone to testify.
Mr. Walker questioned Ms. Tucker as to whether or not he was given the proper notice in view of the fact that it states the comparables were hand delivered to him on February 17, 2010, when the hearing date was February 21, 2010.
Ms. Tucker stated that she investigated this matter and found no fault with the Property Appraiser’s Office. She explained that at issue was the exchange of evidence. She did not believe there was any prejudice to the Petitioner after reviewing the information.
Commr. Conner asked if the Petitioner received ample notice of the hearing.
Ms. Tucker stated ample notice of the hearing was given to the Petitioner.
Mr. Peter Peebles, Senior Supervisor, Property Appraiser’s Office, commented that the issue was not the notice of hearing, but rather receiving the evidence in a timely manner prior to the hearing.
Ms. Tucker directed the Board back to her point explaining the issue at hand; and stated that it was not about the hearing. She explained that there was absolutely no dispute that this Petitioner had notice of the hearing. She stated that the issue before the Board is whether or not the Petitioner received the exchange of evidence from the Property Appraiser within ample notice of the hearing. She commented that the evidence that was exchanged must be by the rule and there is no indication from her investigation that the Property Appraiser’s Office withheld this evidence from him.
Commr. Conner declared that pursuant to Ms. Tucker’s remarks the Property Appraiser’s Office had complied with the law.
Ms. Tucker stated that was correct.
Mr. Walker asked if there was a statutory time period for the exchange of evidence.
Ms. Tucker commented that the requirement is seven days prior.
Mr. Walker asked if the Petitioner received the exchange of evidence within that time frame.
Ms. Tucker responded that the Petitioner stated that he did not.
Mr. Royce stated that the evidence was mailed prior to the requirement. He explained that when the Petitioner notified them that he did not receive it, they drove it to his home and personally delivered it to him. He further stated that nothing was mentioned at the Special Magistrate’s hearing that there was any problem with the lack of evidence.
Ms. Tucker declared that there was no indication in her investigation of this case that the Property Appraiser’s Office did anything wrong, but rather went above and beyond their duties by hand delivering the evidence to the Petitioner.
Mr. Smith moved that the Board remand this recommendation back to the Special Magistrate for review. The motion was seconded by Mr. Walker.
Mr. Royce mentioned that there were certain forms to be used in remanding it back to the Special Magistrate which indicate what findings of fact and conclusions of law were in question.
Ms. Tucker explained that they had not used the forms in the past. She explained that the form used to remand the recommendation was at the discretion of the Board as to what the Special Magistrate would hear.
Commr. Stewart asked if the hand delivered evidence was given to the Petitioner in a timely fashion prior to the hearing date.
Mr. Royce stated he did not know the date of the hearing, but that the evidence was not hand delivered within seven days prior to the hearing. He commented that his office was notified by the Petitioner that he had not received the evidence, noting that it had been mailed timely.
Commr. Conner commented that good effort was shown on the part of the Property Appraiser’s Office.
Mr. Metz stated that the property owner’s letter contained other arguments as well. He commented that he could not discern whether or not these were prejudiced by the untimely delivery of the evidence. He noted that the Board had discussed procedures earlier in the meeting and wanted to ensure that fairness was applied in the proceeding. He explained that as an attorney practicing law in litigation cases, the courts apply the standard to the individual as to whether or not it is prejudicial to the proceeding. He asked Ms. Tucker if that was what she would consider to be the standard in this instance.
Ms. Tucker stated that she considered the standard to be the individual.
Mr. Metz asked Ms. Tucker to explain how she determined there was a lack of prejudice to the property owner.
Ms. Tucker remarked that the Petitioner still had the evidence in a format that allowed him to research the evidence that was given to him by the Property Appraiser’s Office. She stated that there was no indication that the Property Appraiser’s Office failed to mail it to him in a timely manner.
Mr. Metz commented that it was not the mailing, but rather the appraisal comparables, that the Property Appraiser was using to support its recommendation and if there was not enough time to get rebuttal appraisals then he opined that would be prejudicial.
Ms. Tucker explained that in her estimation it was not, but it was not her decision to make. She explained that the Board was responsible for that decision.
Mr. Metz stated that it was a close call and that he would support the motion on the floor because he was not convinced of procedural compliance and to start over would not be prejudicial to either party other than the delay in time and added expense.
There being no further discussion, the motion on the floor carried unanimously by a 5-0 vote, for the Board to remand the recommendation for Petition No. 2009-379 back to the Special Magistrate for review.
petition no. 2009-158
Mr. Metz stated that he pulled this item to question procedural considerations and this individual, in his response, indicated that he did not receive comparables that he requested. He noted that this was similar to the issue in the previous Petition, No. 2009-379. He commented that he would like to know Ms. Tucker’s opinion on what she did to obtain the merits, if any, of this particular procedural complaint.
Ms. Tucker responded that at the onset of this matter she had spoken with Mr. Jeppesen on at least four occasions. She commented that his statements to her were that he was having a hard time getting evidence from the Property Appraiser’s Office. She reported that she investigated the matter, looked into whether or not the Property Appraiser’s Office had provided the information; saw no indication that they withheld information; and saw a pattern being set by Mr. Jeppesen of continually asking for the information from them, as well as contacting her repeatedly. She explained that it was difficult to determine whether or not the Property Appraiser’s Office refused to give him the information. She mentioned that Mr. Jeppesen told her that he was denied the evidence from the Property Appraiser’s Office. She noted that while she had a very difficult time believing that, it was also something he told her on a number of occasions. She mentioned that she had spoken with the County Attorney’s office, counsel for the Property Appraiser, regarding this matter and did not believe that the County Attorney’s Office took any action, which led her to believe there was no problem. She remarked, however, she cannot independently verify that and was not sure, in her capacity as legal counsel for the VAB; it was her job to review the procedures of the Property Appraiser’s Office. She stated that she could not imagine that the Property Appraiser’s Office absolutely denied giving him information upon his request. She commented that she did, however, understand that he had cross words with several members of the Property Appraiser’s Office, but she cannot say that the Property Appraiser’s Office was at fault after having personally spoken with Mr. Jeppesen. She commented that she did not know the answer, nor did she know if she could obtain one. She stated that his statements were clearly problematic.
Mr. Metz stated that in the previous case the Board saw that the Property Appraiser’s Office bent over backwards by hand delivering the evidence upon request even though they had mailed it earlier. He remarked that he believes and gives credence to the Property Appraiser’s Office as complying with the procedural requirements. Therefore, he stated that he could not accept the blanket rebuttal letter that states they never gave him anything at all. He explained that he was not inclined to support a remand under the circumstances.
Ms. Tucker asked that the Board keep in mind that it was very difficult to prove a negative.
Mr. Walker interjected that this was the write-up of the Special Magistrate which indicates that classification issues were discussed, Petitioner was advised at the hearing Petition No. 2009-158 concerned value only, and that classification issues would be heard before an attorney Magistrate. He asked for clarification as to whether or not they forwarded this petition to an attorney Magistrate.
Ms. Tucker replied that it was not forwarded to an attorney Special Magistrate. She stated that Special Magistrate, Denise Lyn, heard exemption matters and had heard that portion of the petition. She commented that the Board had already ruled on that issue.
On a motion by Mr. Metz, seconded by Mr. Walker and carried by a 4-1 vote the Board upheld the recommended decision of the Special Magistrate to deny Petition No. 2009-158. Mr. Smith voted “no.”
category 3 – petitions WITHDRAWN AND GRANTED by special magistrate
On a motion by Mr. Walker, seconded by Mr. Smith and carried unanimously by a 5-0 vote, the Board upheld the Special Magistrate’s recommendation to grant the withdrawal of the petitions in Category 3.
category 4 – petitions granted by special magistrate
On a motion by Mr. Walker, seconded by Mr. Smith and carried unanimously by a 5-0 vote, the Board upheld the decision of the Special Magistrate to grant all petitions in Category 4.
contract renewal for special magistrates
Ms. Tucker stated that last year the Board contracted with Ms. Denise Lyn, Ms. Kathy Edmundson and Mr. Paul MacDermott for Special Magistrate services on a one-year contract which expires in September, and allowed an opportunity to renew the contract twice. She mentioned that there was nothing in their packet regarding this matter; however, she needed to discuss it with the Board in order to proceed. She reported that she had received an email from Ms. Susan Dugan, Senior Contracting Office, Procurement Services, who inquired how the Board would like to proceed. She commented that due to the fact that the Request for Proposal (RFP) process took such a long time last year, she would like to know what information the Board would like to have available to them when considering renewal of the Special Magistrate contracts. She stated that she presumed that they would like to have a copy of their contracts along with some of their billing statements. She expressed the need to take action at the June meeting.
Commr. Conner asked for Ms. Tucker’s recommendation.
Ms. Tucker responded by stating that all the Special Magistrates this year performed their duties and responsibilities well, and were very prompt returning their recommendations.
The Chairman asked that Ms. Tucker include any items for discussion at their meetings in the Agenda under a separate tab in order for the VAB to be made aware of upcoming discussions in advance. He asked if they were to vote on this matter today.
Ms. Tucker replied that they were not to make any decisions today.
Commr. Conner asked that Ms. Tucker prepare an Agenda item for the June meeting with her recommendation and the Board would act accordingly. He asked if anyone on the Board would like to provide direction for Ms. Tucker in this regard.
Mr. Walker remarked that he would like to consider their billing, their contracts, Ms. Tucker’s opinion of their performance, and would like to know if there was any reason to believe that they could have the jobs done at any lesser expense with an equal result by rebidding. He mentioned that if, in fact, Ms. Tucker’s conclusion was that the Special Magistrates performed their duties timely and submitted reasonable billing statements, he would conclude that the contracts should be renewed rather than going through the RFP process. He stated that they would like to know how economically feasible it would be to retain the Special Magistrates who are already under contract.
Ms. Tucker advised the Board that she would not be requesting a renewal of her contract for next year and, therefore, it would be necessary to seek another attorney for her position. She explained that because Ms. Brenda Law, Clerk, would be on maternity leave during that time period, she felt it best to move on the RFP for the attorney position as soon as possible for purposes of training. She asked for the Board’s permission to begin that RFP process.
On a motion by Mr. Smith, seconded by Mr. Metz and carried unanimously by a 5-0 vote, the Board directed Ms. Tucker to begin the RFP process for legal counsel for the VAB.
Mr. Metz stated that it was his opinion that the Special Magistrates performed very well last year and that the Board should, in all fairness, consider going to the public for a bid request on those services. He opined that he was not in favor of automatic renewals. He commented that once the bids were submitted and reviewed they could then make their decision. He noted that confidence levels and relationships that are built over time with an attorney/client relationship might justify a Board not putting that job out to bid every year, but felt it would not hurt to consider it.
Commr. Conner remarked that he was not aware that Ms. Tucker would not be renewing her contract.
Ms. Tucker explained that she only recently made the decision not to renew her contract. She explained that it is an enormous job. She commented that the highlight of her position as VAB counsel was meeting with the Board and providing them with all the pertinent information. She commented that the Clerk’s Office makes the job a lot easier than it could be. She assured the Board that she would train and sit alongside the new counsel until her contract expires in September.
Commr. Conner stated that it was his understanding from the discussions that the Board would like to send out an RFP for the Special Magistrates as well. He asked that Ms. Tucker prepare that as an Agenda item for the next meeting, but questioned whether or not she would like direction now.
Ms. Tucker stated that she could prepare an Agenda item as requested, but was simply asking for direction from the Board to go forward with the RFPs today.
The Chairman stated there was a consensus of the Board for Ms. Tucker to go forward with the RFP for the Special Magistrates’ positions in addition to the VAB counsel position as directed earlier.
Mr. Royce opined that the Board needed to be aware of how well the public has been served by both its attorney and the Clerk’s Office. He commented that he had been doing this job for 20 years and although some members had served previously, he wanted them to know that the public has been well served by the Clerk’s Office in the manner they treat the public. He also stated that VAB Counsel served the County well in dealing with the public by answering their phone calls and letters.
Commr. Conner thanked Mr. Royce for his remarks, noting that he concurred. He stated further that the Property Appraiser’s Office also does a great job. He mentioned that with the myriad of cases they have they cannot bat 1,000, but opined that they averaged 999 plus. He commented that he has always been impressed with Mr. Havill, Property Appraiser, and his staff and what they accomplish with such difficult issues. He agreed with Mr. Royce that the Board has a good team of which the Property Appraiser’s office is an important part.
Proposed final 2009 tax year vab meeting
Ms. Tucker stated that there was an error with one group of the Special Magistrate’s recommendations and those items that had been stricken from the spreadsheet were being resolved. She reported that they have approximately eight tangible property issues. In addition to those cases, the Board will be reviewing the billing in order to approve the vendors’ bills for the year. She stated that they would also be certifying the tax roll at the June meeting. She stated that due to the fact she needs the recommendations back from Special Magistrate Edmundson; no date has been set for the June meeting.
Commr. Conner asked if an RFP had been prepared for the position of VAB attorney and if it stipulated the experience required.
Ms. Tucker noted that the attorney is required to have five years experience practicing law. She explained that she and Ms. Dugan will prepare an RFP similar to the one they used for her position two years ago. She stated that she would advertise for the attorney position and the Special Magistrates as soon as possible. She commented that she would serve until her contract expired at the end of September. She suggested that it would be helpful to select the attorney this summer because the new rules require that hearings be held no earlier than 30 days and no later than 60 days after the mailing of the notice which will be sent out in August. She explained that the hearings would need to be held in October and it will be a tremendous undertaking for the new attorney. She commented that she would train the new attorney to ensure the Board was well taken care of next season.
Mr. Walker requested that Ms. Tucker schedule the June meeting any day other than a Wednesday morning.
Ms. Tucker stated she would make sure the meeting date would not conflict with his wishes.
There being no further business to be brought to the attention of the VAB, the meeting was adjourned at 11:34 a.m.
JIMMY conner, CHAIRMAn
NEIL KELLY, CLERK