Monday, June 6, 2016

Get ready to vote for the Constitutional Officers

Every four years, all five of Collier County’s constitutional officer positions are up for election. They are:

  • Sheriff
  • Property Appraiser
  • Tax Collector
  • Supervisor of Elections
  • Clerk of Courts

These positions are elected at-large by all voters in the county in partisan elections, so generally only registered members of a political party may vote in that party’s primary election, with the final decisions made in the November general elections. However, if all the candidates for an office have the same party affiliation and the winner of the primary will not face any opposition in the general (i.e. no write-in or third-party candidates have qualified), then all registered voters can vote for any of the candidates for that office in the primary election.

In this post, I will tell you about the candidates who have filed to run for each of the five offices, which offices will have August primaries and who can vote in each, and who I expect to vote for in August.

Sheriff

Incumbent Kevin Rambosk is running for reelection to a third term, having served as Sheriff since 2008. His only challenger is No Party Affiliation (NPA) candidate Carlos Gutierrez, so there will be no Sheriff primary in August.

Property Appraiser

With only two Republicans running, this race will be decided in the August primary that will be open to all Collier voters, regardless of party affiliation.

Abe Skinner
Abe Skinner (R)

Incumbent Abe Skinner has filed to run for reelection, having served as Property Appraiser for 25 years, and before that as a member of the Appraiser’s staff since 1962. He says he has “continually improved technical access to the County’s real estate information,” and that he, with his staff, “developed one of the finest GIS (Geographical Information Systems) in the state.” A self-described fiscal conservative, he says the current budget for the Appraiser’s Office is “only 1.1 percent more than it was eight years ago.”

Skinner attended the University of Florida and attained the International Association of Assessing Officers’ Certified Florida Appraiser (CFA) designation.

Skinner’s campaign website is voteabeskinner.info. He has raised $11,300 through April 30, all from Naples, including a personal loan of $1,000.

Richard Lussy
Richard Charles Lussy (R)

Lussy is Managing Director at Richard C. Lussy & Associates in Naples and a licensed Certified General Real Estate Appraiser and Real Estate Sales Associate. He has a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Montana in Finance, Real Estate, Personnel Management and General Business, and attained the Senior Real Property Appraiser (SRPA) and Member Appraisal Institute (MAI) designations from the Appraisal Institute.

Lussy was Property Appraiser and Director of Real Property in the Martin County, FL, Property Appraisal Office in 1988, but soon went out on his own in Richard Lussy & Associates. In 1992 he undertook what was to become a total of seven unsuccessful election challenges to the incumbent Martin County Property Appraiser, receiving 20.8 percent of the votes in 1992 and a declining share subsequently. His last attempt was in 2012.

He explained his losses as follows: “I have been denied right to confront accusers in 100% jury trial verdicts, Florida Bar Association lawyers as judges control both Florida lawyers & police through falsified public record used to smear-defame me with repetition of libel per se ad nausea infinitum. This again by falsified public records while denying correction of falsified public records these 24-years in Florida by denying no brain Florida Statute 839.13(2)(d) as defined within this Candidates Talk.” I find this statement incoherent and disturbing.

Lussy’s member profile on the Appraisal Institute website is here. I could find no website or social media presence.

Lussy has raised $3,050 through April 30, primarily a personal loan of $3,000.

Tax Collector

Larry Ray
Larry H. Ray (R)

As of now, only incumbent Larry Ray has filed to run. If no one challenges him before the June 24 qualifying deadline, his name will not appear on the ballot and he will automatically be considered elected at the November General Election.

Ray has a Bachelor’s in Business Administration from the University of Missouri. Upon graduation, through the ROTC program, he was commissioned as a lieutenant in the US Army. He served for 23 years, including as the Chief of the Force Structure Branch of US Army Europe with responsibility for the allocation of resources, both personnel and equipment, for the Army in Europe. While in the Army, he received an MBA from Washington University, where he also was an Assistant Professor of Military Science.

Upon moving to Naples in 1991, Ray joined Naples Community Hospital as Vice President of Facilities and Constructions, overseeing several expansion projects. In 2007, he joined the County Tax Collector’s Office as Compliance Officer, and was elected the following year to succeed incumbent Guy Carlton, who had announced his retirement.

I found no campaign website or social media pages. Ray has raised $200 through April 30, a personal loan.

Supervisor of Elections
Jennifer Edwards

Jennifer J. Edwards (R)

As of now, only incumbent Jennifer Edwards has filed to run. If no one challenges her before the June 24 qualifying deadline, her name will not appear on the ballot and she will automatically be considered elected at the November General Election.

Edwards earned her Bachelor’s from the University of Kentucky and her Master’s from Eastern Kentucky University. She has served as the Supervisor of Elections since 2000 and prior to that, held several positions during a 13-year tenure with the Collier County Manager’s Department including Budget Analyst, Assistant to the County Manager and Human Resources Director.

Edwards is a State Certified Supervisor of Elections and was awarded her Master Florida Certified Elections Professional (MFCEP) designation from the Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections, which she has served as Treasurer, Secretary, President Elect, President, and Past President. She has also earned a Certified Elections Registration Administrator (CERA) designation.

Her LinkedIn page is here; I found no campaign social media pages or website. She has raised $610 through April 30, of which $600 is a personal loan.

Clerk of Courts

The Clerk of Courts election will likely be the most hotly contested, expensive and interesting to watch.

As with the Property Appraiser race, with only two Republicans running, it will be decided in the August primary that will be open to all Collier voters, regardless of party affiliation.

Long-serving incumbent Dwight Brock is being challenged by District 2 County Commissioner Georgia Hiller, who resigned last week to run for the post. The animosity between the two is well known. See, for example, “Showdown: Feud erupts between former allies Brock, Hiller over bank selection, auditing power” in September 2014, in which “Brock called Hiller’s accusations a political ploy, saying the commissioner plans to run for his seat in 2016.” Later that year, Hiller criticized Brock's use of an out-of-state investment manager. More examples here.

In addition, there have been disputes between Brock and the Board of County Commissioners (BCC) over the Clerk’s authority to audit County records, the authority of the BCC to invest County money and choose banks to hold County funds, and, in 2015, the BCC’s delegation of authority to County staff to approve invoices up to $50,000. See here.

Most recently, Brock has held up payments to the County’s longtime advertising firm for lack of sufficient supporting documentation. See here.

Separately, Brock was sued in 2014 by a local independent investigative reporter over the amount he charged for records she sought in her investigation of Brock’s audit of an organization founded by his 2012 political opponent. See here for a Naples Daily News report and here for an article by the reporter.

See also “Collier clerk race attracts big money for Georgia Hiller, employee donations for Dwight Brock,” Naples Daily News 5/16/16.

With that overview of some of the issues underlying this election, here is some brief information about each candidate.

Dwight Brock
Dwight Brock (R)

Brock has a Bachelor’s degree from Florida State University, a Master’s in Business Administration from Stetson University and a law degree from Nova Law Center. He is a Certified Public Accountant and a member of the Florida Bar. Brock worked in the State Attorney’s Office prior to being elected Clerk of Courts for Collier County in 1993.

On his campaign website, Brock writes, “For several years, my office has tried to work with the Board [of County Commissioners] to ensure that controls were in place to protect public funds. During this time there has been an increasing lack of open competition on bids for public goods and services, competition which achieves the lowest price to the tax payers. There has also been an increase in the number of unauthorized contracts amounting to millions of dollars and spanning multiple years…. My role, the role you elected me to perform, is to protect you and your money.”

Brock has raised $25,260 through April 30, including a $10,000 personal loan and $7,850 from out-of-county. There have been 12 contributions of the maximum $1,000, including one from Prosperity Florida, a political committee whose mission is “to foster and promote accountable, efficient and limited government throughout Florida, while promoting reform through market solutions.”

His campaign website is dwightbrockforclerk.org, his Facebook Page is here and his LinkedIn Page is here.

Georgia Hiller
Georgia Hiller (R)

Hiller has Bachelor’s degrees in accounting and international business and a Master’s in Business Administration from Florida Atlantic University, and Law degree from Florida State University. She is a Certified Public Accountant, licensed real estate broker, and member of the Florida Bar. She has served on the BCC representing District 2 since 2010, having no challenger to her reelection in 2014.

She has worked for a “Big Eight” global accounting firm as a financial auditor, specializing in government entities and distressed financial institutions. She also served as the finance director of a large non-profit organization.

In January 2015, Hiller announced plans to run for the State House District 106 seat currently held by Kathleen Passidomo, but dropped that plan early this year to run instead for County Clerk.

Hiller has been critical of Brock’s suing the County over payment of invoices, which she called “wasting taxpayer money.” In 2014, she challenged Brock’s selection of the bank to hold County money, claiming he usurped the BCC’s power.

Hiller has raised $67,950 through April 30, including $9,750 (14%) from out-of-state. Of the total, $11,500 (17%) is a personal loan, $23,067 (34%) is from individuals (including former Commissioner Fred Coyle) and $23,750 (35%) is from businesses (including real estate, development, land investment, engineering, construction). Hiller’s largest donor, according to the Naples Daily News, is Stock Development, which gave $8,000 “through various companies it operates about a month before Hiller and the rest of the commission voted down a proposal to try to bring the spring training site of the Atlanta Braves to land owned by Stock. Hiller received another $1,000 that day from attorney Rich Yovanavich, who frequently represents Stock and a handful of other developers before commissioners.”

I am unable to find a campaign website or LinkedIn Page. Her personal Facebook Page is here.



How I will vote

I have been quite impressed with the services and professionalism of all five of the Constitutional Officers and their staffs, to the extent of my personal involvement with them over the years.

In summary, and assuming no one else files to run for any of the offices before the end of the qualifying period on June 24:

Sheriff - With no Republican challenger to incumbent Kevin Rambosk, the race will not appear on the August ballot. Rambosk will face NPA challenger Carlos Gutierrez in November.

Property Appraiser - With only two Republicans having filed, the race will be decided in August in a primary open to all Collier County voters. I will vote for incumbent Abe Skinner.

Tax Collector - With no challenger, the race will not appear on the August ballot, and Larry Ray will automatically be considered the winner.

Supervisor of Elections - With no challenger, the race will not appear on the August ballot, and Jennifer Edwards will automatically be considered the winner.

Clerk of Courts - With only two Republicans having filed, the race will be decided in August in a primary open to all county voters.

I endorsed Brock in 2012; click here to learn why. I concluded that “Dwight Brock has served Collier County well as ‘watchdog’ over expenditures of taxpayer funds. He is a man of principle who takes quite seriously his responsibility to uphold the law. His combination of professional training and on-the-job experience far exceeds that of his opponent.”

I am leaning toward endorsing Brock again this year, however I’m not yet ready to make a final decision. There will be Naples Daily News Editorial Board interviews, and hopefully candidate forums in the coming months, which will be important sources of information, as are and will be the donors to each candidate’s campaigns.

I’ll let you know what I decide.



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2 comments:

  1. Sandy, you certainly are entitled to endorse whomever you wish for school board and any of the other races but your blog is NOT factually correct on two points regarding FCA (Florida Citizens Alliance).
    1) Our Alliance DOES NOT ENDORSE any candidates so please make the retraction/correction. We do vet all Candidates with an extensive issue-based questionnaire and a Constitutional Survey. We hope to inspire voters to use the questionnaires to VOTE INFORMED. So far only Penta and Dixon have completed the School Board surveys; all the candidates for Collier Board of County Commission District 3 and 5 except Paquette have completed County Commission surveys; and all the Florida House primary candidates for D80, D105 and D106 except Davidow have completed the surveys. http://floridacitizensalliance.com/liberty/collier-county-information/

    Question: If a candidate doesn’t have the courage to complete and defend their issue-based survey and especially their constitutional surveys, how can the voters ever trust that the candidate will represent all of the collier voters and, more importantly, have the courage to honor their sacred Oath of Office to protect and defend the US Constitution.

    2) In your blog, you call FCA “Right Wing”. On our website, we clearly state our core values: Economic Freedom, Individual Freedom, Optimism, Virtue and Honesty, Community, Courage and Language manners. http://floridacitizensalliance.com/liberty/flca-core-values/

    Question: Which of these core values do you and your readers disagree with? These values don’t make us “Right Wing”; they simply make us defenders of the principles and values our great nation was founded on.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Mr. Flaugh, I do not see any reference to FCA in this post ("Get Ready to Vote for Constitutional Officers") about which you've commented. In the June 20, 2016, post "An Update on School Board Elections," I made four references to FCA, none of which said your group endorsed any candidates. I did say "As in the District 2 race, the Florida Citizens Alliance candidate (Dixon) has outraised the candidate I support (Carter)." I meant that Dixon is aligned with FCA, and changed the words accordingly to say "As in the District 2 race, the candidate who aligns with the views of the Florida Citizens Alliance (Dixon) has outraised the candidate I support (Carter)."

      As for my use of the term "right wing" -- the Merriam-Webster's Dictionary defines "right wing" as "the part of a political group that consists of people who support conservative or traditional ideas and policies." I see no need for a correction.

      Delete