Sunday, July 8, 2012

Dwight Brock for Collier County Clerk of Courts

It seems to me if you’re hiring a Chief Financial Officer, you’ll want the candidate with the best academic and professional credentials, and the most relevant work experience.  Further, you’ll want the candidate whose career to-date inspires the most confidence.

On August 14, we’ll be hiring Collier County’s Chief Financial Officer, known in Florida as the Clerk of the Circuit Court, the Clerk of Courts, or simply the Clerk.  All registered Collier voters can vote in this important election, regardless of party affiliation.  The winner will be our Clerk of Courts for the next four years.

The title understates the breadth of this position’s responsibility. As might be expected, the Clerk maintains the Court's records and collects and disburses Court-imposed fines, fees and assessments.  But in addition, the Clerk collects and distributes statutory assessments imposed by the County, is guardian of public records, public funds, and public property, and is the accountant for the Board of County Commissioners. He is also the County’s Auditor, Recorder, and Custodian.  It’s a big job.

While each of these functions is important, I believe - as a former certified public accountant (CPA) and corporate finance executive - the importance of the accounting and auditing functions cannot be overstated.

Dwight Brock (R) has been Clerk of Courts for Collier County since 1992.  He is a CPA and a licensed attorney in the state of Florida. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Florida State University, a master’s degree in business administration (MBA) from Stetson University, and a juris doctor degree (JD) from Nova Law Center. He has been a criminal prosecutor.  Under his leadership, the Collier Clerk’s department has won numerous awards in financial reporting and budgeting.

Brock may be best known for his six-year battle with the Collier County Commission over the Clerk’s right to audit county bank accounts (specifically those of the Ochopee Fire District and Isles of Capri fire department), which was decided in his favor by the Florida Supreme Court last year.  (If you’re not familiar with this incredible story, click here.)

Brock is being challenged this year in his bid for re-election for the first time since 1996.  His challenger is John Barlow (R), a retired businessman.  Barlow holds a business management degree from Florida Southern College and had a career in the retail auto parts industry that culminated as President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Safelite Glass Corporation (1991-2003).  At Safelite, according to his website, Barlow was responsible for turning around a company “damaged by poor productivity and below average customer satisfaction.”

After retiring in 2003, Barlow started H.O.M.E. - Housing Opportunities Made for Everyone – “a Naples-based non-profit established to help lower income families realize the dream of home ownership.” H.O.M.E. purchased, restored and resold foreclosed homes, in part with federal (HUD Community Development Block Grants) and state (State Housing Initiative Partnership - SHIP) funding obtained via pass-through agreements with the Collier County Commission.  In November 2010, H.O.M.E. ceased operations.

Barlow served on the Collier County Affordable Housing Committee (2007-2008) and the county Productivity Committee (2005-2009).

Barlow says, “I’m running for Clerk of Circuit Courts to infuse Collier County government with private sector principles. During my 40 years in the private sector I’ve balanced budgets, increased productivity, and provided superior customer service.  That’s exactly what I’ll do as Clerk.  Together, we will turnaround the Clerk’s office to become professional, open, and honest with Collier County taxpayers.”

Brock says, “As a CPA and attorney, I am uniquely qualified and proven as the "Watchdog" of public funds. My opponent is NOT!  My opponent described, in his own words, his ability to account for H.O.M.E. funds by saying, "I'm not good at this stuff. I've never been a CFO before."

Brock’s reference is to an audit conducted by the Clerk’s Internal Audit Department last year of a county program that provided over half a million dollars to H.O.M.E.  You can read the audit report here, and about broader issues uncovered by the Clerk’s audit of the Neighborhood Stabilization Program, administered by the County’s Housing, Human, & Veterans Affairs office, here.

To me, the choice is clear.  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’m voting for Dwight Brock for Clerk of the Circuit Court.

For more information:
·        Dwight Brock for Clerk website
·        John Barlow for Clerk website
·        League of Women Voters of Collier County candidate questionnaires
·        League of Women Voters of Collier County candidate forum (at 00:45:00)


  1. What 'the watchdog' is most effective at seems to be convincing folks that he is an effective watchdog.
    When Brock repeated the one second sound bite video from Barlow's 12 minute presentation to the BCC, Brock once again cherry-picked and misrepresented.
    He KNEW that Barlow was joking when Barlow stated "I've never been a CFO before".
    That part is true. Barlow has NOT been a CFO. No, he has been much more. He has been a CEO more than once for national companies. As CEO he HIRES the CFOs and the legal eagles. The ultimate responsibility and accountability and legal burden rests with the CEO.
    John Barlow has served as CEO three times. John Barlow has selected and hired multiple CFOs and attorneys. Ergo, Barlow is overqualified for the position of clerk of courts.
    Brock, on the other hand, has spent his entire 'career' in government. First working with his brother as state's attorney, next as clerk of courts. NEVER has he restructured a national corporation. NEVER has he created thousands of jobs. NEVER have his business concepts been written up in the Wall Street Journal and taught at Harvard. Barlow has accomplished this and more.
    No, Brock has spent the past two decades telling us he is the watchdog of public funds. He just doesn't exactly drill it down to provide all the facts. He hasn't disclosed that he personally authorized almost $4 million dollars of taxpayer funds to be authorized to fund 'the lawsuit'. The lawsuit that began over a coffee fund and a donated boat to fire departments. Instead of reaching a resolution, he hired Tom Brady at $700+ per hour to represent him (all at taxpayer expense). Conversely, the BCC spent about $500,000 and announced that whatever the verdict was of the final lawsuit, they would NOT spend another taxpayer dime fighting. That was BEFORE the verdict was rendered.
    The records from 'the lawsuit' are ALL public and accessible. Wade through them if you want the facts.
    Brock would have continued to spend your millions on his personal crusade for power.
    One must ask Brock and listen carefully to his answer/non-answer why:
    1- Florida Department of Transportation contracts are not able to be approved by Brock. The same contract FDOT uses state-wide.
    2- Florida Power and Light contract is deemed inadequate by Brock. Again, the same contract they use elsewhere in Florida.
    3- Why refusal to pay Diamond Deangelis for contract work at Marco Airport was deemed 'illegal' by Brock when he withheld almost $1 million. Then, when an editorial chastised Brock, it was suddenly 'legal' and Brock paid the contractor his due amount.
    4- Why do attorneys have to send paid paralegals down to the court house to wait for and then pay $1 a page for copies of legal documents. Forcing local attorneys to pass hundreds of dollars of fees on to their clients. These are documents that SHOULD be and ARE available on line on other county clerk websites.
    5- Visit Sarasota County clerk of courts site if you want to see how it CAN and SHOULD be done.
    6- Notice that while Brock always contends that he is limited by statute and the law, he manages to put his own interpretation on both. And, it is ALWAYS a more strict and punitive interpretation. His simplistic answer - We in Collier County operate at a higher standard.
    Why? Why bend over backwards to make mountains out of molehills? Why run in front of a camera every time a mistake is found? Why make businesses AND non-profits jump through even MORE hoops red tape when they deal with the local clerk of courts???
    7- Ask for the actual invoices for NSP projects that Brock cites when he discovered billing had been done for incomplete work. Add up the totals of the ACTUAL work that had not been completed. You will find that Brock used the total from the entire invoice including ALL the items that were legitimate ... thus boosting the dollar amount that he claims he 'saved' us from paying.

    Dig deeper, Sandy, dig deeper.

  2. Sandy, thanks so much for this terrific report. If one had any doubt you have made it so clear that we should reelect Dwight Brock.

  3. Excellent!!!!! And VERY interesting bit about Brock's investigation of H.O.M.E. You sending this to Lytle? Am now looking forward to your piece on Abe Skinner.

  4. I agree with you completely. I just wish he wasn't so conceited and arrogant.

  5. An excellent example of clear, unbiased, investigative reporting. Very nice.

  6. Brock sounds like a good CFO candidate by your description, Sandy. Having done a lot of search / assessment work on financial professionals when I was still working, I agree that if there is a significant accounting component in the role description, someone who has a strong handle on that aspect of things based on credentials and experience is of critical importance to the organization’s ongoing success. This is especially true right now when the economy is showing signs of recovery but is still rocky.

    Obviously major screw-ups can occur if the senior leader is not technically proficient with money. While a leader’s role likely / usually is not to be immersed in ‘nitty gritty’ details on a daily basis, he or she still needs to understand how to keep control of things at all times. Fiscal control is very important both in the private and public sector.

    But I’m preaching to the choir again…If I were able to vote, I would vote for Brock too, based on what you’ve shared.