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Orange County tax collector spends thousands on lobbyist

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ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - Channel 9 has learned that Orange County's tax collector is spending tens of thousands of dollars to lobby both state and local lawmakers.
 
Last week Channel 9 reported on Scott Randolph's plan to save taxpayers $500,000 a year by moving his tax collector offices out of an Orlando high-rise.
 
Channel 9's Karla Ray discovered that Scott has been pitching that plan with the help of a highly paid lobbyist.
 
At $5,000 a month, the lobbyist contracts add up to $70,000 spent in the year-and-a-half Randolph has been in office.
 
In a statement to Ray, Randolph's staff said, "Much like Orange County government, the clerk of courts, property appraiser, sheriff and library board, (Randolph) hired a governmental affairs consultant so that he can focus on the day to day operations of this office."
 
Ray called every other central Florida tax collector and found none of them have ever hired lobbyists.
 
"Any elected official can speak for himself or through paid staff rather than through outside consultants, lobbyist," said Doug Head, with the advocacy group County Watch.
 
Head said hiring a consultant with taxpayer money is bad business.
 
The tax collector position has been scrutinized by a task force over whether it should continue to be an elected position.
 
"I think that any elected official is expected by the public to fight his own fights with his own staff, not to go hire consultants as hired guns," said Head.
 
Ray learned that one of the issues the local consultant spoke to commissioners about is moving the tax collectors offices out of SunTrust building.   
 
Ray reached out to Randolph several times Monday to ask if he was using that lobbyist to protect his position. Staff members would only refer to the statement sent to Ray and would no elaborate beyond that.
 
Ray also contacted the tax collectors in Miami-Dade, Hillsborough and Palm Beach counties, all of whom said they never use lobbyists to speak with commissioners like Randolph has done in Orange County.