INDIAN RIVER COUNTY, FL SHERIFF DERYL LOAR IS AN ELECTED FLORIDA CONSTITUTIONAL OFFICER AND A PART OF THE FLORIDA STATE JUDICIAL BRANCH. HE HAS A DUTY TO ENFORCE THE FLORIDA CONSITIUTION AND FLORIDA STATE LAWS AND STATUTES, AND TO PROVIDE FOR THE SECURITY, SAFETY AND WELL-BEING OF OUR CITIZENS.
Providing for the security, safety and well‐being of our citizens is a tall order, considering that a Gallup poll released on April 6, 2016 reported that more than half of Americans (53%) worried a “great deal” about crime and violence in the country.
According to an April 7, 2016 article in the Washington Post, “American’s are more concerned about crime than they have been since the turn of the century, according to a new poll, exceeding levels of concern about things like terrorism, climate change and illegal immigration.”
Americans’ level of concern about crime and violence is at its highest point in 15 years. Fifty‐three percent of U.S. adults say they personally worry ‘a great deal’ about crime and violence, an increase of 14 percentage points since 2014. This figure is the highest Gallup has measured since March 2001.”
Against this background, why was Sheriff Loar, who is responsible for the safety of a population of 147,919 (suburbanstats.org) treated with disrespect at the Indian River Board of County Commissioners Budget workshop on July 12, 2017?
To begin with, Sheriff Loar said that on May 1, 2017 he submitted a budget of $ 49.9 million. But he indicated that in recent conversations with County Administrator Jason Brown, and “in the interest of being a team player,” he and Mr. Brown had “met in the middle” and came up with a revised budget of $ 48.5 million.
In reducing his budget from $ 49.9 million to $ 48.5 million he indicated he had “conceded” $ 1.4 million.
At this, Commissioner Bob Solari abruptly scolded the Sheriff for using the word “conceded” and that he should have used his language differently because he didn’t “concede” anything, because his budget request was a $ 3.2 million (6.5 – 7%) increase over the prior year.
Commissioner Bob Solari
Then, Commissioner Solari went on an odd tangent about how “conceding” related to his wife going out to shop and “comes home saving 50%, but that was more than I thought you would be going out for.”
At this point Sheriff Loar’s face went red.
Then County Administrator Jason Brown indicated there had been no meeting of the minds, as Sheriff Loar had indicated.
While he said there was no meeting of the minds it had “no reflection on the Sheriff’s office; they do a great function.” He apologized “if there was any confusion that the meeting of the minds didn’t happen.”
County Administrator Brown’s recommendation was $ 47.9 million, a difference of $ 600,000. That’s why Sheriff Loar said: “It’s disheartening to be arguing over $ 600,000.”
Once again, the population of Indian River County in 2016-2017 is 147,919. In 2006 it was 129,980.
In 2006 the Sheriff’s department had 509 employees. In 2017 it has 496.
There are currently 16 openings in the Sheriff’s department for officers, which includes two for the new court room. The others are for officers who patrol in what was referred to as “green and white” vehicles. The $ 1.4 million Sheriff Loar “compromised, rather than “conceded,” means he will have six less officers.
Commissioner O’Bryan said: “I can’t support the full $ 600,000” difference between Mr. Brown’s recommendation and the $ 48.5 million, but that he could “split that with you. There are a lot of people on fixed incomes or the economic recovery hasn’t happened as fast for them.”
While Chairman Joe Flescher indicated the commission needed to be “good stewards of the tax payer’s dollars,” and that he has always been consistent in supporting the sheriff’s budget, at this time he could not support Sheriff Loar’s submitted budget.
Nevertheless, when he asked Sheriff Loar if the safety of the of the citizens would be compromised by the reduced budget, the sheriff replied that “I have no choice but to be comfortable with the $ 48.5 million.”
At one point there was contention between Commissioners Solari and Flescher over funding for the Indian River GoLine public transportation system versus the Sheriff’s budget.
Commissioner Solari felt moving forward with the bus rides was a priority so people can get to where they need to be. Despite saying the “world order has changed in Indian River County” and how he appreciated that people need to get there they need to go, “they may not be able to get there without the umbrella of safety and security.” As said, he had previously said he could not support Sheriff’s original budget.
Somewhere during Commissioner Solari and Commissioner Flescher’s exchange Commissioner Solari shouted at Commissioner Flescher. Under Robert’s Rules of Order a Commissioner should not be shouting out anything at the presiding office.
According to Roberts Rules of Order, Commissioners should not enter into debate. When a member concludes his speech, don’t rebut him, or argue with him or explain why he or she is wrong. Disagreements should be discussed during a recess.
Then with further decorum, Commissioner O’Bryan asked County Property Appraiser David Nolte “what is the percentage increase in homestead values which can go up three percent or the inflation rate, whichever is lower?”
Mr. Nolte came forward and asked Commissioner O’Bryan to repeat the question, which he did. Mr. Nolte said it was “minuscule. But I do not have the exact number with me.” Commissioner O’Bryan insulted him by saying something to the effect of “isn’t that your job” (to know that)?
Mr. Nolte tried to explain how assessed values are increasing and Commissioner O’Bryan said: “You said you don’t know so that’s the end of the question,” dismissing him.
The reason for the dismissal was not only his explanation, but also because Mr. Nolte came to the defense of the Sheriff pointing out competition was fierce for licensed law enforcement officers, and they leave Indian River County for better pay in other counties. That is when Mr. Nolte, another constitutional officer was dismissed by Commissioner O’Bryan.
Indian River County Property Appraiser David Nolte
At the conclusion of public comment Miles Conway, PhD, President of the South Beach Property Owners Association (SBPOA) addressed the commissioners and noted that the SBPOA Board of Directors, alone, have $ 41 million in real estate invested in the South Beach.
Further, he indicated that the South Beach has 2,609 property owners, that in 2016 these property owners paid Indian River County $ 20,384,532 in property taxes and that the market value of their properties was $ 3,519,022,353.
“We don’t need less greens on the street. I for one would pay higher taxes for more protection.”
He asked: “Why don’t you call a referendum for the voters and ask them if they favor Sheriff Loar’s $ 49.9 million budget and how much it would be for them in terms of a tax increase?”
Once again, in the spirit of decorum, Commissioner O’Bryan rudely interrupted Dr. Conway.
According to Robert’s Rules of Order, “recognized members who have begun to speak are entitled to their time, but they can’t be interrupted, unless something important comes up that must be dealt with before the next regular meeting or some particular business matter(s) is important.”
Dr. Conway continued on ignoring the interruption indicating that there are approximately 500 residential rentals in Indian River County subject to the County’s new short-term rental ordinance and that only 38 have been licensed, which is a 7.6% compliance. “We need more protection to police these rentals.”
In between the interruptions Dr. Conway attempted also to explain that under Florida Statues Section 509.241 (1) it is a misdemeanor of the second degree to be operating unlicensed public lodging establishments and it is the responsibility of local law enforcement to assist in enforcing this law.
Sheriff Loar had advised this is an “unfunded mandate” and as a result under the watch of the Board of County Commissioners, 462 misdemeanors of the second degree (equivalent of simple assaults) have occurred every single day in IRC since the start of 2016 and will continue until Sheriff Loar is funded to enforce this State Law. Dr. Conway was petitioning to get that money but Chairman Flescher did not want to hear it stating: “I’ve given you a lot of leeway. No more on short-term rentals. OK? Dr. Thank you.”
In the end it appears the Commissioners will approve a $ 48.5 budget for Sheriff Loar; four to one, (Commissioner Solari the one) but not the $ 49.9 he requested, representing a $ 1.4 million short fall from Sheriff Loar’s original request.
Towards the end of the meeting, Commissioner Solari indicated there was perhaps a trend in cutting Sheriff’s budgets, citing Miami in particular.
As Sheriff Loar left the meeting, one could only imagine the level of impotence and humiliation he must have felt.