october 27, 2009

The Lake County Value Adjustment Board met for an organizational session on Tuesday, October 27, 2009, at 2:00 p.m., in the Board of County Commissioners’ Meeting Room, Lake County Administration Building, Tavares, Florida.  Commissioners present at the meeting were:  Jimmy Conner; and Linda Stewart.  Larry Metz was present from the Lake County School Board and Ralph Smith and Will Walker were present as citizen members.  Others present were:  Leigh Tucker, Counsel for the Value Adjustment Board; Barbara Lehman, Chief Deputy Clerk, County Finance; Kevin McDonald, Budget Officer, Clerk Finance, and Ellie McDonald, Deputy Clerk.

APPOINTMENT of chairman

Ms. Leigh Tucker, counsel for the Value Adjustment Board (VAB) stated that this was an Organizational Meeting of the VAB for the Tax Year 2009/2010 noting that Commr. Jimmy Conner has now been appointed to the VAB.  She remarked that the first order of business should be that of choosing a Chairman.

On a motion by Will Walker, seconded by Commr. Stewart and carried unanimously by a vote of 5-0, the VAB appointed Commr. Conner as Chairman of the Value Adjustment Board for the 2009/2010 Tax Year.



Ms. Tucker reviewed the Agenda items to be discussed today.  She commented that the Special Magistrate contract extensions for last season had been completed and that Mr. Mort Aulls, Attorney Special Magistrate for last year, had decided he would no longer have the time to hold that position and noted that since his contract had expired his position was placed up for bid.  She explained that the contract for Mr. David Taylor, appraiser Special Magistrate had also expired with no more extensions and, therefore, that position was placed up for bid.  She explained that she would like the VAB to choose the Special Magistrates for this tax year at this meeting in order to enter into a contract with them.  She opined that they would not be appointed until after they have proven that they have completed the requisite training through the Department of Revenue (DOR) Program.  She commented that some of the applicants had already taken the training.  She also noted that she would like to review the timeline for this tax year.  She referenced the applications for the attorney Special Magistrate located in their notebooks, and commented that the appraiser Special Magistrates applications had not been included in the notebook and would be distributed shortly.  She explained that if they did not feel comfortable making choices from the appraiser applications today she would understand given the short review period.

The Chairman asked if Ms. Tucker had any recommendations as to the selection of the Special Magistrates and asked for those recommendations.

Ms. Tucker asked if they could continue with Item 1. on the Agenda before reviewing the Special Magistrates and her recommendations.


Ms. Tucker explained that she would like the Special Magistrates to begin hearings during the first and second weeks of December and the first, second and third weeks of January.  She stated with that schedule they would have the late petitions back from the attorney Special Magistrate by the end of January and recommendations back from the Special Magistrates by March 1, 2010.  She noted that the hearings held for Tax Year 2008 were in July, August and September of 2009.  She explained that with the proposed schedule for Tax Year 2009 she anticipated they could be heard in April and May of 2010.  She stated that the timing was off last year due to the change in DOR Rules and hoped they could get back on track and be certified by June and July.  She stated that with the VAB’s approval they could select the two Special Magistrates at today’s meeting.

On a motion by Mr. Metz, seconded by Commr. Stewart and carried unanimously by a vote of 5-0, the VAB approved the proposed schedule for the VAB Tax Year 2009/2010 subject to modification as necessary during the year.


Ms. Tucker explained that they were to select a Special Magistrate for the attorney position and two Special Magistrates for the appraiser position.

attorney special magistrate

The Chairman asked Ms. Tucker for her recommendation regarding the attorney position.

Ms. Tucker stated that her recommendation was for Ms. Denise A. Lyn who was in the audience today.  She explained that Ms. Lyn had extensive experience with representing the Property Appraiser in the past, and was currently in a practice dealing with ad valorem taxation.  She commented that Ms. Lyn jumps off the page in terms of qualifications, was reasonably priced, and well experienced.

The Chairman asked for discussion on the recommendation presented.

Mr. Metz questioned whether they were to choose only one Special Magistrate for the attorney position or could they have a backup in case there were potential conflicts or unavailability of the primary attorney.

Ms. Tucker stated that based on the prior year and discussion with Mr. Frank Royce, Chief Deputy, Property Appraiser’s Office, she believed that the workload for the attorney position was small enough that it could be handled by one attorney Special Magistrate.  She remarked that the only instance where they may have needed someone else in that position in the past year was when Mr. Aulls’ brother passed away and it was necessary to reschedule the hearing.

Mr. Metz commented that he understood the recommendation of having only one person for the attorney position who would be doing the work, but questioned if they would need to send out another RFP if that particular person could not handle the workload, or if an unforeseen situation occurred where the person would not be available due to an illness or an accident.  He asked if they could select a backup now to be available under those circumstances.

Ms. Tucker answered by stating that in that scenario it would require sending out another RFP to obtain a backup.  She commented that historically the VAB has not required a backup for a Special Magistrate.

Commr. Conner asked if any of the applicants were qualified to be a backup that Ms. Tucker could recommend.

Ms. Tucker stated that she did not have a recommendation for a backup from the current applicants for the attorney position.

Commr. Conner opined that the need for a backup was a good point due to unforeseen circumstances, but understood the statements by Ms. Tucker and if something were to happen they would want to go through the RFP process.

Mr. Metz explained that the reason for his question was in relation to the schedule they approved earlier and thought it would be difficult to keep on track if something unforeseen occurred.  He opined that Attorney Lyn was far and above the most qualified in the group of applicants and her hourly rate was the lowest.  He also noted that Attorney Lyn was the only applicant within the Fifth Judicial Circuit although she was not located in Lake County.

On a motion by Mr. Metz, seconded by Commr. Stewart and carried unanimously by a vote of 5-0, the VAB approved the selection of attorney Denise A. Lyn as the attorney Special Magistrate for purposes of negotiating a contract for the year 2009/2010.

Commr. Conner noted that he was familiar with Ms. Lyn and that she had impeccable credentials and opined that to get someone with her experience was a positive move.


The Chairman stated that the next matter of business was the selection of the appraiser Special Magistrate from the applications presented to the VAB at the meeting this morning. He remarked that they obviously did not have time to review those applications and questioned if the board members would like to have a recommendation from Ms. Tucker in order to select someone for the appraiser position today, or if they would rather review the applications.  He asked if Ms. Tucker had a recommendation for this position.

Ms. Tucker replied that she did have recommendations for this position.

The Chairman stated that the applications and any items on the Agenda need to be in the VAB notebooks in the future.  He asked if the board would like to move this item to a later date.

Mr. Metz stated that he would find it helpful to hear Ms. Tucker’s recommendations and then take a recess and read the applications.

Commr. Conner stated that he was unable to recess today and that they either needed to vote on, or postpone, the selections.

Commr. Stewart asked to hear the recommendations of Ms. Tucker.

Ms. Tucker stated that there were four applications for the appraiser position.  She commented that the two of the applicants from Lake County were the most qualified and had the lowest hourly rates.  She remarked that in addition, one of those applicants, Ms. Kathryn Edmundson from Clermont had served as a Special Magistrate for several other counties in this area and her background is impeccable.  She explained that Ms. Edmundson has been appraiser for a Certified General Appraiser for over ten years, which makes a difference based on DOR Rules, and is a member of a nationally accredited board which would also entitle her to be an intangible tax appraiser Special Magistrate.  She stated that she also recommended Mr. Paul MacDermott from Mt. Dora who is well qualified and has been practicing since 1986 and also has impeccable references.  The other two applicants are from out of the County, one from Miami and one from Winter Park.  She commented that she did not believe that Mr. Norbert from Miami submitted enough information in his application to determine whether or not he was qualified.  She noted that Mr. Dolney from Winter Park is well qualified but she did not find a significant amount of county Special Magistrate experience.

Mr. Conner asked if her recommendation was for the two Lake County applicants.

Ms. Tucker replied that was correct.

Mr. Walker asked if Mr. MacDermott was a general or residential appraiser.

Ms. Tucker responded that Mr. MacDermott is a general appraiser and has the same certifications as a real estate appraiser.

Mr. Smith asked for clarification on the fact that they were hiring two appraisers from the four applicants.

Ms. Tucker stated that they were hiring two appraisers as Special Magistrates.  She remarked that it was her recommendation that this year they have two appraiser Special Magistrates due to the number of petitions to be heard.

Mr. Walker made a motion to approve the selection of Ms. Kathryn B. Edmundson and Mr. Paul W. MacDermott as the appraiser Special Magistrates for purposes of negotiating contracts for the year 2009/2010, which was seconded by Commr. Stewart.

The Chairman opened the floor for public comment.

Ms. Denise A. Lyn, attorney, addressed the board stating that she had worked with Ms. Edmundson as general counsel for the Citrus County Property Appraiser’s office.  She explained that Ms. Edmundson was the Special Magistrate for the Value Adjustment Board there and had done a wonderful job for them.

The Chairman asked if everyone was comfortable with the motion on the floor.

Mr. Metz stated that he was confused as to why they only had one attorney and two real estate appraisers as Special Magistrates and questioned the reasoning behind that.

Ms. Tucker remarked that in the 2008 Tax Year they had approximately 23 petitions to be heard by Special Magistrate Aulls regarding exemptions, and there were over 300 petitions for  the appraisal portion regarding valuation hearings.  She stated, therefore, she believed that one attorney would be sufficient this season as there are 60 or less of those petitions, and thought it would be appropriate for the attorney Special Magistrate to read the arguments of the late petitions and make a ruling on those in addition to hearing the petitions for exemptions.  She commented that she did not think it was as much as what the property appraiser Special Magistrates were going to deal with.  She noted that there were more than 500 valuation petitions this year and it would be more helpful to have more than one appraiser Special Magistrate to hear those.  She explained that it was a strain to get the valuation recommendations in on time last year due to the abundance of petitions, therefore, two appraisers would be helpful in this instance.

The Chairman asked for any further discussion.  He stated that the motion on the floor made by Mr. Walker, and seconded by Commr. Stewart was to appoint Kathryn B. Edmundson and Paul W. MacDermott as appraiser Special Magistrates for the VAB Tax Year 2009/2010 and asked for a vote.  The motion carried unanimously by a vote of 5-0.


Ms. Tucker stated that that the training process would not bear as much of an impact upon this season for the applicants selected today as it would have if they had chosen an applicant who had never been in this process.  She stated that the selected Special Magistrates would be required to sign up with the DOR for the training session if they had not already completed same and that she would ensure that would be done.


Ms. Tucker stated that in late petitions filed were categorized as not getting the petition filed on a timely basis.  She commented that the 2008 DOR Rule states that the board can designate either the clerk, the attorney, or a Special Magistrate to make the determination whether a late petition meets good cause in order to include it for consideration to be heard.  She explained that the Rule as rewritten this year removes the clerk as one of those entities designated to make that decision.  She went on to say that in 2008 the VAB asked her to make those determinations.  She remarked that she made her good cause determination on approximately 16 late filed petitions last year.  She opined that it would be more appropriate that the determination of late petitions be left to the attorney Special Magistrate and felt more comfortable with an extra layer of due process.  She asked that the VAB remove her from the responsibility of making good cause determination of late petitions and transfer that responsibility to the new attorney Special Magistrate.

On a motion by Mr. Metz, seconded by Mr. Smith and carried unanimously by a vote of 5-0, the VAB directed that late petitions be forwarded to the Special Magistrate attorney for disposition in accordance with law.


Ms. Tucker stated that, if necessary, she would like to have a final meeting before the Special Magistrate hearings in December in order to clear up any housekeeping issues.


The Chairman asked for comments from the board.

Mr. Metz commented that all documents to be discussed on the Agenda should be provided prior to the meeting.  He noted that during the discussion of the appraiser applicants, he had spread out the applications and was able to locate the pertinent data that assisted him in making his decision, noting that every application was considered before he voted.  He explained that he felt comfortable with the motion and the vote he gave.


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