AUGUST 19, 2008

The Lake County Value Adjustment Board met in regular session on Tuesday, August 19, 2008, at 8:30 a.m., in the Board of County Commissioners’ Meeting Room, Lake County Administration Building, Tavares, Florida.  Commissioners present at the meeting were: Welton Cadwell, Chairman and Linda Stewart.  Commr. Stivender was absent.  Mr. Larry Metz was present from the School Board. Others present were: Sanford A. “Sandy” Minkoff, County Attorney; Frank Royce, Chief Deputy, Property Appraiser’s Office; Barbara Lehman, Chief Deputy Clerk, County Finance; Kevin McDonald, Budget Officer, Clerk Finance, and Ellie McDonald, Deputy Clerk.

Commr. Cadwell called the meeting to order at 8:30 a.m. and noted that a quorum was present.


The Chairman asked for approval of the Minutes of the July 15, 2008, meeting.

On a motion by Mr. Metz, seconded by Commr. Stewart, and carried unanimously by a 3-0 vote, the VAB approved the Minutes of the Organizational Meeting held on July 15, 2008, as presented.


Mr. Sandy Minkoff, County Attorney, stated that he had just recently learned the qualifications to be considered for the position of counsel for the VAB.  He commented that the Department of Revenue (DOR) and the Legislature had not been very well organized in terms of the new process and thus he was not timely in getting this information to the VAB.  He explained that the VAB had directed him to advertise for counsel and distributed a copy of the Statute regulating the VAB to appoint private counsel who had practiced law for over 5 years and who should receive such compensation as may be established by the VAB.  He went on to say that the Statute explains that private counsel may not represent the property appraiser, the tax collector, any taxing authority, or any property owner.  He stated that they had received four applications in response to the advertisement, copies of which he had given to each member of the VAB.  He explained that he would like to discuss two of the applications before going further, one from Bryant, Miller & Olive; and the other from Williams Wilson & Sexton.  He remarked that he knew very little about the Williams firm, but that Bryant, Miller & Olive was an excellent law firm, noting that they were counsel for the Board of County Commissioners (BCC) for Bond Disclosure.  He explained that one of the things these firms and the DOR were struggling with was the language in the Statute stating the attorney could not represent any taxing authority or any property owner.  He mentioned that the DOR’s interpretation was that they cannot represent any taxing authority anywhere in the State or any property owner who challenges taxes anywhere in the State.  Since the firm of Bryant, Miller & Olive represents the BCC they would not be qualified.  He commented that Williams Wilson & Sexton is the County Attorney for a county in Florida’s panhandle and therefore, would not be qualified.  He mentioned that Mr. Lonnie N. Groot, an attorney formerly associated with the Williams firm, and who had practiced in Seminole County with the County Attorney’s office there would like to be considered for this position.  He went on to say that Mr. Groot’s application should not be considered because the firm was not qualified.  The remaining two applications were from Mr. Robert E. Bone, Jr., of Leesburg, a sole practitioner who has been in Lake County for approximately two years and was with Bogin, Munns & Munns prior to starting his private practice; and the other was Ms. Leigh Tucker, from Clermont, who had previously worked for the Lake County Attorney’s office.

Mr. Metz interjected by asking if the two firms from outside the County were disqualified because of their association with other county governments.  He questioned whether those qualifications came from the Statute or elsewhere.

Mr. Minkoff stated that the qualifications came from the Statute but there was also a Department of Revenue clarification issued late last week which confirmed that in their view the attorney could not represent a government anywhere in the State.

Mr. Metz quoted the Statute in part as follows: “. .Private Counsel may not represent the property appraiser, the tax collector, any taxing authority, or any property owner in any administrative or judicial review of property taxes.”  He commented that he felt this provision was placed in the Statute to avoid conflicts of interest.  He went on to say that a person representing a county in the panhandle would have no conflict of interest with anything being done in Lake County.

Mr. Minkoff explained that the Florida Association of County Attorneys (FACA) has a message board (“listserv”) where attorneys from all counties can post messages or questions and that recently there had been a lot of discussion on attorney representation for the VAB because some of the counties initially interpreted the Statute just as Mr. Metz.  He commented that there were only one or two lawyers in some of the small panhandle counties which justified some of the county attorneys participating in more than one county to keep the costs down.  He explained that the Department of Revenue indicated that this practice was not acceptable and, therefore, the VAB was bound to follow the ruling as it now stands.

Mr. Metz then stated that he understood they were, therefore, back to the two qualified applicants.

Mr. Minkoff responded that was correct and that an attorney would have to be in place by September 1, 2008.  He commented that the Statute requires that the attorney must have training by the DOR before they can do anything, but the training was not available as of this date.

Commr. Cadwell commented that he did not know Mr. Bone, but that Ms. Tucker had worked for the County previously and had done an excellent job, but had left to go into private practice.

Mr. Minkoff agreed with Commr. Cadwell’s comments regarding Ms. Tucker.

Mr. Metz stated that it was his understanding that they had personal knowledge of Ms. Tucker’s abilities.

The County Commissioners and Mr. Minkoff stated that yes, they were aware of her abilities and commented that she would do a good job.

On a motion by Commr. Stewart, seconded by Mr. Metz and carried unanimously by a 3-0 vote, the VAB approved the appointment of Ms. Leigh Tucker as the attorney to represent the Value Adjustment Board.

Mr. Minkoff stated that he would present her with a contract so that she could work with the Clerk to schedule another organizational meeting to start the process after September 1, 2008.  He remarked that the School Board and County Commission would need to have their citizen members on board at that time as well.

Mr. Metz pointed out that the attorney selected, Ms. Tucker, had presented the lowest bid in terms of the hourly rate requested.


Mr. Minkoff reported that the Property Appraiser had requested that the County Attorney’s office represent them in the Value Adjustment process since their office would no longer advise the VAB.  He commented that this would be brought up before the County Commissioners, but wanted to make sure the VAB had no objection.  He opined that this would be permissible and asked for a consensus of the VAB to go forward in doing so, mentioning that it would save money for the Property Appraiser.

It was a general consensus of the VAB that the County Attorney could represent the Property Appraiser’s office in the Value Adjustment process.


            There being no further business to be brought to the attention of the VAB, the meeting was adjourned at 8:40 a.m.