As a candidate for tax collector, Joel Greenberg promised to clean up the tax certificate auction process.
By Jacob Engels
Today, the day before taxes become delinquent, Greenberg is fulfilling his promise.
As of April 1, 2017, new policies will be in place to ensure that no one employed by the tax collector, including the elected tax collector, can participate in the tax certificate auction.
In addition, the ethics policy provides a level of transparency, requiring all county elected officials and employees of Seminole County Government and the Property Appraiser’s office to disclose their intent to bid and any certificates they may successfully obtain.
“When you work for the people of Seminole County, there is a sacred trust that you are serving them, not yourself,” Greenberg says. “The misuse of power that happened over the past several years will not continue.”
The tax certificate process is a method used to collect property taxes owed to the county. By June 1, an auction will be held for certificates on all outstanding tax bills, with the interest charged on the debt auctioned downward, starting at 18 percent.
Once the certificate has been purchased, a first lien is placed on the property. When the lien is satisfied, the certificate holder is rewarded with all of the interest earned on the debt.
For several years, tax certificates were regularly purchased by family members and companies connected to the former tax collector. Under the new restrictions, a tax collector, their business interests and indirectly through family are prohibited from participating in the certificate auction while in office and for four years after their term ends.
READ THE NEW ETHICS RULES HERE:
“The tax certificate process is part of the method used to collect delinquent taxes, often thousands of homes of people who are in financial distress,” Greenberg says. “We cannot be viewed as preying on those people who we serve using inside knowledge of the process and the certificates. It’s immoral and won’t happen anymore.”
For other county officials, Greenberg is starting a new initiative to provide transparency in the process. Any employee of the Seminole County government and the Property Appraiser’s office must publicly register in advance before participating in the auction. They also must disclose within 60 days after successfully obtaining a tax certificate.
This mandate also applies to all county commissioners, the sheriff, property appraiser, clerk of the courts and supervisor of elections in Seminole County.
“The integrity of this process must be preserved,” Greenberg said. “The processes of the past will not continue and the citizens of Seminole County will have the assurance that this office will never profit off of their misfortune again.”
Mr. Greenberg ousted longtime Seminole County Tax Collector Ray Valdes, after I exposed how he had been illegally profiting off the office for decades. The scheme included several shell companies, the use of insider knowledge not available to the public… basically the equivalent of insider trading.
Since being elected, Greenberg has been working to modernize the office and improve the way the Tax Collector’s office serves the people of Seminole County. These ethics reforms are his latest project.
Jacob Engels is an Orlando based journalist whose work has been featured and republished in news outlets around the globe including Politico, InfoWars, MSNBC, Orlando Sentinel, New York Times, Daily Mail UK, Associated Press, People Magazine, ABC, and Fox News to name a few. Mr. Engels focuses on stories that other news outlets neglect or willingly hide to curry favor among the political and business special interests in the state of Florida.