spends about $1,000,000 a year on average since start up. During difficult economic times, citizen's concerns are raised
by spending by the TDC Ocala Board. When it would make sense to hire and spend in Marion County, citizens have
trouble with a Jacksonville firm helping the Ocala Tourism Bureau spend money for web support and printing type purchases.
Gold and Associates of Jacksonville Florida, is used as a purchasing company to make even the simplest purchases for
Marion County Tourism Promotion. Simple items that typically would just be a matter of picking up the phone and asking
for a few quotes is given to the Jacksonville firm of Gold and Associates to select a vendor. We suggest it is time
for new persons to be appointed to the Marion County TDC. Citizens are justifiablly up set with what they see as poor
management and apparent conflict of interest from the Ocala County TDC boards in the Ocala Visitor Bureau.
Citizens are questioning the no bid nature of much of the commerce of the Ocala Visitor's
and Convention Center. Since start up in about 2005, the accomplishments of the Ocala TDC have trended down some say
"like plane with broken wings". A recent example of no bid purchasing of $34,000 tax payer funding of work
that should have been given to one of our local quality vendors. A simple web site that local experts state could be
built for $1,000 to $4,000 has cost the taxpayers tens of thousands over the years. Now not functioning well, the web
site is experiencing unwanted comments that could be avoided by simple techniques such as comments by viewers. Usually
a web designer selects a feature requiring viewers to put in a provided code shown on the page to keep machines from leaving
unwanted messages and links. This is a simple design selection yet our Ocala TDC is paying $34,000 to have what they
call "hacking" prevention. Considered a bogus amount of money for a simple solution local vendors are questioning
the no bid nature of this type expenditure.
County Commissioner Charlie
Stone appeared willing to stop sending valuable jobs out of the county. Moments after voting for the no bid expenditure.
With high unemployment and difficult economic times it becomes important that government be as careful with dollars
as private business must be just to keep the doors open. Wasting money is usually followed by a call to raise taxes.
We have a fiscally conservative County Commission that will not raise taxes on people who are having a difficult time
as is. Every percent of tax on tourist who stay in our county for a single over night stay up to 6 months must pay a
percentage of their lodging expenses to help us promote more tourism. We all pay this tax when we travel to other locations.
Marion County Singer and Movie Star, Kaye Stevens promotes our great community to the end, especially representing and remembering our veterans.
Visit Belleview Florida voted Best Florida Visit Destination Springs District
Marion Sun Times: 111512 Mimi Lash
Mayor Christine Dobkowski enters office. Family and friends watched
as Mayor Dobkowski and the city council got down to work.
Clerk Sandi McKamey becomes mini mayor for a day last week, and calls a telephone meeting of the City Council as new mayor
is about to take office.
Is an unelected city employee over playing her hand
by operating outside public view? Was her calling of council members a violation of the sunshine right of the public to be present?
Will Governor Scott have to Step In?
Top on the agenda was
a question of city staff going around the public meeting and calling for a vote on a hiring decision outside the public meeting
format as called for in Belleview regulations. Discussion centered around private phone call polling of commissioners
to give a go-ahead to a city employee to obligate the city to an employment obligation. The hiring bypassed the general
public during these high unemployment times. Voting against the end run hiring incident that occurred just days before
the new mayor would take office was Mayor Dubkowski. The question is why have an open public meeting if decisions have
already been made by private secret telephone voting. The lawyer for the city clearly pointed out that council business
must be conducted in the sunshine and public employees acting as Para-Commissioners is not legal. Marion Sun Times on the Record.
Commission asked to decide if public officials can award themselves contracts.
Buy Local has no meaning in Marion County
Commission Awards Contract to Jacksonville's Gold and Associates
Marion County Commission again awards Gold and Associates of Jacksonville, much needed Marion County Jobs. As a follow up, Commissioner
Stone led an effort to give Gold and Associates of Jacksonville a contract for $34,000 that could easily have been given to
a local web design firm. Local web designers feel it could have been accomplished for under $1,000 if done by a firm
that was actually in the Web Security business.
Mimi Lash 10/28/11 Marion Sun Times
Outrageous is how some critics are describing the
continued outsourcing of Ocala jobs to Jacksonville.
Purchasing bundled enough in one single package that all of the business
had to be shipped out of town to Jacksonville. Jobs lost in the over 50 with the Multiplier effect. Resturants,
hotels, printers, and creative services to suffer. Incoming Commissioner Charlie Stone and Director Matt Dunn seen as
controling the flow of funds out of town. Ethics Commission may wade in on how the funds are spent on public official board member firms. Clerk of the Court reports Ocala Visitor
and Convention Bureau is a normal county department in full compliance, however recent contracts show that it is the only
department where officials can give their own firms business. Florida Statutes 112.311 Example It is the policy of the state that no officer or employee … shall have any interest, financial
or otherwise, direct or indirect; engage in any business transaction or professional activity
Marion County Administration stepped over several qualified local businesses. Our local people again lost employment
opportunities in favor of outsourcing to Jacksonville, according to Best Florida Visit officials.
As unemployment surges in Marion County, Ocala's buy local program is ignored again causing hardship.
Sending our jobs away is at the heart of economic hardship in once booming Ocala.
When will our Commission and select committees for employment contracts allow our local Ocala Businesses to
compete for our own jobs.
Heritage Advertising was first to recognize the need to allow printing, video, photography, Internet services, billboards and other jobs
to stay here in Ocala.
Concern over the failing program of billboard promotion from county officials in the billboard
business, citizens formed the Marion County TDC in order to help reverse management shortcomings of the Ocala Visitor's Center.
It appears that the efforts
of the TDC Director Don Browning, to revitalize Tourism Promotion in Marion County is succeeding dispite years of outsourcing Millions of Tax Dollars to Jacksonville over the past several years. Browning
and other concerned citizens have funded their own effort to promote Marion County with the successful promotion of Marion
County as the Best Florida Visit, Ocala Best, and Discover Marion County. "It is a crime that we don't employee our great advertising people here in Marion County, because our people
are out of work and the finest promotional resources in the state of Florida."
don't believe in ourselves, who would want to come here, or believe in our community," asked Browning in a recent interview.
"County Officials must have "rocks in their heads" to outsource needed employment opportunities."
The unemployed taxpayers are the people bypassed, yes they are the tax payers who pay Marion County Taxes, for heaven
sakes." "We are creating a County Wide Chamber, and our own TDC to turn around the slide caused by recent outdated programs. This is the first time "Competition for the Right to Promote Marion County" has made a real contest out of a failing government program. When we started collecting taxes to promote Marion
County the revenue was almost double what it is now after millions has been spent with the Jacksonville Experts. We
think we can do a better job. Billboards are great for local promotion, but many citizens feel signs on an interstate
hi-way is not the best way to promote to the world of tourism. Tourism Tax fall-off seems to prove their point. "With
the Viva La Florida promotion on an international basis, billboards may not be a good fit for us," stated Browning. "The
modern Billboard is the Internet, interactive and responsive to the need of tourist." If a tourist hasn't had a
chance to plan a Marion County Adventure Visit by the time they are driving by Ocala, it may be too late to interest them
in our wonderful tourist opportunities.
The way our current billboard marketing program is connected with the On Top
of the World billboard marketing program is a shift back into the old Burma Shave or South of the Border hi-way sign promotion
days. Long time Chairman of Tourism promotion is the Marketing Director of On Top of the World and we seem to be in
a battle with The Villages for prospective customers. State officials have been asked if the same public officials who
develop the marketing program should give themselves the billboard business. County Commissioner level investigating
is asking why the Bidding process for Millions in Employment Dollars is bundled in such a big package that only outsourcing
Gold and Associates of Jacksonville has always been the outsource selection for Tourist Promotion for the Ocala Visitor and Convention Center. In a recent "test shopping" venture to determine the validity
of the 'hard to find', County Offices for the Ocala Visitor Center, our test visitor found the offices empty, totally void
of tourist, except for county employees. In order for a visitor to find the Ocala Visitor's center a person would have
to do the impossible. Tucked behind the new courthouse on a one-way street, the Ocala Center seems a total waste of taxpayers dollars.
The Marion County Commission Returns Billboard
Executive to the Ocala Visitor And Convention Bureau TDC Board.
in a closely watched appointment,
the commission appeared to approve the Billboard Marketing direction of the Ocala Tourism Board. Questions of concern
over the close relationship between billboard customers and executives as government officials is raising concerns over the
Florida Statutes governing Conflict of Interest (FS 112.311) and the Tourism Promotion Statute (FS 125.0104). Should
public officials be the awarder and also the awardee of the same business interest is the question. Florida Conflict
of Interest statutes are clear that no conflict or even the appearance of a conflict is allowed, however commissioners feel
that "the statute requires an interest in tourism and that allows industry executives to give themselves the business
that they develop in the the course of their official duties. It may take a judgement by State Ethics Officials to decide
if public officials in the Tourism Promotion business are exempt from conflict of interest statutes. Not all members
of the Ocala Tourism Visitor and Convention Board are in a conflict of interest position, however it does seem all prefer
to outsource employment bypassing local Ocala Businesses.
Gander Mountain's Terry Patterson Florida Archery
Citizens express concern and may force court decision to determine if Marion County can be Officially named Ocala in
world wide branding.
Around a circle of tables and a big Gaudy Ocala Logo, Marion County government kind of melted and moped, to the dismay of the crowd.
Only listening to themselves, sat a government persons one after another each more important then the next in their
own eyes. Elected officials never got to hear from the real Private Enterprise officials in the room. The Public
had called the meeting to help stodgy County workers find their way, but the Government was in no mood to hear solutions.
What a mess government can make on their way to giving themselves an "A +" for a performance that would get
them fired in the real world. Never have so few been so unproductive and unimpressive. The best way to test our
government business plan is to see if it continues the multi year down hill spiral. If they are really bad we will know
by the poverty and lack of funds, stated Commissioner Charlie Stone. What is really depressing is these were Republicans
who believe in the private sector, hearing only from the public sector. Millionaire Makers in the audience that could
dance circles around the government workers were asked to stay in their seat and not speak. What a waste!
Private Business Did all they could
to bring Ocala Group of Government Tourist folks on to the next level. In a two hour workshop designed to iron
out difficulties with the Tax Payer Funded OcalaTDC, private citizens got an example of why Government is usually at a loss
to perform. Funded entirely by private donations, The TDC
of Marion County is already promoting Marion County Treasures, while the Government group only wanted to talk to themselves. Impressed with their own importance and a $1,000,000 in tax payer funding displayed arrogance. They actually think Government is
better than private Enterprise. Taking fundamentally different marketing paths, the private TDC Marion is moving on without
further distractions. Great ideas were swept aside while government officials indulged each other. What shame
for all the families that are suffering in poor economic times.
Putting "heads in beds" is not the goal of tourist development stated Don Browning TDC Marion Director. "That's
like saying "putting gas in tanks" is the goal of a gas tax roads program. It is about the roads in the right
area. Following the analogy Marion County would collect the tax to contract for roads out away from Florida. Spending
our tourism tax funds to chase events is wasteful. Promoting events benefits events mostly. Promoting venues in
Marion County is more like ity and totally in tune with The State Statute FS 125.0104 that authorizes the Marion Tourist
It's not hard to understand that promoting activities
in Marion County is the way to benefit Marion County citizens. We have 14% unemployment and the well paid county employees
are patting each other on the back for a job poorly done.
meeting was called because of citizens complaints after years of attempting to convince the OcalaTDC and OcalaVCB to use the Marion County
Name in representing to the world. Controversial Hiring conditions dampened the first meeting with the new Executive
Director Matt Dunn, hired on as a sales person a bit over two years ago, Mr Dunn was recently give a fast track promotion
when he others were blocked from even applying the OcalaVCB Executive Director position. the rush to block other qualified applicants
was concerning to the many unemployed qualified persons in Marion County. Against the Marion County Rules the non vacant
position was "Deemed Vacant" and the Administrator was Deemed to have approved a 14.02 waver to block other qualified
persons from applying for the job.
Mr. Dunn will
have his hands full considering the building outrage of years of switching Marion County's Name to Ocala. So up set after years
of calling the Marion County TDCOcala, and the Visitor Bureau Ocala, citizens have pick up the name and advanced the brand on their own. Marion
County commissioners even officially changed the Tourism name to OcalaMarion to the disappointment of Marion County residents.
Public Outcry grew louder for even a court order request to force the Ocala Tourism Council and Visitor Bureau to have
to follow use the name Marion County in their name. Again today the OcalaTDC and the Ocala Visitors Bureau would would
not stop using the Ocala Name. It may take a law suit to force Marion County Commissioners to use Marion County
as the county brand name. In the mean time Ocala will stay up on the sign and all logos. As difficult as it may
seem, Ocala can not be removed as the Marion County name represented to the world. Today Marion County Commissioner
Stan McClain admitted that there simply were not enough votes on the commission to pass an ordinance to name Marion County
as Marion County. Citizens were stunned to arrive at the meeting to see a big Ocala projected on the screen
as the name to be promoted as Marion County.
to see if the many TDC Marion County can gain support. Ocala Marion Commission became part of the problem
when they pass the OcalaMarion ordinance changing the name that would be represented to the
world as Ocala-Marion County. Even if we need new commissioners Citizen Don Browning TDC Director is determined to have Marion County represented as Marion County.
Marion County citizens fight back. Stop the Alphabet Confusion: What is the VCB or the TDC and why
does it matter? It matters in millions of tax payers dollars because The TDC is used if approval to spend tax dollars
is needed and VCB is used for authorization to spend tax payers dollars is needed. This arrangement is likely illegal
and certainly has the appearance of slight of hand. This ploy is used for all important issues like changing the name
of the TDC from Marion County to Ocala, or to block any other persons from applying for an important job.
How to spend a million dollars in tax funds with out being accountable.
We will try to explain but this ploy by Marion County Government is designed not to be logical except to appear that procedures
How Ocala got control of
the Marion County Tourism Millions. It was easy to do because the taxpayers of Marion County were intentionally confused
by Marion County Government. Chairman Stan McClain has called a workshop to work through the problems brought to light.
Good luck with that, this puzzle is so effective that most of the players don't actually understand it but they know
Here is an attempt to explain how this dysfunctional system works:
Don't expect to understand this
Step one: How to Avoid
oversight by the Marion County Administration and the Marion County Board of County Commissioners.
Circle of confusion. TDC uses VCB to spend money. The TDC (Marion County Tourism Development
Council) uses the VCB Visitor and Convention Bureau to spend money. Each is controlled differently so the VCB does the
TDC's work, and the TDC does the VCB's work. Try to break that code!
The VCB is under full oversight by the Marion County Administration, but all business is conducted by the TDC and
therefor oversight is avoided.
All parties are able to claim plausible deniability because each both oversight
organizations are only allowed to oversee the organization they do not control. Both the TDC and the VBC are in fact
able to operate as they please.
TDC gets all approvals directly from the MCBCC (Marion County Board of County Commissioners) thereby avoiding all Marion County
The VBC does
all of the spending of tax dollars and thereby avoids the oversight of the MCBCC while directly under the Marion County Administration
oversight. The Administration has nothing to oversee, because the MCBCC is directly contacted by the TDC and the Administration
has no oversight over the TDC. If you are confused that is because this government program is set up to avoid detection
and oversight. For 6 years this TDC/VCB has cruised under the radar of accountability. In 2008 the Clerk of the
Court David Ellespermann conducted an audit of the TDC and VBC because of fraud and confusion in TDC's around the state. None
are as confusing as Marion County. Even the name of these TDC/VCB organizations have been changed from Marion County
to Ocala. As a result, Ocala now has the only TDC and VBC along with $1,000,000 per year.
The TDC that is not accountable to Marion County Administration code, while they claimed to have
followed all Marion County laws anyway in order to appear to be in compliance with Marion County Policy 14.01 1-6 and in compliance with 14.02 to escape the requirements of 14.01.
If you are confused join the crowd. Writing an expose on this dysfunction
is difficult at best. Just try to explain what is happening with our $1,000,000 annually and you will see why you can't
trust government. Our Marion County Chairman Stan McClain may have to start over with a new TDC and VCB.
Marion County Code 14.01Ensures that all job opportunities are equally available to all applicants and employees regardless
of race, color, religion, sex, marital status, age, national origin, political affiliation, or disability, except when the
disability is job related and cannot be reasonably accommodated.
Don't you believe it!
Learn how easy it is to
break the Marion County Code.
Step 1. Employee
Matt Dunn hears from his boss Executive Director Ann Sternall that she is about to retire but hasn't announced the news. Problem
Step 2. Ann and Matt are Marion
County employees that operate outside the oversight of the Marion County Administration under the direction of a the TDC of
Ocala. The TDC is the Tourism Development Board that reports directly to the Marion County Board of County Commissioners.
Matt applied for the Ocala Tourist & Convention Bureau Executive Director position and was allowed special status
by the TDC that prohibited others from even applying for the position.
The VCB employee could not do that but the TDC could and did. Even though the special exemption would require
the position to be vacant per 14.03 the position was "Deemed Vacant" because it was to become vacant in the future.
Even though the County Administrator would have to specifically approve
the wave the rights of others to apply for the position, It was "Deemed Waved" by County Administrator Lee Niblock
because he had approved the entire budget earlier in the year and the Executive Position was in the general Budget. Additionally,
Dr Niblock does not have oversight over the TDC and the request was made by the Chairman of the TDC under ummunity from the
All applicants were told that they could
not apply for the position of Executive Director of the VCB, except for Mr. Matt Dunn. Concerns were voiced by the Marion
County Tourist Director both verbal and written but the concerns were ignored.
TDC Marion Director Don Browning recently announced a greater than 2:1 web site presence over the
Citizens are asking for an audit of
Ocala TDC's use of Marion County TDC funds. Success by the Marion County TDC is making the Ocala effort pretty much irrelevant.
County Taxes have been diverted to the Ocala Visitor and Convention
Bureau stunting the Marion County tourism message going out to the world.
Per the Tourist Tax Ordinance Millions of Marion County tourist development funds have been used to promote Ocala.
Everything changed when County Elected Officials
were asked to follow the Florida Statute 125.0104 and promote Marion County.
The Ocala TDC Group is not happy that they will have to go to the voters to create a sub district
of Ocala inside Marion County.
Citizens ask the following to apply to Ocala for funding through an Ocala
Sub District in Marion County allowed under FS 125.0104.
My Ocala Vacation
Ocala Sports Events
Ocala Golf Vacations
Ocala Sports Commission
Ocala Visitors &
Per Title XI Part 1
FS 125.0104 3 (N) 2 (4) c and (4)e.
The TDC must be named for the County Taxed.
Per FS 125.0104
4 c - the plan must be put forward prior to the enactment of the Ordinance and the plan was the Marion County Tourist
Development plan. There was no mention of Ocala as the plan or as a sub district.
Per FS 125.0104 4 e -
the TDC is to be named after the county taxed in this case Marion County.
So that the law is upheld,
The TDC Marion Tourism Committee will do business as the Marion Tourism Council until the Tax Funded Board returns to the
name Marion County. Currently the TDC board logo, business cards, emails, Web Sites and corespondence of all types are
named Ocala or Ocala Marion Ocala Sports, or Ocala Visitor and Convention Bureau.
Marion County is in the lead as an important part of Central Florida Villages success.
Senator Alan Hays, and Representatives Dennis Baxley and Marlene O'Toole invite Governor Scott
to the Villages.
Ocala Visitors Bureau and the rest of Marion County compete for
control of Marion County Promotion. This week saw considerable activity in the area of the economically successful Villages
and struggling Ocala. Herman Cain kicked off the week in the Marion County Villages followed by the Governor Selecting
the Villages to sign his Jobs Budget and finally Marion County Board Chairman dedicated the Hope Park boat ramp on Lake Weir.
Marion County surges ahead in the fight
for Tourism Dollars to promote Marion County. Currently Ocala has all the funding meant for Marion County but the tide
is turning if favor of Marion County.
Pro Bono Marketing by Marion County TDC and EDC has created new hope for Marion County Economic Recovery.
Marketing interest are taking back control of Marion County from Ocala interest. Everywhere you look is an Ocala interest
taking a portion of Marion County funds. Ocala/Marion County is now the best once proud residents of Marion County
can expect. We can't find Marion County on a map so we use Ocala to represent our area declared board members at the
Ocala Visitor & Convention board meeting recently. Just because we say Ocala, doesn't mean we are not giving Marion
County equal promotion declared a consensus of the board members present. Controlling Tourist Development Tax funds
to support groups with the Ocala Logo has become a trend in recent years. Ocala CC.com the Ocala Chamber website is
now challenged by the Marion County Chamber of Commerce and the Ocala EDC is now being overtaken by The EDC Marion County.
Marion County Residents are successfully fighting back with Marion County branding via a host of powerful Pro
Bono Tourist Promotional efforts. Commissioners and Marion County Administration officials are moving to take control
of the Ocala Tourism board. "Years of no oversight has created a monster double system", declared Marion Visitors
and Convention board member Steve Hunter. Equal but separate is proven to be unfair to the majority of Marion County
Residents. The Ocala interest uses Marion as a location as in the Ocala Logo that shows that Ocala is in Marion County.
For every 10,000 persons in Ocala, there are 50,000 persons in Marion County that will now be represented.
of oversight by the Ocala Tourism board has resulted in a fast track promotion effort by the Ocala Tourism Board recently,
of sports employee Matt Dunn as shown in the Marion County $80,000 application for the soon to be vacated Executive Director
position of Ocala Visitor Bureau. Invoking a little known Article 7 Insider exemption of hiring exemption for a current
employee, the Ocala Tourism Board waved requirements to be open to all Marion County qualified applicants, under hiring policy
1-6 in County Policy 14.01. Pro Bono HR experts have asked County Administrator Lee Niblock and Marion County Commission
Chairman Stan McClain to follow Florida Statute 125.0104 along with County Policy 12.01 and .02 in hiring and oversight of
the Ocala Tourist Board. County Clerk David Ellspermann recently declared that there were no weaknesses in the oversight
of the Ocala Tourism Board has been brought into question by policy statements that declare Marion County Administration has
no oversight authority over the Ocala Board.
Viva La Florida recently recognized Marion County as the geographical
area that also includes Ocala. This was an important recognition breaking the trend for Ocala based organizations to
represent our Marion County Board of County Commissioners. Marion County Chamber of Commerce, EDC Marion County, TDC
Marion County and VTC Marion County all have asked for recognition and support in promotion of Marion County Tourism Development.
Marion County TDC is raising concerns about branding Marion County Florida.
report by the TDC Marion County Florida:
We have uncovered have potential problems that could have grave consequences for the Marion County Commission, County
Clerk, and the Marion County Administration. County officials we speak with are under the impression that the MCTB
does not operate under the oversight of the Marion County Administrator, yet Mr. Ellspermann the MC Clerk of the Court, clearly
found that the County Administrator had full oversight as indicated by his Report Conclusion: "VCB
was organized and accounted as a County department that was under the oversight of the County Administrator and was subject
to the same internal operational, financial, purchasing and budgetary controls of any other department." Clearly
there is a fundamental gap a mile wide between actual oversight responsibility by the County Administrator and the findings
of Mr Ellspermann.
appears to be no connection between oversight reality and the Clerk's report findings.
We feel that there is a need for a community discussion
per FS 125.0104, and the Sub District Ocala that currently has control of Marion County Tourist Development tax dollars. We
feel that arguments for the Marion County interest must be heard in additon to the Ocala interest. The Florida Statute
requires a separate district ordinance for a sub district.
While Florida Statutes requires a single board member
to be from the the county's largest city, we feel it is time to have a community discussion of the name of the Marion County
Tourism Development Council and the current appearance presented that Marion County can be represented as Ocala. The
Ocala interest feel strongly that Marion County must do business as Ocala however we feel just as strongly that Marion County
is a Vital Destination and can stand as it is named in the ordinance as the Marion County Tourist Development
be advised that It is our belief that both Marion County Administrator Dr. Niblock, and David Elispermann are at extreme
professional risk because of irregularities uncovered recently in the Clerks report in another TDC experiencing problems,
and the assurance that the Marion County Administrator had full departmental control over the Marion Tourist Development Council. (See Link)
Additionally, commissioner Stone has been under the impression that he
is a liaison to the board, when in fact he is by ordinance a required full board member with fiduciary responsibility. Commissioner
Stone has been filling a role of observer without over sight responsibility. You Lee have been under the impression
that you are excluded from oversight by FS 125.0104 and the Marion County Ordinance marion county florida (Ord. No. 04-17,
§ 3, 7-6-2004)
The TDC of Marion County has uncovered several serious irregularities that cause grave concern, we need an open
forum to express the concerns that must be addressed. We feel that a quick wording change by the BCC would appear as
a cover-up of years of not oversight by the Administration because they didn't know they had oversight. Please take
these comments as constructive and not as criticism. We all know that if you knew you had oversight of this county department
you would address those duties with the same dignity, integrity and professionalism that you handle your other Marion County
According to the report by Mr Ellspermann, the Clerk
of the Court was aware of irregularities so serious, from another county that a study was undertaken to insure that The Marion
County Tourist Development Council was treated as a normal county department under the full control of The County Administrator.
from David Ellspermann's Report on the need for total Marion County Oversight with no weaknesses.
(Our previous reviews were generally limited to a testing of expenditures and
discussions with County management and staff concerning effectiveness of internal controls to ensure effective management
oversight. We concluded at that time the VCB was organized and accounted as a County department that was under the oversight
of the County Administrator and was subject to the same internal operational, financial, purchasing and budgetary controls
of any other department. BCC approval was required for large contracts and individual grants.
For this current review, we expanded our activities to include discussions with
VCB personnel and an on-site examination of pertinent documents.
We have concluded that TDT funds are used in accordance with County Code and that there are no
material internal control issues or weaknesses. We also determined that VCB and County personnel are in compliance with relevant
County policies and procedures. We did identify the following findings and recommendations in the following pages that are
submitted for management’s consideration.
It appears that the
Applicant and his boss the current Ex. Director of the Ocala Tourism Bureau are attempting to have this promotion declared
"appropriate to wave Section 14.01" Items 1 through 6 that guarantee a fair open evaluation of qualified applicants
from Marion County. There are no previsions in FS 125.0104 that allow the Ocala Tourism Agency Board to authority to
wave guarantees afforded other qualified candidates for director of the Marion County Tourism Executive Director. On
the contrary, FS 125 requires that sub section 125.0104 authorized persons act according to the Florida Statutes and Marion
County 14.01 and 14.02.
Our concern is that Federal Title VII and Marion County policy are being violated.
By written policy 14.01 and 14.02 an in house waver requires first a vacancy and only then the judgement of a waver
of 14.01 items 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6, in order to evoke item 7. A false "fast track" need undetermined by
the County Administrator was used to discriminate against all Marion County qualified persons protected under MC policy and
Title VII. Two persons, both with a conflict of interest, currently in the job of Ex, Director position, and her
assistant who would financially benefit from the determination of other qualified applicants. We have a great story
to tell and only want a chance to present our Marion County Tourism program to the Marion County Tourism Board, and the Marion
County Board of County Commissioners. There is a real concern that current Marion County Ordinance authorized taxes
are being used for the Sub District "Ocala", not approved by the voters of Marion County.)
The Marion County Administrator has never declared the vacancy "Vacant" because the position is
not yet vacant, and The Marion County Administrator has never deemed the special cercumstances exist that would block other
Qualified Marion County Residents from applying.
The fact that you are too busy to even bring up
this issue at this time proves our point that unnamed persons are attempting to fill this position with a single candidate
in violation of County Recruitment and Selection written policy.
Special interest who want
the 2 year sports employee on an inside track are trying to rush this promotion through. This is an important policy
position and it must wait per MC 14.02 procedures for your judgement to fill, retain, or hold vacant. The
Ocala Tourist Bureau has taken an insider information approach that I believe did not comply with our 14.02.
The current Executive Director has only anounced an interntion to retire, she is still in office and there is
no vacancy at this time. There is no vacancy yet as required in 14.01 and 14.02.
two camps in the promotion of Marion County.
Camp A: Ocala Visitor & Convention Bureau
Applicant Matt Dunn. Received a "no compete" insider track to his requested $80,000 application.
Other applications were blocked even though in-house advertising status was never deemed appropriate by the Marion County
Administrator as required in County Law. (14.01 and 02. OcalaMarion.com Candidate has 2 years and a few
months on the job. Mr Dunn's Strengths, experience and education are considerable in sports promotion. A senior
Human Services official commented that an important post such as the Executive Director of Marion County Tourism should be
open more than one applicant.
Ocala is a sub district and not considered a sports town by TDCMarion.
Marion County is not considered a sports venue having many other wonder treasures that could attract tourist. Promotion
centers around promoting outside golf events mainly that are bid on and promoted with the Marion County Visitor taxes.
Cost to tax payers is approx. $1,000,000 per year for the past 4 years. This camp refuses to even contact
local promotional interest that have world class promotional success on Internet visitor, tourism page one search engine results.
Camp A is a sub district based on the claim that Ocala is the county seat and deserves 90% of the promotion approved
by voters for Marion County tourism.
Camp B: Marion
County Tourism Bureau. Director Don Browning
It feels like we are getting the
run around by this 2 year employee and those close around him in the Ocala Camp.
The Marion County Visitor's Bureau has
been taken over by a sub district of Ocala. A branding of Marion County is considered worth fighting for by the board
of the TDC Marion.
Drew Adams has been helpful in sending necessary information on this mater.
It appears that on April 11 there was an announcement by the single applicant's boss Ann Sternal that was not
known or broadcast to the public. On the 13th of April there was an in-house advertising of the up coming potential
opening and Matt Dunn then had an exclusive opportunity at the $77,000 job. The decision to advertise internally automatically
discriminated against the many qualified candidates because there is an informal agreement in the county that no applications
can be taken if the "magic Internal advertisement" is issued yet under Marion County Policy 14.01 it takes a vacancy
and special intervention of the Marion County Administrator to by pass the safeguards against possible discrimination in items
1-6 of Policy 14.01.
Recruitment Policy 14.01 guarantees fair public announcements of job postings
in (1.) and in (3.) there is a clear guarantee of fair and open advertising and recruiting practices.
solely on the basis of knowledge, skills, ability, education and experience without regard to any individual's sex, race,
color, religion national origin, age, marital, status or disability.
It seems that
all these guarantees were crushed by a general statement that current Marion County recognizes advantages of promoting from
It seems that the term "When Appropriate" allows unnamed persons to automatically give a policy
making director post to a 2 year employee discriminating against all the interest of Marion County citizens.
Note: 14.02 Procedures for filling vacancies require you as county administrator to make the determination
on filling the not yet vacant position of Executive Director.
Discover Marion County's Board would not have noticed these problems if we had not spent the last 4 years developing a Marion County Promotional Program receiving zero support from Ann Sternal or Matt Dunn. Both Ms Sternal and Mr. Dunn are qualified persons and we
respect their professionalism in serving the citizens of Marion County. We also feel that the process must be lawful
and oversight must be appropriate for the Millions of Tax Dollars involved.
If we are to encourage
Marion County Citizens help our community prosper we must afford the same encouragement to all active participants.
Note the EconomicActionTeam.com has developed Economic Development Council EDCMarion.com, and MarionEDC.Com,
Marion Tourism Council TDCMarion.com, Marion Tourism Bureau VCBMarion.com all have been working to give All of Marion County
promotion in the race to develop a prosperous community.
We at least must be considered in the
manditory evaluation by the county administrator as stated in MC 14.02 Procedures for filling vacancies.
Citizens encourage Marion County Board of County Commissioners Sub-District Ocala, doing business as Ocala Visitors Bureau to gain authority under FS 125.0104. A Sub-District
such as Ocala may collect and disperse tourist development funds if authorized per FS 125,0104 sect. 4 (e). Currently
Marion County is the only authorized district.
in: Marion County TDC Marion Directors ask Commissioners to table the appointment of a Executive Director for the Ocala
Tourism Bureau. The authorized Marion County Tourism District can operate under the County Administrator and direct
the considerable administration funds toward the promotion of visitors and tourism in Marion County.
there is enough interest, a sub-district may be sent to the voters for approval. Currently a sub-district of Ocala
is operating the Ocala Visitors & Convention Bureau. Marion County is served by the Marion County Tourism Bureau with no funding from the Ocala/Marion County Board of County Commissioners.
A Blue Ribbon
Tourism Committee points out that with only 3 employees and vast unemployment in Marion County the tax money for an Executive
Director could me better spent. For example, Marion County Parks is already staffed and could better serve as the executive
director conduit to county administration. Every time we undertake an effort we seem to need to spend $100,000 for an
executive director. Tourism is a new tax effort and has only 3 employees. We don't need another Executive director.
The current salary is $77,000 plus much more in benefits. Actual cost to the taxpayers is likely over $105,000.
Currently 100% of Tourism Development Funding is going to the Ocala Visitor Bureau.
likely will change because Marion County Citizens are asking that a portion of the tax revenue used to promote Ocala Tourism.
Leverage will likely win the day as Ocala, once 60% of Marion County's population is now less than 19%.
A Marion County Citizens Group has asked for a share of the Branding Tax money to promote and brand the Magnificent Venue known as Marion County.
point out that Marion County has Silver and Rainbow Springs, hundreds of Horse Farms, Major Lakes, Rivers, and the Cross Florida
Trail System to name a few venues.
Spokesman Walter Pine points out that our Treasured Marion County
has Golf Courses, Sports Venues, and more plus the finest hotels both large and small. Marion County's Bed and Breakfast
lodging is world class.
Call for Golf Specials like Free Burger & Draft Beer in Groups of 16.
County Citizens ask for the primary share of the Marion County Tax Funding currently going to the Ocala Visitor Center Sub-District.
is building for a Recall Petition by 15% of the voters required by FS. A small Sub-District has developed around
Ocala. An interest in attracting special events rather than promoting tourism for our unique treasures is causing concern.
Currently Ocala Visitors Bureau receives 100% of Marion County tax funding. Marion County residents receive 0%. Yes, ZERO is spent branding Marion County Tourism Brand.
Director Stephen Hunter points out that Marion County Economic Development depends on a fair
split of tax funding to promote all of Marion County. Citing the Ordinance that authorized Marion County as the Tourist
Ocala has under 20% of the population so they should receive at least 25% of the Tax Payer
promotional funding. Citizens of Marion County pay tourist taxes when ever they travel and deserve a fair share of Marion
County's tourism tax.
Come Fly with me, to Adventure TDC Marion
Eco Art Capital of the WorldŽ, Marion Tourism Council.