NOVEMBER 18, 2008

The Lake County Value Adjustment Board met in regular session on Tuesday, November 18, 2008, at 2:00 p.m., in the Board of County Commissioners’ Meeting Room, Lake County Administration Building, 315 West Main Street, Tavares, Florida.  Commissioners present at the meeting were: Jennifer Hill, Vice-Chairman; and Linda Stewart.  Larry Metz was present from the School Board and Will Walker was present as the citizen member appointed by the Board of County Commissioners. Others present were: Leigh Tucker, Counsel for the Value Adjustment Board; Barbara F. Lehman, Chief Deputy Clerk, County Finance; Peter Peebles, Field Supervisor, Property Appraiser’s Office; and Ellie McDonald, Deputy Clerk.  Mr. Ralph Smith, citizen member appointed by the School Board was absent.

Commr. Hill called the meeting to order at 2:03 p.m.


Commr. Hill introduced Mr. Will Walker as the newly appointed citizen member of the Value Adjustment Board (VAB) appointed by the Board of County Commissioners (BCC).


On a motion by Commr. Stewart, seconded by Mr. Metz and carried unanimously by a 4-0 vote, the VAB approved the Minutes of October 28, 2008.


Commr. Hill commented that the new VAB notebook had been prepared and distributed and would be discussed by Ms. Leigh Tucker, VAB Counsel.

Ms. Tucker stated that the notebook was a compilation of all the documents mentioned at their previous meeting.  She called attention to the contact information in the front of the notebook with the Interim Training at the back.  She suggested they start with the Interim Training because it would guide them through the different rules they would be dealing with as members of this Board.  She explained that they need not go online for the training, as suggested at the previous meeting, as this was a copy of the presentation from page 1-37.  She noted that pages 37-101 of the Interim Training PowerPoint presentation were not contained in the notebook and were more in depth, noting that those pages would be provided later in the process.  She commented that they should review the pages in the notebook as they would answer the questions brought up at the last meeting.

Commr. Hill inquired about the language reflected in red within Rules 12D-9 and 12D-10.

Ms. Tucker stated that these were the “draft” Rules which are to be used until the final rules are received.  She noted that those provisions in red are notations; that anything that is underlined is an addition; and language that is stricken will no longer appear in the final rule at this stage.  She explained that updates will be provided when the Legislature makes changes to the rules.  She stated that if anyone had any questions once they read the information they should feel free to contact her.


Ms. Tucker explained to Mr. Walker that at the last meeting the VAB appointed her as designee to go through all the late petitions that were filed, commenting that the VAB is charged with determining whether or not someone has shown good cause to file late.  She stated that she has now reviewed all of the late petitions and at this time did not find any that had cause to be included in the review process this year.  She reported that she understood that another late petition had been filed that has not yet come to her for review.



Ms. Tucker explained that at the last meeting the Board decided it would renew the two Special Magistrates contracts by extending them for a one year period. She stated that those two contracts have now been renewed.  She explained that both hers and the Special Magistrates’ contracts reflect the ability to submit monthly bills.  She stated that last year both Special Magistrates submitted their bills at the end of the year; however, she was not sure that would remain the case this year.  She remarked that the Clerk’s office would need the Board’s authorization to pay the bills as they are presented and suggested that unless the Board would like to meet once a month to authorize payments, such an authorization should be made today.  She commented that at the present time, without knowing the amount of the bills, perhaps they would like a cap amount, and anything in excess of that cap would require presentation to the Board to obtain authorization.  She suggested that a good cap might be $6,000 - $8,000.

Commr. Hill asked if that cap figure would be a collective amount of the bills.

Ms. Tucker stated that she thought that between each one, whatever their billable rate is, it would be up to the Board to suggest the dollar amount for the cap.  She commented that the Board could make the cap, and authorize the Clerk’s office to pay the bill without having to convene for that particular issue.

Mr. Metz commented that they had voted on the two Special Magistrates at the last meeting and wanted to know if there was actually a written Contract Amendment for the two Special Magistrates and questioned who signed it.

Ms. Tucker stated that the Contract Amendment was authorized earlier in the month and Ms. Barbara Lehman, Chief Deputy Clerk, County Finance, emailed it to her.  She asked Ms. Lehman if she remembered who executed the contract.

Ms. Lehman stated that the Contracting Officer has the ability to extend the contract for a year without it coming back to the Board for approval and, therefore, the Contracting Officer signed an extension to the contract.

Mr. Metz questioned whether a formal agreement was extended to Ms. Tucker as counsel for the VAB and, if so, when it was signed.

Ms. Tucker stated that she had a contract as well which was signed in August when the Board of County Commissioners met and the two VAB members agreed to hire her.  At that time a contract was presented to her, she signed it and sent it back to the County Attorney’s office.

Mr. Metz stated that he remembered this Board selected Ms. Tucker from the submitted bids, but did not see the contract.  He asked how the contracting process, and implementation thereof, worked.

Ms. Tucker stated that she and Mr. Sandy Minkoff, County Attorney, signed her contract; and that the Special Magistrate’s renewal contracts were signed by Ms. Susan Dugan, Senior Contracting Officer, Procurement Services.

Commr. Hill commented that it went before the Board of County Commissioners.

Mr. Metz inquired as to whether the VAB had contracting authority.

Ms. Lehman stated that she thought it was a gray area because the expenses of the VAB are to be split on a 60/40, or so, basis between the School Board and the Board of County Commissioners.  She commented that the contracts may have been completed on behalf of the Board of County Commissioners and that she would have to go back to see how it was structured as she was not completely sure.

Mr. Metz stated that he would like to know whether the BCC or the VAB was the contracting party with Ms. Tucker’s firm and thought they needed to see the contract to figure out the housekeeping arrangements for this Board.  He then reverted back to the question regarding authorization of payment for the attorney and inquired as to whose job it was to review the attorney’s invoices for this Board.

Commr. Hill stated that if they sign off on the payments, they would at least like to see the invoices and inquired as to the checks and balances with regard to this process.

Ms. Lehman stated that formerly all invoices for legal counsel have been reviewed by the County Attorney’s office.  She commented that presently, from an operating standpoint, if the VAB authorizes the Clerk’s office to pay the bill and it is presented to them, then they could include it in the VAB package for review at the next meeting.  However, as Ms. Tucker pointed out, that would require a meeting of the VAB every time a bill is submitted which would result in numerous short meetings.  She explained that if they would like to give prospective approval for the bills, they would pay them and then present copies to the VAB with backup for same.  She stated that if they then had any questions or disputes about the bill, they could discuss it and adjustments could be made on future payments.

In response to a question by Commr. Hill regarding whether they are to pay the bills monthly or quarterly, Ms. Tucker explained that the contracts require each individual to submit their bills on a monthly basis.  She commented that she did not know if the Special Magistrates would submit their bills on a monthly basis because last year they waited until the end of the year.  She explained that she had submitted a bill for last month and the Clerk’s office needed authorization to pay it.

Mr. Metz stated that he would like to see the bill before instructing the Clerk’s office to pay it and wanted to implement a process to be followed in this regard.  He commented that as an attorney with years of experience he wanted to have a clear understanding up front about what the expectations were with the attorney and the client.  He stated that although he did not think they should meet every time they receive a bill, he felt there should be a process built into the system.

Ms. Lehman stated that there were a couple of points to be considered, one of which was the fact that these rules were not effective until September 1, 2008, and the organizational meeting was held on August 19, 2008.  At that meeting the attorney was hired and that may have been the reason the BCC signed that contract.  Secondly, she stated that it was her understanding that this is a Sunshine committee and therefore, they cannot individually send the bill to the Board members and request an action be taken.  That being the case, in order for the Board members to review the bill before it is paid, they would be required to convene a meeting.  In the alternative, she stated that they could present the backup for the bill in a public meeting for review and discussion at that time.  She asked Ms. Tucker if that was a correct understanding.

Ms. Tucker stated yes.

A full discussion ensued among the VAB, Counsel, and Ms. Lehman wherein they brainstormed capping the amount of prospective payments; establishing a process for payment of invoices by ratification; proper review of the invoices by the VAB; and what constituted billable time from the attorney’s standpoint.

On a motion by Mr. Metz, seconded by Mr. Walker and carried unanimously by a 4-0 vote, the VAB approved payment of invoices from legal counsel, as well as from the Special Masters, in the following manner:  That the Clerk’s Office be authorized to process and pay the invoices on a timely basis after which the invoices will be copied and provided to the VAB as part of their Agenda packet for the next meeting.  The Board would then be able to review the bills, question or make comments about them, or request modifications as deemed appropriate.  Once that process is completed, they would then ratify the payments either as made, or as amended by the Board.


            There being no further business to be brought to the attention of the Board, the meeting adjourned at 2:30 p.m.