At the BCC public meeting on Jan. 22 2019 Mitchell Kobernick gave the following speech discussing the lack of formal policies and procedures in Pasco County:
“Pasco county is trying to rebrand itself as a more desirable destination for tourists, new residents, and new businesses. The goal is to show that Pasco county has grown up. But public relations campaigns cannot counter Pasco’s long standing reputation that it is run like the wild west. That perception can only be changed when Pasco starts to actually act like a grown up. Mature governments need to have rules that employees must follow if they want to give those new residents and businesses comfort that they could know what to expect from government.
Without such a firm set of policies, the door is wide open to abuse, and influence by outside forces and special interests. Pasco has some good staff. I have met some of them, and they deserve to be able to do their jobs without undue influence.
I have personally come across this lack of policies in the county’s purchase of real estate. A public records request for the county’s written policies and procedures was answered that there were no such policies. Only a single document was returned, the ELAMP Standard Operating Procedures. This was well written, and sets out some very specific requirements for ELAMP to follow, but the county has taken the position that they don’t have to follow it. In the case of ELAMP’s attempt to purchase the Gulf Harbors golf course, I believe that ELAMP was given direction from above to disregard their policy to get the purchase done.
ELAMP sent ballots by certified mail for the homeowners to vote on whether to create an MSBU to tax them for the purchase. But when the results of the vote were questioned in Diane’s lawsuit, the county took the position that the vote was not binding on the county. The county attorney even went so far as to state that the commissioners could overrule a negative vote and pass the MSBU regardless of how the people voted. Are these the actions of a county that wants to be taken seriously?
And there are other examples. When the county purchased the Magnolia Valley and Timber Oaks golf courses, there were no environmental studies done on the land prior to purchase. I am in real estate, and I have never heard of any responsible buyer not conducting a soils test prior to purchase, let alone on golf courses, which are well known to contain pesticides and herbicides. For Timber Oaks, the county had to develop a soil management plan to deal with the contamination they found after they already owned it. For Magnolia Valley, I have seen documents that seem to suggest that the former county administrator deliberately chose to deny a staff request to do an environmental study before the purchase.
These are the sort of capricious actions that only bolster the perception of Pasco as a place where if you are well connected, you can get things done. Only with a set of written policies and procedures that give staff certainty as to what is expected of them can we start to change the perception that in Pasco county the result you get depends on who is doing the asking.”