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Citizens for a Better Nassau – “Who will stand up for taxpayers?”

Citizens for a Better Nassau
An Opinion
August 2, 2019 1:00 a.m.

One of the primary guiding principles of Citizens for a Better Nassau County is promoting better management and fiscal prudence in all government matters and improving management and stewardship of taxpayer dollars. As such, we have endeavored to regularly point out the fiscal shortcomings and dangerous policy inconsistencies of our county government. However, the Nassau County Board of County Commissioners has yet again demonstrated their lack of oversight and management, continuing to conduct their business affairs well outside conventional boundaries resulting in what smacks of old boy politics at the expense of the taxpayers.

Recently, our board of county commissioners voted unanimously in favor of a $270,000+ contract for Mike Mullin, our now county manager, who also serves in a dual role as county attorney. The contract requires a supermajority (4 out of 5 commissioners) to rescind it. This is yet another example of the commission having no respect for county taxpayers and their duty as managers and stewards of taxpayer dollars with strong oversight all in order to feather the nest of one of their own.

To illustrate how egregious this is, we obtained the 2018 county manager salary survey data from the Florida Association of Counties. Fifty of Florida’s 67 counties responded to the 2018 survey, and the data is quite revealing. Of 67 counties, Nassau County’s population, at a little under 83,000 residents, ranks 37thin terms of size of population served. However, our county manager’s salary ranks 2ndin the state and is comparable to county manager salaries in Pinellas (St. Petersburg/Clearwater), Orange (Orlando), and Hillsborough (Tampa) Counties, which all have a population 12 to 17 times the size of Nassau County.

For a sense of scale, it’s instructive to look at a few counties that are similar to Nassau in terms of population served, characteristics and complexity. For example, Walton, Flagler and Indian River Counties are all rapidly growing coastal counties with a large retiree population that are comparable in population served. Indian River County ranks 32ndstatewide by population, Flagler ranks 35thand Walton ranks 41st. Yet, on a per-capita basis, Nassau County taxpayers pay almost 3 times the amount in county manager salary when compared to Indian River County, more than twice the amount as Flagler County and more than 30 percent more than taxpayers pay for their county manager in Walton County.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis makes a little over $130,000 per year, as do our county’s constitutional officers. Why is our county manager compensated at more than twice that? The other issue that highlights how highly questionable this decision was relates to the inherent lack of oversight created when one individual serves as both county manager and county attorney. Where are the checks and balances? Where does the county manager get his legal advice? Does anyone really believe he is performing two full-time jobs every week? And what is going to be the impact on taxpayers as a result of this conflicting arrangement?

Lastly, and most importantly, we have to simply ask who will stand up for taxpayers?

Bill Gingrich is a retired GE executive and chairman of Citizens for a Better Nassau County.

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