Orange County tax collector defends use of lobbyists

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ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - Channel 9's Karla Ray was able to track down the Orange County tax collector Tuesday and ask him about spending $70,000 on lobbyists in an effort to save his job.
 
Last week, Tax Collector Scott Randolph spoke to Channel 9 about his plan to save money by moving his office out of an Orlando high-rise building.
 
Two days later, Ray learned about Randolph hiring high-priced lobbyists, but she was told he didn't have time for an interview on that topic.
 
After Ray's story about the lobbyists aired on Eyewitness News Monday, she was able to catch up with him at Tuesday's Orange County Commission meeting.
 
Randolph said he is very busy running his office and 270 employees.
 
Ray learned that Randolph hired two lobbyists for $70,000 total. She asked Randolph why the lobbyists are necessary. 
 
"Did you use that lobbyist to help protect your position as an elected office?" Ray asked Randolph.
 
"That lobbyist has been educating commissioners on the potential legal pitfalls to potential changes to the office," said Randolph.   
 
Ray found video of lobbyist Angel de la Portilla speaking at a June task force meeting in favor of keeping the tax collector as an elected position.
 
"As a member of the public, as a member of the private sector, what's the end game? What's the bottom line result?" de la Portilla said in the meeting.
 
Orange County Commissioner Fred Brummer was at that meeting and said no one knew de la Portilla was Randolph's lobbyist.
 
"He didn't disclose the fact that he was on the taxpayers' payroll. I didn't know about that. I was just so taken aback," said Brummer.
 
Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs said she's been lobbied several times by de la Portilla to keep the tax collector's position an elected one.
 
""Do you think it's appropriate to be lobbied in that way?" Ray asked Jacobs.
 
"I think that's a question for the voters to decide, whether that's a proper use of public funds to have a lobbyist," said Jacobs.
 
Randolph said his current lobbyist contract is for work in Tallahassee.

Ray learned that all tax collectors in the state are already represented by an association, which hires its own lobbyists.

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