A PENNY SAVED IS A PENNY SPENT
"The County's unmet needs for jails and law enforcement is reaching crisis proportions in Brevard County," wrote Sandy CrawfordÙ , President of the East Merritt Island Homeowners Association in a 1986 letter to County Administrator Greg Keller questioning how the County had spent its half of a fifth cent sales tax. "We have sought accountability for these funds but were told that they went into the General Revenue Fund.'"
During 1982, the State of Florida raised the state sales tax from 4% to 5%. Former County Attorney Bob Nabors worked diligently for the passage of the bill through the Florida Legislature. Recognizing the growing needs in the counties for funds to combat a rising crime rate, the Legislature voted to return half of that additional penny per dollar revenue to each county.
Governor Bob Graham wrote a letter to all County Commissioners expressing the state's intention in sharing was to provide funds for much needed projects, like jails, and law enforcement. He warned the counties not to be tempted to spend it elsewhere.
Even though, Nabors, had worked to pass the tax and knew what the state had intended the money to spent for; he later performed as Bond Counsel when Brevard County pledged $37 million of their fifth cent revenue for nonessentials.
Brevard County Commissioners Joe Wickham, Gene Roberts, John Hurdle, Lee Wenner, and Val Steele voted to build a new $8-12 million jail, planning to fund the construction with the shared revenue from the new fifth cent sales tax.
Then in 1983 Commissioners Joe Wickham, Sue Schmitt-Kirwan, Van Steele, Gene Roberts and Theo York voted unanimously to construct a new correctional facility for all inmates. The Board decided to ask the voters in November whether they wanted a sixth cent sales tax for one year to pay for the new jail. Commissioner Gene Roberts cast the lone dissenting vote against the additional penny tax.
In order for the Board to place the item on the November ballot for voter approval, they advertised for a Public Hearing to be held on October 25, 1984.
Glen Hoskin, a concerned taxpayer attending the Public Hearing and asked a very significant question, "What happened to the money the County received from the fifth cent sales tax that was supposed to be used to build jail facilities?" County Administrator Peter Hayes answered, "Those revenues had been set aside and could be used to meet the cost of the jail if the referendum failed."
Commissioner Theo York retorted, "The staff was directed to set aside those funds to build the jail."
Little did Glen Hoskin know that the General Fund had swallowed up all but $4.4 million of that money.
In an attempt to push for the necessity of the sixth cent tax, Commissioner Sue Schmitt-Kirwan said, "The 1982 motion was to approve the concept of funding the jail from the fifth cent sales tax. The option today is to pay for the jail in one year through the one percent tax, with tourists paying a portion of the costs, or to pay for a bond issue over a long period of time."
Commissioner Theo York continued to hold their feet to the fire by asserting to Sue Schmitt-Kirwan, "If revenues from the five cents sales tax were set aside, there would not be a need for the special tax."
Believing that the entire subject of a new jail was a questionable issue, taxpayer Mrs. Smith Whiteside inquired, "Why was the County buying new property and constructing a new building when the original jail was built to accommodate additional stories?"
Accepting no further comments or objections, a motion was made by Commissioner Schmitt-Kirwan, seconded by Commissioner Wickham to adopt the one penny sales tax if the majority of the voters approved it. The motion was carried and ordered unanimously.
County Administrator Peter Hayes and Commissioner Sue Schmitt-Kirwan organized the S.A.V.E. (Savings Awareness Voter Education) Committee to convince voters of the merits of the November referendum. The Board spent $2,000 to run a color, quarter page ad three times in the Florida Today newspaper under the S.A.V.E. byline. Well-intentioned, civic minded citizens donated their time and energies to S.A.V.E. They were trained to stump the county telling the voters that there were only two choices to consider in financing the new jail: a one year one cent sales tax at a total cost of $15 million or a 20 to 30 year bond issue at a total cost of up to $50 million. S.A.V.E. members were never informed about the fifth cent sales tax plan. Nor were they instructed to inform the public that the county was building a costly, luxury type jail with dayrooms.
The public accepted S.A.V.E.'s position and the sales tax referendum passed. The question is, "Were the taxpayers SAVEd or sold a bill of goods?"
By approving the extra penny tax, taxpayers unknowingly rewarded the Commissioners irresponsible behavior. By not holding the Commissioners accountable for the fifth cent sales tax revenues, the spending level of the County budgets continued to increase unchecked. (See Chapter 7)
None of the fifth cent sales tax was spent to build a new jail or new courthouse. The County Finance Department stated that, "No record is kept as to how the sales tax has been spent, all the monies are transferred into the County's General Fund Budget." Through the County's sleight of hand, the sales tax revenues from November 1983 through May 1992 of over $76 million was commingled with all the other County sources of revenue.
Back in 1986, the East Merritt Island Homeowners Association asked the County for a complete accounting of the fifth cent sales tax revenues in the General Fund. And were told that $4,406,125 was used for property tax reduction and the rest was put into the General Fund with some going to the Sheriff's department for operation and the rest used for non-earmarked expenditures.
The County's actions in December of 1987 and August of 1988 are the best indicators of how the fifth cent tax revenues was used. The County pledged their part of the 1/2 cent sales tax revenue as collateral for loans on acquisition and construction of capital improvements. This included $27.5 million to acquire beach front property, construct libraries, and so forth, and for two golf courses for $9.685 million.
The County pledged this $37 million for debateable items when it was sorely needed and intended for vital new jails or renovation of courthouses. And even though Bob Nabors had worked to get the fifth cent sales tax passed for the construction of jails, he seemed to look the other way as he operated as the County's Bond Counsel for both of these bond transactions, earning over $80,000.
The Board of County Commissioners has placed another sales tax referendum issue on the November 3, 1992 ballot. Its purpose? You guessed it, they are asking you to give them another one penny sales tax to be spent on expanding the county jail and improving police departments. But this time, not for one year but 21 months.
A FALL FROM GRACE
"You all finally gave in to the pressure of the Constitutional Officers, the judges, the Clerk of the Court and the State Attorney, (didn't you)?" U.S. District Judge Robert R. Mehrige, Jr. asked Hugh Muller during the January trial of Brevard County vs. W.R. Grace & Co.
The six story Titusville, Florida Courthouse was built in 1967 using sprayed on fireproofing that contained asbestos. Prior to 1986, all the criminal cases for Brevard County were handled from this location. The presence of asbestos in the courthouse was identified by a state agency and made known to the County in 1983.
There were 730 air samples tested throughout the Courthouse by five different asbestos assessment firms beginning in 1983. Not one test suggested that the building posed a health hazard to office workers until February of 1988. The results of that final test were later discredited in court by expert witnesses.
Many Brevard County residents have suspected that the drive for a new Judicial Center was behind the manner in which the asbestos problem in the Titusville Courthouse was handled. The transcript of the recent trial of Brevard County vs. W.R. Grace & Co., the minutes of the December 16, 1987 White Lung Association meeting, and depositions taken for the W.R. Grace and the Patricia Griffin & the Brevard County Bar Association vs. Brevard County case support that contention.
If Brevard County judges did not deliberately contrive to create the "emergency" that shut down the Courthouse, evidence presented at the January trial certainly seemed to lead the federal judge who presided, and the jury, to that conclusion. Testimony in the trial brought into sharp focus the sequence of events leading up to the closing of the Titusville Courthouse.
Without a firm plan for removal, Brevard County Commissioners wasted up to $7 million to relocate the employees, to vacate the building and to remove the asbestos, starting in February of 1988. The County sued the asbestos manufacturer, W.R. Grace with the trial occurring in January of 1992. Brevard County lost their $11.3 million lawsuit while
paying their own outside attorneys over $350,000. The Titusville Courthouse is still gutted and vacant as of August of 1992.
The following evolution of this fiasco is based upon the 1,736 page transcript of the County's trial against W.R.Grace; depositions of Commissioner Sue Schmitt-Kirwan, Judge Dean Moxley, County Administrator Tom Jenkins, Facilities Manager Hugh Muller; newspaper accounts, and a five part series done by Carol Hayes for The Reporter newspaper of Rockledge. Portions of Carol Hayes' articles have been used in their entirety and as excerpts.
The presence of asbestos in the Titusville Courthouse was identified by a state agency and made known to the county in 1983. Brevard County judges first learned about it in October of 1985 from the Florida Department of Environmental Regulation (D.E.R.).
Circuit Judges John Antoon II and Dean Moxley brought their concerns about possible asbestos contamination to a September of 1985 judges meeting. Both men were resident judges in the Titusville Courthouse at the time. They expressed concern about excessive dust particles in their chambers.
The judges formed a Resident Judges Committee at the suggestion of Judge Charles M. Harris and John Antoon II to decide what to do about the asbestos "problem" in the building. Although there was no chairman initially, Circuit Judge Frank Pound appeared to have assumed the role later. "We all acted as chairman," Judge Moxley said in sworn testimony, "That's the way judges are."
Dr. Mosier, who is a specialist in lung disease, spoke at the January 1986 judges meeting at Judge Moxley's invitation. Dr. Mosier discussed asbestosis and cancers attributable to long and cumulative exposure to asbestos fibers. He told the group that there were no safe levels of asbestos for industrial employees exposed to certain kinds of asbestos. The other judges in the group supported Judge Moxley's efforts to influence the County Commission to proceed with immediate removal of the asbestos and with plans for a Central Courthouse.
As a result of Dr. Mosier's presentation, the judges agreed to request the County Commission to remove all of the asbestos in the courthouse. The action was requested by Circuit Judges Dean Moxley, Tom Waddell, and Gilbert S. Goshorn.
Judge Moxley acknowledged later in court testimony that although Dr. Mosier's statements were in conflict with federal O.S.H.A. guidelines and those of the state D.E.R., he was greatly influenced by the doctor's opinion. Judge Moxley also testified at the trial that he had not sought information from the Environmental Protection Agency (E.P.A.). Certain E.P.A. publications he had seen said there were safe levels of asbestos. He said this was inconsistent with Dr. Mosier's statements and his own belief.
Board Chairman Sue Schmitt-Kirwan was appointed by the Board of County Commissioners as the Board's Courthouse Coordinator. She testified at the January 1992 trial that she did not call E.P.A. or O.S.H.A. about the asbestos. She did not recall that the State of Florida, Division of Occupational Safety and Health did its own air testing in the Courthouse and advised the County that there was no hazard.
Flowers Chemical Labs, hired in 1985, conducted air quality tests and gave the County a report that the air tests were essentially negative. There was no hazard within the Courthouse.
County Safety Officer Les Forsberg was trained by the Florida Bureau of Industrial Safety and Health. He had worked for this agency before his employment by Brevard County in 1984. He was the County's in-house asbestos professional, as well as the Safety Officer. For a very brief period the commission authorized him to train other employees in asbestos removal. He was allowed to remove the asbestos in Commissioner Sue Schmitt-Kirwan's office in 1985.
Les Forsberg, however, was not put in charge of the Courthouse asbestos problem. He nevertheless made his experience available and prepared a maintenance plan for the Courthouse. It followed E.P.A. guidelines with which he was familiar.
According to state and federal asbestos guidelines, the mere presence of asbestos in a building does not constitute a health hazard. To pose a danger, asbestos fibers must be released through deterioration or damage in areas of a building frequented by personnel. Or in such a way that air conditioning and heating ducts circulate the fibers. It is the friability (crumbling) of asbestos that may pose a threat to human health.
The guidelines are very reassuring on this point. They call for regular visual inspections of the condition of the asbestos in a building in addition to air testing and suggest containment and encapsulation as possible solutions to the problem. Total removal is recommended as a long term permanent solution.
According to County Safety Officer Forsberg's assessment report to the Commission in October of 1985, plumbers and electricians working in locations not accessible to other people had caused the only significant damage to the asbestos in the courthouse. He recommended that:
1) the county replace any ceiling tiles which had holes in them
2) provide special protection for maintenance workers who might come in contact with crumbly "friable" asbestos
3) replace vacuum cleaner filters with H.E.P.A. filters
4) monitor water damage, which could cause asbestos to crumble (the building had chronic leaks)
5) and consider encapsulation or removal as a long term solution.
The following May (1986) Les Forsberg asked his superior to relieve him of further involvement with the asbestos situation because he was getting conflicting directions from half a dozen people. He said this made it impossible for him to perform effectively.
Later during the County's trial against W.R. Grace, Brevard County's attorney objected to the entry of Les Forsberg's memo as evidence in the recent asbestos trial. He said that it was irrelevant.
According to the trial transcript, at a bench conference away from ear shot of the jury, U.S. District Judge Mehrige responded, "You must not have been listening. (Forsberg) was complaining that all of the Commissioners, the judges and everybody in the world was trying to run the job."
Hugh Muller, the County's Facilities Maintenance Director, had similar problems. He stated under cross examination that he "had some things done because of directions from the Commissioners or pressure by judges that (he) would not have had done if (he) had been calling the shots. Commissioners were trying to please the judges."
At a June of 1986 judges meeting, Judge Dean Moxley unsuccessfully urged the judges to take legal action against the Brevard County Commission. He presented them with two options: he wanted them to give the county a thirty day ultimatum to remove all asbestos from all courthouses and test the Melbourne Courthouse at once, or to ask the Brevard County Bar Association to file a lawsuit against the County Commission.
Instead, the judges authorized Judge Moxley to inform the Commissioners that an "urgent health hazard" existed. This proposal came from Circuit Judge Edward M. Jackson and Judge Lawrence V. Johnston III. The motion passed by a 7 - 3 vote. The dissenters were Judges Antoon, Moxley, and Harris.
This dissenting trio opposed the motion because they wanted the judges to take affirmative action or to support a lawsuit against the Brevard County Commission, according to Judge Moxley's sworn testimony. Judges Moxley and Antoon had already been to the Board of Governors of the Brevard County Bar Association one week before the judges meeting. They had asked the group to file a lawsuit against Brevard County. And the Board had already accommodated them by passing a resolution of intent to file an Abatement of Nuisance suit against the County.
Sometime between June and September of 1986, Dr. Mosier told Judge Moxley that amosite asbestos particles were the real threat to health. Low levels of chrysotile particles did not cause significant problems. Judge Moxley immediately contacted the County's asbestos consultant to find out what kind of fibers had been found in the Courthouse. The firm reassured him in October that there were no amosite particles in the air samples taken from the Courthouse.
Judge Moxley, however, did not share the good news. "I just kept (the letter)." he stated under deposition.
The Federal District Court Judge, who heard the County's case, commented during the trial at a Bench Conference out of earshot of the jury: "Moxley is such an advocate for his position that it borders on the ridiculous. I'm shocked. A judge."
In 1986, the Board of County Commissioners, with Commissioners Sue Schmitt-Kirwan, Thad Altman, Andrea Deratany, Roger Dobson, Charlie Roberts, hired Harphi, Inc. of Tallahassee to conduct a survey of the Courthouse and make recommendations. In December of 1986, they presented a report which estimated the complete removal of the asbestos in the whole building at once at a cost of $2 million or in a two phase approach, three floors at a time. This included moving the people out, removing the asbestos, replacing the rugs, replacing the ceiling tiles, etc. and moving the people back in. Harphi, Inc. estimated that if they started in December of 1986 they would be done in 1987.
As early as December 9, 1986 Commissioners had unanimously agreed to have the Harphi firm remove the asbestos from the Courthouse.
Something happened and Harphi, Inc. was not allowed to start. The County delayed implementation until the results of a proposed Space Needs Study would become available, according to a December 2, 1986 memo from the County Administrator Greg Keller.
Brevard County judges were applying persistent pressure on the Commission to get moved out of the courthouse, as they had done since 1985. The County reassured Judge Dean Moxley back in 1986 that "if the air levels in the Courthouse ever increase to an unacceptable or hazardous level, the County will immediately close down the Courthouse."
An outcry also came from the constitutional officers and the other employees in the building when a rumor spread that a serious health hazard existed. It appeared to be a bona fide issue of public health and safety. Taxpayers throughout the County, who would share the enormous costs that followed, were sympathetic.
Hundreds of thousands of dollars were spent on experts to take air samples. Hundreds of these tests were performed with none of them violating the O.S.H.A. standard. These samples were taken on all six floors, even up in the air plenum area that the County contended was contaminated. Some were taken during the day and during the night, some were taken outside the building showing more asbestos fibers than inside the building.
At the March of 1987 judges' meeting, the group decided the chief judge was to request from the County Administration a complete asbestos report on the Courthouse and the Titusville judges agreed they would stay in temporary space until the new Central Justice Center was available.
In 1987, the County employed E.G.&G./Entec to prepare plans and specifications for the removal project. They also did extensive air testing. Starting in August of 1987, they did over 100 tests a month and every month Brevard County staff would issue a report to the Brevard County Commission and other occupants of the courthouse telling them that the air testing results were negative, that the building was not hazardous to occupy - that no one had any cause for concern.
In August of 1987 the County was pursuing the purchase of modular buildings for around $4 million as temporary offices for employees. Some taxpayers wanted to know why they didn't just rent, because they would be moving back into the Courthouse shortly. Some taxpayers believed money should not have been wasted buying modulars. To the dismay of many, the County bought these modulars.
In September of 1987, E.G.&G./Entec recommended a phased removal on a floor by floor basis. By doing this it would be less expensive: instead of needing 70,000 to 100,000 sq.ft. of alternate space, the County would need only a fraction of that as each floor was evacuated and cleaned one at a time. Also the floor by floor removal would not trigger compliance with new building code requirements that a total removal would cause.
In a 4 - 1 vote that same month the Board adopted a plan to have the asbestos in the Courthouse removed one floor at a time. Commissioner Sue Schmitt-Kirwan opposed the plan.
Even though the County Commission agreed to remove the asbestos floor by floor, aside from regular air testing, no effective asbestos removal plan for the Courthouse appeared to have been followed.
On September 19, 1987 Commissioner Roger Dobson's special assistant contacted the Akron Ohio firm of V. & S. Co., a subsidiary of an asbestos removal firm Control Resource Industries, Inc. William Petersen, a company representative, looked at the Courthouse and also recommended the floor by floor removal instead of moving everybody out at once.
In November of 1987, Brevard Circuit Judge John Antoon II temporarily transferred his proceedings from Titusville to Melbourne.
The judges then hired their own consultant. Judge Dean Moxley hired James Fite from a group called White Lung, an asbestos victims advocacy group whose members are activists in the field of asbestos abatement. James Fite was a victim of lung cancer, not an asbestos expert. He was a former shipyard and assembly line worker and had also been a truck driver. Judge Moxley later told the court that James Fite was an "independent expert, answerable to the judges".
On December 16, 1987 James Fite and Judge Moxley held a meeting with County Facilities Manager Hugh Muller and other county officials. A transcript of the meeting revealed:
1) Fite suggested that the County should discontinue air samples, because continuing air sampling would undermine a potential lawsuit that might pay for the removal because some of the samples were showing a higher incidence of fibers outside the Courthouse than inside.
2) James Fite severely criticized the County for depending upon air testing and not checking with state and federal regulatory agencies. He misinformed the group by telling them that air testing was no longer recommended by E.P.A., the Navy, John Hopkins, or O.S.H.A. And that it "puts you on very shaky legal ground."
3) At this meeting James Fite encouraged the County to sue the asbestos manufacturer to recoup the cost of asbestos removal. Judge Moxley suggested that the County might have a good legal case against the manufacturer or the contractor who put the asbestos in the building.
4) James Fite then urged immediate action to remove the asbestos and shore up a good legal case to recover costs. He said this would also protect the County from potential health claims by employees.
5) James Fite, the judge's consultant, told County officials, "All the brooms, dry mops, vacuum cleaners, floor buffers be preserved, bagged in six mil bags and preserved.." When asked why he replied, "Hopefully if we put them under electron microscopy, we'll find no fibers or little fibers and that will be part of our defense when someone gets sick and says, I got sick here. One of the ways you're going to prove that there was no contamination in this building before you removed it, it is not your air sampling but your accumulated dust; your accumulated dust will stand up much better as a defense." Fite continued, "In any event, you want to be able, you want to hold on to that material to prove your case either way, to justify why you're doing this, to show that there was no contamination before you removed the material in the living spaces, etc." During the trial, Grace's attorney asked Judge Moxley, "Didn't you think it was disingenuous of Mr. Fite to be advising the County how to prove no contamination and at the same time recommending that there was a serious problem that needed to be dealt with?" Moxley, "No..."
6) When the County's consultant pointed out that the asbestos fiber counts were all well below what is considered dangerous by the regulatory agencies, the judges' consultant James Fite responded, "E.P.A. is full of beans. E.P.A. is run by the same agencies that it needs to regulate. And these Florida environmental people couldn't pour asbestos out of a boot with the directions written on the heel."
7) "If you want me to come in here and show you some air levels. I can come in here one week and show you some levels that will empty this building next week." Fite said.
Hundred's of thousands of dollars were spent for 730 air quality tests that were done over a three year period, and none exceeded the O.S.H.A. standard for air quality. These O.S.H.A. regulations establish the level of asbestos fibers in the air at which an employer must take action to protect the safety of its employees.
E.G.&G./Entec, which had done extensive air testing showing the building to be safe, was fired January 6, 1988.
ATEC of Palm Bay was hired in January and fired the next month in February of 1988, because it was said they did not follow James Fite's cleaning standards.
In January of 1988, Judge Moxley went to the Board of County Commissioners and asked them not to remove the asbestos floor by floor but all at once.
On January 14, 1988 Judge Moxley went to see the Brevard County Bar Association and again asked them to file suit against Brevard County.
In February of 1988 Brevard County Bar Association officers threatened to file suit if the Courthouse was not evacuated by February 19th.
Judge Lawrence Johnson notified the Commission Chairman Sue Schmitt-Kirwan that if the County failed to relocate the Titusville judges within forty-five days, the judges would refuse to continue to hold court in the building.
During the January of 1992 trial, Commissioner Sue Schmitt-Kirwan, who was not only Chairman of the Board at that time but also designated Board Coordinator for the Courthouse project, was asked, "Do you remember getting a letter from the judges saying that we are going to close down the court operations in 45 days unless the building is evacuated."
Commissioner Schmitt replied, "I recall we received a letter from the judges. I am not sure exactly what it said."
W.R. Grace's attorney then asked Commissioner Schmitt if Brevard County's Bar Association had threatened a lawsuit against the County if the building was not closed, "do you remember that?"
Schmitt replied, "I recall the Bar Association in some fashion being involved, but I don't recall exactly what it was."
During February of 1988 the Board of County Commissioners hired Tom Jenkins as the County Administrator after Commissioners Sue Schmitt-Kirwan and Andrea Deratany said they would only support Tom Jenkins for the job. After the County hired Tom Jenkins, a story came out in Florida Today that Tom Jenkins resigned from a Broward County administrative job after allegations of bid rigging surfaced.
About the same time, a "Users Committee" - composed of Brevard County Bar Association members, judges, State Attorney Norm Wolfinger, Clerk of the Court Ray Winstead, the Public Defender J. R. Russo, and Sheriff Jake Miller - were reviewing proposals for land for a new Courthouse in Rockledge or Melbourne.
After a succession of four consultants the County hired another, Asbestos Technologies, Inc. (A.T.I.) in February of 1988. Meantime, County Administrator Tom Jenkins requested emergency authority to perform no bid contracts. The Board approved.
The decision was made to remove the employees from the sixth floor and have A.T.I. clean the sixth floor for $20,249. Later after the emergency evacuation of the Courthouse, A.T.I. received a no bid contract to clean the other five floors for $643,600. Bear in mind each floor in the Courthouse had approximately 18,000 square feet, except for the first and second floors. The first floor was bigger, and the second was a little smaller because it had a mezzanine. Be thankful it wasn't a ten story building.
In court testimony Facilities Manager Hugh Muller expressed discomfort with this apparent conflict of interest, and with the methods used by A.T.I. in cleaning the sixth floor. He described them as "somewhere between light housekeeping and a heavy vacuum cleaning and wet down."
A.T.I.'s previous asbestos assessment experience had been limited to two buildings. The company's business was asbestos removal. Bill Martin, A.T.I.'s main representative had no formal asbestos training prior to his employment with the company. He had never testified as an expert witness. His asbestos training came from two 14-day short courses. A.T.I. went out of business shortly after they completed their contract with Brevard County.
Things came to a head during the week of February 22, 1988. Judge Dean Moxley, without any authority and with full knowledge of the ramifications of performing aggressive testing in an occupied building, told A.T.I. to do aggressive air testing in the judges' offices on the fifth floor of the Courthouse. A.T.I. used a 120 m.p.h. leaf blower in the office to collect particles for analysis. The resulting 3.642 count per cubic centimeter was said at the time to greatly exceed the O.S.H.A. safety limit.
E.P.A. handbooks do not recommend highpowered air blowing as an evaluation procedure. It is a method used after asbestos removal is complete to make sure a building is "clean". There is no precedence in E.P.A. records for its use in an occupied building.
Jim Littell, regional asbestos coordinator for the E.P.A.'s Atlanta office said that the E.P.A. does not recommend aggressive sampling. "To actually do something like that disturbs me," Littell said.
Also there were three things wrong with the 3.642 count from the leaf blower test, according to a specialist in materials analysis who testified at the January trial.
1) The sample was prepared by an indirect transfer method, which breaks fibers down and increases the count artificially.
2) The 3.642 number referred to all fibers, not just those over 5 microns, which the O.S.H.A. standard was based upon. The true count did not exceed the O.S.H.A. safety standard.
3) And the results of a leaf blower test would only be relevant if the use of a leaf blower was a normal working condition in the building, according to the expert.
Robert J. Lee, an expert in materials analysis, testified in court that the leaf blower approximated 140 m.p.h. winds, "a hurricane and a half. Results of that test tell you that you could have had people in the area working eight hours a day without any respiratory protection." Even Bill Martin of A.T.I., the firm that used the leaf blower, admitted under oath that the results after final testing were still "10 to 20 times lower than the O.S.H.A. (danger) level."
From February 22 to 24, 1988 the State of Florida came back to inspect the Courthouse again. This inspection occurred at the same time that Bill Martin of A.T.I. was using his leaf blower and stirring the dust. Their report states, "based upon the results of air samples collected on February 24 and observation made on February 22nd and 24th, no violation of the current regulations were apparent. All samples were collected according to current federal O.S.H.A. methods, result of the monitoring indicated below, eight hour weighted average exposures in every case were less than point 01 fibers. These values are well below the current Florida occupational health standard." They say they couldn't finish their survey, because they shut the Courthouse down and kicked them out.
According to Judge Moxley's deposition on Saturday, February 27, 1988, he and Judge Charles Harris decided the Titusville Courthouse was unsafe and held a press conference. They told the press that the building should be vacated without getting County Administration involved. Judge Moxley had A.T.I. put signs on the building stating not to enter without respirators. Judge Moxley stated in his deposition, "effectively what happens on Monday, the Brevard County Courthouse in Titusville ceases operation."
At 2 p.m. on Sunday, February 28th a meeting was held to determine the fate of the Titusville Courthouse and only one Commissioner, Sue Schmitt-Kirwan, was on hand. If there was ever a prime example for the need of an emergency meeting of the Brevard County Board of County Commissioners, this was it. But it did not occur. Some of the people at this Sunday meeting were: Commissioner Sue Schmitt-Kirwan, County Administrator Tom Jenkins, Clerk of the Court Ray Winstead, Judge Clarence T. Johnson, Facilities Manager Hugh Muller, Court Administrator Bill Dietz, A.T.I representative Bill Martin, and Southeast Chemists representative Buddy Newton.
"You all finally gave in to the pressure of the Constitutional Officers, the judges, the Clerk of Court and the State Attorney, (didn't you)?" U.S. District Judge Robert R. Mehrige, Jr. asked Hugh Muller during the January of 1992 trial of Brevard County vs. W.R. Grace & Co.
"That is a fair statement," Hugh Muller replied.
Minutes of this meeting reflect what occurred. After pages of discussion on fiber length, size, count, and air testing, Buddy Newton, A.T.I.'s analyst, stated, "E.P.A. and O.S.H.A. would say they (air quality tests) are in compliance." He questioned E.P.A. and O.S.H.A. standards on the fiber counts and, with prodding, stated his personal feelings, "I would not feel comfortable going into this building with out respiratory protection."
Commissioner Sue Schmitt-Kirwan commented, "We have to take the advice of the consultant" and with that, the Courthouse was doomed.
No one suggested that they wait for complete air test results before they drew conclusions. No one suggested that they seek advice from their own in-house asbestos expert, Les Forsberg. No one suggested that they find out what the State of Florida found when they tested the Courthouse.
The Board of County Commissioners did not approve the closing, and yet court testimony revealed that the legal authority for shutting down the Titusville Courthouse rested solely with the entire Brevard County Commission. The Courthouse was closed on Sunday February 27, 1988. Subsequently, the Courthouse occupants moved from about 110,00 square feet to 155,300 square feet of rented or owned office space for over four years.
On March 2, 1988 the Florida Today newspaper headline story was, "Judge authorized asbestos test. A Brevard County judge authorized an asbestos test in a fifth-floor Courthouse office last week even though he knew the test might contaminate the entire building by increasing the amount of asbestos in the air. Circuit Judge Dean Moxley said Tuesday he asked a foreman for A.T.I., a Jacksonville consulting firm hired by the county" to perform the leaf blower test.
Judge Moxley denied to Florida Today that he overreacted to tests showing high levels of Courthouse asbestos because he had been trying to get officials to listen to him for more than two years.
On February 26, 1988 Judge Dean Moxley and Judge Charles Harris requested a Grand Jury investigation of two asbestos firms employed by the County because the firms had consistently maintained that the Courthouse was safe for occupancy.
On Monday February 28 Judge Dean Moxley signed a Court Order stopping anyone from removing personal property from the Titusville Courthouse before it had been through a cleaning process. Commissioner Schmitt-Kirwan said anyone going into the Courthouse would be held in contempt of court.
After five months, the grand jury completed its investigation and issued its report. It was quite critical of "the failure of the County Commissioners and County Administration to establish a firm asbestos removal plan and to implement an effective operation and maintenance program once asbestos was discovered, this led to a feeling of apprehension among employees and members of the public."
The grand jury report criticized "the failure of the judiciary housed in the Courthouse to work through the Brevard County Commission. Indeed they took an adversarial role and spent tax dollars to hire their own expert advocate." It described the emergency evacuation and closing of the Titusville Courthouse as "an unfortunate incident which could in hindsight have been avoided."
W.R. Grace's attorney asked Commissioner Schmitt-Kirwan, who was Chairman of the Board and also Board Coordinator for the Courthouse at the time, "What were the results of that grand jury investigation?"
Commissioner Schmitt-Kirwan replied, "I don't know. I'd have to see the exact wording that they had."
Attorney: "Did you read the report?"
Attorney: "What do you recall about the grand jury's findings with respect to the Board's conduct?"
Schmitt-Kirwan: "I'm sorry I really don't remember."
Attorney: "The grand jury also criticized the judges for acting too swiftly; is that correct?"
Schmitt-Kirwan: "I don't know. I don't."
On January 29, 1992 Brevard County lost its $11.3 million law suit against W.R. Grace & Company, the manufacturer of the fireproofing that contained asbestos, despite the efforts of Brevard County's attorneys for the case Adams & Reese and Barnham & Markle. It was an unsuccessful attempt to recover the cost of removing asbestos from the Titusville Courthouse and the other expenses attendant upon moving and housing personnel elsewhere. The jury found against Brevard on all counts and required very little time to reach its unanimous decision.
Gregory Presnell, of Akerman, Senterfitt & Eidson of Orlando, one of W.R. Grace's attorneys, addressed the jury and really summarized this story. "The Plaintiffs (Brevard County) have a snappy little phrase saying that an air test is only a snap shot in time and therefore doesn't tell you the broad picture. I submit to you that when Brevard County, through a series of consultants, takes over 700 air tests in all different parts of that Courthouse over a three-year period of time, that is more than a snap shot in time, that is a moving picture, and it is a moving picture of a building that is not sick and does not have an asbestos problem."
At a bench conference when the jury was not present the presiding U.S. District Judge Robert R. Mehrige, Jr. stated, "What they (Brevard County) were doing is trying to get these people (W.R. Grace Co.) to pay for a palace when they could have had (asbestos removal) done for less than $2 million, but I will let the jury decide that."
And again later at another bench conference, Judge Mehrige said to the attorneys representing Brevard, "The Plaintiff (Brevard County) is not going to be permitted to end up with an unjust enrichment. No matter what the jury says I will take it away. Plaintiffs are in a bad spot because you represent taxpayers. It is taxpayers money you are fooling with."
Judge Mehrige told the attorneys representing Brevard County, "I don't think (W.R. Grace) is going to be responsible for all of these things you are talking about. There are too many Commissioners, politicians, judges and what have you...It is taxpayers money you are fooling with. This turned out to be a good thing for somebody. It wasn't good for Brevard County, I can tell you that..."
+ • Why has it taken over four years and the six story Titusville Courthouse is still gutted and vacant?
TO CAP OR NOT TO CAP?
"I am not here to answer questions....I do not need to answer or be examined here by a member of the public; my voting record speaks for itself..." replied Commissioner Thad Altman when asked about his own personal attempt to remove the 10% taxing cap on Court and Correctional costs.
Since 1974, Brevard County taxpayers have been guaranteed that their property tax rate could not be increased by more than 10% under Florida Statutes Chapter 74-430, with the exception of library costs. In any given year, the millage is capped against increases of more than 10%, although your total county property tax bill could increase by more than 10% if special assessments or the assessed value of your house increases. Any millage rate increase above the 10% cap must be approved by a county-wide voter referendum.
However, changing a local law is not difficult for the County Commission.
In September 1991 the Board of County Commissioners unanimously voted to ask Brevard County's Legislative Delegation (your State Senators and State Representatives) to do just that. The Board approved two proposals: first to break out court and correctional costs from the General Fund listing on the Property Tax bill, and second to remove the 10% taxing cap from these court and correctional costs, thus giving the commission unlimited taxing authority on these items.
However, Commissioners Truman Scarborough and Karen Andreas did not realize they were exempting the court and jail taxes from the 10% limit when they approved the packets to be sent to the Brevard County Legislative Delegation. Commissioner Andreas told the Florida Today paper she thought the Commission was asking permission to show taxpayers on their bills how much of the County's general revenue budget was going toward court and jail costs. "It was not my understanding we were going to exclude this from the 10% cap," she said.
Commissioner Scarborough agreed with Andreas, "It was not my intention to remove the 10% cap."
Florida Today reporter John Nagy, headlined his story on the meeting, "Commission seeks ways to fund court, jail costs." Mentioning nothing about the removal of the 10% cap, he reported, "Frustrated by rising court related costs it cannot control, the Brevard County Commission is seeking ways to separate its budget from court and jail expenses." It seems he, too, had missed the ramifications of the packet.
However, it is totally clear that Commissioners Carol Senne, Thad Altman and Sue Schmitt-Kirwan understood the implications of the proposals when they voted at the September Commission Meeting.
On October 1st Brevard's Legislative Delegation met to consider the packet. Senator Patsy Kurth agreed to sponsor the bill in the Senate, and Representative Frank Stone agreed to sponsor it in the House. Senator Bud Gardner, Representative Dixie Samson, and Representative Charlie Roberts voted to support the bill as well. Only Representative Harry Goode, backed by his aide Patricia "Patti" Grogan, opposed passage of the Brevard County Commissioners' request.
Vigilant taxpayer J.B. Stoffel of Suntree happened to attend the Legislative Delegation meeting, heard the content of the packets, and understood what was planned. If it had not been for his individual efforts in alerting taxpayers throughout the County, it is almost a certainty the taxing cap would have been removed.
Senator Patsy Kurth addressed taxpayers outraged by a lack of prior knowledge of the important delegation meeting, "It appears that Florida Today did not publish any information about the meeting prior to or on October 1st."
Many members of Brevard Citizens for Better Government, including president Dale Young, attended meetings, held rallies and telephone campaigns to alert taxpayers. The angry public outcry which resulted caused the Board of County Commissioners and Brevard's Legislative Delegation to reconsider the issue.
Bowing to public pressure, and with Commissioners Scarborough and Andreas aware of the bill's content, on October 28, 1991 the Board of County Commissioners decided to not ask the Legislative Delegation to sponsor these bills.
Commissioner Sue Schmitt-Kirwan defended their earlier action saying the separation of the Court and Correctional costs was meant to be an educational tool. If the purpose of the bill drafted by County Attorney Guthrie and County Administrator Tom Jenkins was to enable taxpayers "to understand more fully the costs of the Judicial and Corrections system," then why add the clause to remove the 10% cap?
When Commissioner Thad Altman was asked about his knowledge of the bill he said, "I am not here to answer questions....I do not need to answer or be examined here by a member of the public; my voting record speaks for itself..."
If the County Commission had succeeded in circumventing the 10% cap, they would have had unlimited spending capabilities to build a brand new Courthouse or jails without voter approval.
Equally important to remember at this point are the other avenues that have been pursued to fund a new Courthouse and jails:
1) the fact that at least one attorney asked a client to bring suit against Brevard County requesting that a judge rule the County had to build a new Courthouse.
2) a surcharge on every traffic ticket, like an impact fee, which would go toward funding court and jail costs. Bond Counsel Bob Nabors researched this concept for the Board and advised them as to how this could be done. The Board of County Commissioners is studying this now.
3) Brevard County sued W.R.Grace, the manufacturer of the fireproofing containing asbestos, installed in the Titusville Courthouse, for $11.3 million and was awarded nothing.
4) The Board placed a one penny sales tax for 21 months on the November 1992 ballot to see if the public will fund the new facilities.
Overshadowing all these attempts to fund jails and courthouses are two facts:
• Since 1983 Brevard County has received over $76 million in tax revenues from its share of the fifth cent sales tax that were to be spent (per Governor Graham) on much needed items like jails or courthouses - but weren't. (See Chapter 11)
• The six story Titusville Courthouse was gutted and left vacant for over four years, a major contributor to the problems of overcrowded and inadequate existing court facilities. This abandonment of a perfectly good facility, left court facilities as a festering problem which came to a climax when a woman was attacked by her husband in a Melbourne court facility.
+ • Will the Board try again to separate items from the General Fund to avoid the 10% increase cap?
• Is separating items out of the General Fund tax statement a back door approach to eliminating the 10% cap?
JUST SAY NO
"Taxpayers may be innocent hostages in a court case that was heard April 30, 1992 in the Melbourne Courthouse. The verdict may force the issue of a new Consolidated Central Judicial Facility, something Brevard judges and the Brevard Bar Association have for several years actively promoted," states a May 21, 1992 article written by Carol Hayes for The Reporter.
County Commissioner Thad Altman and a former Finance Officer in the County Administrator's Department testified against the County in a recent court hearing of Patricia Griffin & The Brevard County Bar Association vs Brevard County making it an uphill battle for Assistant County Attorney Shannon Wilson, who was pleading the County's defense.
Melbourne attorney James A. Sisserson, who represented Patricia Griffin, was contacted by Griffin in 1990 after she sustained injuries from an assault by her estranged husband in the Melbourne Courthouse. Sisserson agreed to represent Griffin in a claim for damages and a suit to force the County to improve judicial facilities or to build a new central judicial facility, according to statements made to the press at the time.
Griffin requested a Court Order to force the County to take immediate action to upgrade court facilities and plans to sue for mandatory tax increases to pay for judicial improvements if necessary. The personal injury case has been settled for $10,000.
Commission Chairman Thad Altman is on record as favoring judicial consolidation at Viera and says that he would welcome such a court order.
Star witness in the hearing was Chief Judge John
Antoon II who testified that a new courthouse was necessary for public safety and the dignity of the court. He said he and other judges have spoken in vain to the Commissioners on many occasions over the years.
Judge Antoon produced a videotape to demonstrate severe overcrowding in the Melbourne Courthouse which led him to hold court outdoors in May 1991 in order to avoid citations from a Fire Marshall. The videotape was made by Robin Zook of Melbourne. Zook is employed by Sisserson as an investigator and was in his employ at the time he made the videotape, according to Assistant County Attorney Shannon Wilson.
Brevard judges and attorneys have lobbied since 1984 for improved facilities and a Judicial Center, according to testimony from Commission Chairman Thad Altman. In 1986-87 the judges began moving felony trials from the Titusville Courthouse, which had a jail, to the Rockledge and Melbourne courthouses, which have no jail facilities.
Existing problems were worsened when the Titusville Courthouse was shut down in 1988. Judge Dean Moxley had the courthouse posted off limits when air samples falsely showed dangerously high levels of asbestos fibers. The samples were taken immediately after a leaf blower was used inside the building. (See Chapter 12)
The month prior to the closure of the courthouse, Brevard judges had given the County Commission a 45 day ultimatum to shut the building down and the local Brevard County Bar Association had threatened to sue the County over asbestos abatement in the courthouse.
The questions of a new Consolidated Courthouse went to public vote in 1989 and was resoundingly defeated. To finance one with another lease-purchase contract and Certificates of Participation (COP's) issue is considered high risk in an election year. Only Thad Altman was bold enough to suggest it publicly. This left County Commissioners with no politically acceptable way to finance a new Central Facility.
Brevard County voters refused to approve an increase in the sales tax to pay for a Central Judicial Facility in 1989. The county commission later reconsidered an earlier inclination to consolidate judicial facilities in Viera.
Commissioners, instead, approved the construction of a new Civil Courthouse in Suntree's Corplex, but promised angry Suntree residents that criminal cases would not be tried there. Chief Judge John Antoon, however, immediately informed the Commission that it would be a violation of the doctrine of separation of powers for the Board to designate the type of cases to be tried in any particular courthouse.
Meantime, the Board had Bond Counsel Bob Nabors investigate whether they could add a surcharge to traffic tickets to increase revenues for a new courthouse. He told them yes, a surcharge could be added and treated just like an impact fee. The Board voted to study this possibility.
Very much at issue in the Patricia Griffin and The Brevard County Bar Association vs. Brevard County case is the separation of powers between the judiciary and the legislative branches of government. Does the judge have the authority to order the County Commission to raise the necessary revenue to build another courthouse or a central judicial facility? Does the County Commission have the authority to designate a particular courthouse for the hearing of civil cases only?
Public safety concerns about the courthouses were never brought to the Commission on their own merits, according to sworn testimony by Commissioner Carol Senne in the Griffin case. "It was justification for the building of a Central Judicial Facility. The thrust of all conversations with judges and attorneys has been building an additional facility."
Altman's testimony was similar. "We don't see these as permanent solutions, but we see them as solutions to carry us to our new Central Judicial Facility, which the Board has committed to build and is working toward building."
On July 23, 1992, Circuit Judge Chester B. Chance ruled against Brevard County. The judge ruled that Brevard County's court facilities are inadequate and ordered the Board to present a plan that includes a detailed time table for the design, construction, and renovation, if selected, of all facilities within sixty days.
The judge stated that there are various funding ways, with only two requiring referendums, those being a bond or a sales tax increase. In the judge's ruling there was no mention of the six story Titusville Courthouse, which would indicate that it was never subjected or offered as a solution. The responsibility and decision is now in the hands of the Board of County Commissioners. The Titusville Courthouse is already scheduled for renovation and funds have been appropriated. The six story building was designed for this purpose, has abundant space and could satisfy the judge's order with much less expense to the taxpayers. The noncriminal cases (traffic court, small claims, etc.) could then utilize the existing court buildings conveniently located throughout the County.
The preference of at least three County Commissioners is well know. They can be expected to take this as an opportunity to override the public's preference of frugal spending, not to use the abandoned Titusville Courthouse, and fulfill their own vision for Brevard County.
Public pressure is the only way the taxpayer will be saved from the Commission using this court order as an excuse to build a new multimillion dollar Courthouse.
Information for this chapter was obtained through the depositions of Commissioners Senne and Altman, my attendance at the April 30, 1992 trial, the judge's July 23, 1992 ruling and includes portions and excerpts from the April 23 and May 21, 1992 news stories written for The Reporter newspaper.
TOO MANY COOKS
SPOIL THE BUDGET
"Brevard County Taxpayers have paid almost $280,000 in expenses - including luxury hotels, dry cleaning, and a speeding ticket - charged by law firms that represented the County in its failed asbestos lawsuit, records show." reported Scott Solomon of Florida Today on February 14, 1992.
After Scott Solomon, investigative reporter for Florida Today, uncovered these questionable legal bills paid by the County, many taxpayers demanded an audit of the County Finance and County Attorney's offices. Some asked for the dismissal of Comptroller Doug Martin and County Attorney Bob Guthrie. The Board took no action on either request.
Some taxpayers felt they were not getting their money's worth from some of these top notch County employees. The average working taxpayer expected more at this salary range:
Doug Martin, County Comptroller $79,476
Bob Guthrie, County Attorney $83,762
Tom Jenkins, County Administrator $79,426
Ray Winstead, Clerk of Court $83,553
Ken Crooks, Assistant County Attorney $74,011
Steve Burdett, Finance Manager $51,625
The original estimate for the County's out-of-pocket expenses for the asbestos lawsuit against the W.R. Grace Company was $50,000. How could the legal expenses for the two law firms handling the case for the County, Adams & Reese and Barham & Markle, jump more than six times to over $313,000?
County records show County Attorney Bob Guthrie asked for additional funds relating to this asbestos litigation six times. Three of these six requests occurred as "Add Ons" to the County Commission agenda - added to the agenda after the agenda was made public. On October 9, 1991, County Attorney Bob Guthrie requested $60,000 more during his Report Time at the end of the meeting. By doing this he would eliminate having this item appear on both the advance agenda and the add on agenda.
In his investigation, reporter Scott Solomon found the following questionable expenses that the County paid:
• Attorney Edward Markle's $598 bill for a night at the Hyatt Atlanta Airport hotel in College Park, Georgia. In addition to the one night room rate of $240, the County reimbursed Ed Markle for a $165 dinner at Grissini, the hotel's Italian restaurant which included a $45 bar bill. According to the Florida Today article, Ed Markle said he bought the liquor for one of Brevard's expert witnesses and explained, "Valuable information concerning the issues of our case had been obtained during that evening meeting." The bill included several charges for hotel room movies, which Ed Markle said were "a way to help relax during the extended work period which usually resulted in a work day that exceeded 12 hours." This bill also included room service charges of $57 for breakfast and $70 for lunch.
• Attorney Ed Markle's one night stay at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York in 1990. The $440 bill included a $235-a-night room and a $100 tab at the hotel restaurant, the Bull and Bear.
• Attorney Robert Vosbein's two night stay at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Boston in February 1991 - $742; a night at the Waldorf in November 1990 - $312; and a Lincoln Town Car rented for four days from the Orlando International Airport in December 1990 - $265.
• A $76 speeding ticket.
• A $108 bill from a Sam's Wholesale Club in Orlando - a tab that included a $70 boombox, Tootsie Rolls, Finesse hair products, and Diet Pepsi.
• About $20 in dry cleaning expenses.
• A total of $618 to charter a plane used to fly Ed Markle to Greenville, South Carolina to attend a lawsuit that W.R. Grace was involved in against Blue Cross Blue Shield in May of 1991.
• An expert witness in Potomac, Maryland received $6,363 - ($300 an hour) - to review documents used in the asbestos suit.
After these expenses were made public, some taxpayers assumed the County and its lawyers were spending the court settlement before they had won the suit. However, in January of 1992, a jury ruled against the County in its lawsuit against W.R. Grace & Company. Had the County won its case, the law firm of Adam`s & Reese and Barham & Markle would have received 25 percent of any settlement. As it was, the County had a contract with the firm to pay all of their out-of-pocket expenses relating to the case.
Taxpayers were just getting over the fact that some County Officials had wasted taxpayer money to stay at the New York Helmsley Palace Hotel, and now for them to learn of more lavish expenses was almost unbelievable. The buck started getting passed around as to how could these outrageous bills have been paid by the County? The following is an account:
County Administrator Tom Jenkins wrote a letter saying nothing about his department's part in this ineptness, but said the Board of Commissioners and Ray Winstead's Finance Department were not provided with documentation.
Comptroller Doug Martin of Winstead's office, replied to Tom Jenkins with a memo stating "you know we do have some invoices with detailed supporting documents....but we only check the financial accuracy" and "did not challenge the legal propriety of the invoices because such invoices had been signed by the County Attorney or his representative."
"I don't care if God signs those invoices for the County," Commissioner Karen Andreas said. "Doug Martin's job is to be the Comptroller and provide oversight."
Then County Attorney Bob Guthrie wrote a letter to the Commissioners saying that all invoices with supporting receipts were sent to finance for payment.
Where are the checks and balances? Who is looking out for the taxpayer? As the people understand it, the Comptroller can question and refuse to pay any expense that does not seem appropriate. Some wanted to know when and what items Comptroller Doug Martin's office had ever refused to pay.
At least two instances have arisen when he refused to pay expenses billed to the County. One was a refrigerator for Gene Roberts. The other was when Carol Hayes of The Reporter and Commissioner Scarborough wanted some public records from County finance and Doug Martin wanted to charge her by the hour. Commissioner Scarborough called Doug Martin to get copies made of the public records. Doug Martin believed he was giving these to Carol Hayes and said there would be a charge. Commissioner Scarborough accepted that saying "take the copying charge out of my office budget." Doug Martin then refused to allow Commissioner Scarborough to pay for the copying charges out of his office budget as he believed, in this lone case, it to be an inappropriate expenditure of County funds.
Under Florida Statute 129.09 the Comptroller or Clerk of the Court has the responsibility to make sure all bills are legitimate County expenses before payment. Taxpayers just cannot understand how Doug Martin can refuse a Commissioner copying charges but he can allow his staff to pay bills for a speeding ticket, dry cleaning, bar tabs, a boom box, Tootsie rolls, expensive hotels, and Lincoln Town Cars.
The Board established a new County policy requiring bills and contracts to be approved by the County attorney and budget offices before being sent to the Clerk of the Court's office for review and payment. Concerned taxpayers think more than a policy change is needed. Many want an attitude change, where concern for the taxpayers' pocket book comes first.
This was not the only time bill payment problems have been brought before the Board. The problems just kept occurring, examples are:
• January 1989. Ray Winstead's office issued a check for $257,160.50 that the County used to buy 13.9 acres of land that they deeded over to the Savannanh's developers for $10.00. No minutes from any County Commission meeting have ever been produced to show that the Board authorized this disbursement. (See Chapter 19)
• June, 1989. Clerk of the Court Ray Winstead approved the disbursement of over $200,000 relating to the Government Center Closing, without having back up receipts on file to substantiate those expenditures. (See Chapter 28)
• March, 1990. Ray Winstead's office approved payment to Financial Adviser Toby Wagner's firm, Southeastern Municipal Bonds, Inc., of $7,234.23 without having all the back up receipts for verification.
• March, 1990. Doug Martin authorized the payment of $41,493.52 bill to Nabors, Giblin, Steffens & Nickerson without all the back up receipts to substantiate costs.
• April 1991. Ray Winstead's office authorized the payment of $8,367.75 to Toby Wagner's firm, Southeastern Municipal Bonds, Inc. without having all the back up receipts.
• October 1991. County Attorney Bob Guthrie submitted $4,289.82 of bills from Nabors, Giblin, Steffens & Nickerson without all items listed with proper descriptions.
• November, 1991. Bob Guthrie again submitted Bob Nabors' bills without proper documentation. Commissioner Scarborough asked again for descriptions before the Board could approve the bills.
• January, 1992. Bob Guthrie again submitted Bob Nabors' bills without proper descriptions.
• March 1991. Ray Winstead's office paid Toby Wagner's firm $16,950 when the contract called for $13,074.75; a $3,875.25 overpayment. Figures are based on Bond Disclosure forms submitted to the state.
• March 1991. Ray Winstead's office paid Toby Wagner's firm $9,000 when the contract called for $6,972.75; a $2,027.25 overpayment. Figures are based on Bond Disclosure forms submitted to the state.
• March 1991. Clerk of the Court Winstead'sÙ office paid Toby Wagner's firm $17,875 when the contract called for $10,320.75; a $7,554.25 overpayment. Figures are based on Bond Disclosure forms submitted to the state.
+ • Do you get the feeling that tax dollars are treated like monopoly money to be handed out without proper scrutiny? The County seems to be doing nothing to change this perception.
• Did County officials think it was O.K. to pay bills without question?
CHAPTERS 6-10 CHAPTERS 16-20