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Disgraced Ex-Tax Collector Proposes Big Government "Land Grab"

Ray Valdes, who served as the Seminole County Tax Collector for 28 years before being defeated this August, is proposing the county take ownership of property the office owns, without paying for it.

 

By Jacob Engels

 

In August, Seminole County voters rejected Ray Valdes at the ballot box, ending a nearly three-decade career in the role of Tax Collector. Valdes was marred with revelations of his corruption by this publication and others, after it was revealed that he profited off the very sales and auctions his office conducts and organizes.

 

Shell corporations, elderly family members, office employees and Valdes' family members were all part of the illicit scheme that earned Valdes an investigation from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Businessman and political newcomer Joel Greenberg bested Valdes after running an aggressive grassroots campaign backed up with substantial media buys and direct mail efforts.

 

In a letter to the Seminole County Board of Commissioners and its Chairman John Horan, Valdes proposes that the board take ownership of buildings and land currently owned by the Tax Collector's office. He reasoned that in doing so, he would be “assisting” his successor, Tax Collector-elect Joel Greenberg.

 

The hearing to discuss the matter is set for December 13th, and the county has already used taxpayer resources to obtain a legal opinion from Tom Wilkes of GrayRobinson.

 

You can see Mr. Valdes’ request and reasoning in the below document.

 

Valdes Transfer of Property Proposal by Jacob Engels on Scribd

 

Ironically, Mr. Valdes never once expressed the "imminent need" for Seminole County to be take ownership over the properties during his time in office -- it was only after his embarrassing defeat that transferring the property to the county became a priority for Mr. Valdes. To be clear, this is not a simple swap where the Tax Collector receives something of value in return for this transfer.

 

This blind and unprecedented big government giveaway would take revenue from the Tax Collector's office, as they are currently involved in a deal to lease extra space in one of their buildings to the Seminole County Sheriff's office.

 

That alone would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars yearly, effectively wiping out annual savings that the Tax Collector's office routinely reimburses back to Seminole County. And that's the point. Under the guise of trying to help his successor, Valdes is trying to set up his onetime opponent for failure.

 

In a letter obtained by the Seminole County Post and addressed to the commission from Tax Collector-elect Greenberg, the incoming first-time elected official says this recommendation from Valdes is part of a "grudge." It was sent on December 6th, just over a week after Valdes’ communication to the county.

 

"As the Seminole County Tax Collector-elect, who will be taking office in only 28 days, I strenuously object to this absurd action, and I urge you, in the interest of avoiding years of legal and financial repercussions for the County and its taxpayers, to vote this proposal down. Let us not mince words. This is a transparent attempt at revenge by a soon-to-be former officeholder who is angry that he lost an election. He is attempting to cripple the Tax Collector’s office and set its capital program back many years, to the detriment of Seminole County taxpayers. Do not be a party to it."

 

Read the full letter below.

 

Greenberg Correspondence to Chairman Horan by Jacob Engels on Scribd

 

Mr. Greenberg would go on to reveal Valdes has not facilitated proper access to the office and other necessary steps as part of the normal transition process we take pride in as Americans.

 

Veteran Seminole Commissioner Lee Constantine told the Seminole County Post that the timing is "very questionable."

 

"It's definitely concerning. Tax Collector-elect Greenberg deserves the right to actually review the office that taxpayers entrusted him to lead. The Commission shouldn't be interested in preemptive measures recommended by a party that is not exactly unbiased."

 

Constantine previously served in the State Senate and State House before becoming elected to the commission. He is considered a fiscal hawk among local Republicans and is also very vocal about not expanding the responsibilities of local, statewide, or federal governments.

 

Our sources tell us that Commissioner Brenda Carey and Chairman John Horan are said to be supportive of the measure, which is extremely disappointing. We have supported both in the past and believe them to be "small government" Republicans.

 

They are not known to usually consider ideas from individuals under investigation for corruption like Ray Valdes. Efforts to reach Commissioner Carey were not successful. We certainly hope that this is not the case and that Commissioner Carlton Henley and Commissioner Bob Dallari are reviewing the proposal with caution.

 

If the county were to push for the transfer of the property, which Valdes of course wants to occur before Greenberg is sworn in, it could cause the cost of services provided by the Tax Collector's office to spike.

 

Wade Vose, of Vose Law Firm, is representing Tax Collector-elect Greenberg during this process and says in his own letter to the commission that there is no "legal or factual" basis for Valdes' request.

 

"In short, the thought that there is some legal imperative to transfer these properties to the County is without merit. The notion that there is some newly discovered pressing urgency in addressing these matters so precipitously has no legal or factual basis, other than the exploitation of a disgruntled lame duck politician who lost an election. I urge you to advise your Commissioners accordingly.”

 

Read that letter below, also sent on December 6th, the same day Tax Collector-elect Greenberg challenged Valdes’ “grudge proposal.”

 

Wade Vose Correspondence To Commission by Jacob Engels on Scribd

 

Given the fact that the request is suspect, and that there is no legal or factual imperative for the transfer of the property, the Seminole Commission should reject it outright. To the Commissioners who are considering this proposal, this big government land grab, ask yourself how that aligns with Republican orthodoxy.

 

How does it look entertaining such a proposal from a jaded loser who has been exposed as a corrupt politician of epic proportions?

 

If they fight for this idea, they open the door for all outgoing elected officials to set their successors up for failure, encouraging petty and politically motivated revenge schemes. They also guarantee a multi-million dollar legal fight between the independently wealthy Greenberg and the county, a bill that Seminole County taxpayers would be stuck with.

 

Look, I think it's pretty fair to say that an outgoing elected official should be barred from meddling in the future affairs of the person replacing them. It's a slap in the face of the taxpayers who voted Valdes out and Greenberg in -- they have had enough of Ray Valdes... that's why he lost.

 

John Horan, Brenda Carey, Bob Dallari, Lee Constantine, Carlton Henley... will you listen to the voters who demanded a change of leadership in the Tax Collector's office, or will you side with a man like Ray Valdes?

 

Attempts to reach Mr. Valdes were unsuccessful. The Seminole County Post will report further on this matter after the December 13th meeting.

 

 

Jacob Engels, is the Founder of East Orlando Post & Seminole County Post. His work through these publications has been showcased in hundreds of publications and news outlets in the state of Florida, the United States, and around the globe. Jacob has been interviewed on national television & radio programs, with his work having been featured in the Orlando Sentinel, New York Times, Washington Post, Miami Herald and other publications nationwide. He can be reached at [email protected]

 

 

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