Osceola Clerk of the Courts finance director resigns

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KISSIMMEE, Fla. - Since Armando Ramirez became the Osceola County Clerk of the Courts, he has fired senior staff members and several people have abruptly resigned.

The latest is the director of finance.

Ramirez ordered an audit when he took office and found that some money owed to the state had not been returned, so he asked county finance director Tiffany Morton to look for it through records. Before she finished the job, she resigned.

Ramirez said the resignation of Morton came as a surprise to him.

"I received information that she had received a position in the private sector," said Ramirez.

Ramirez said the resignation came as a surprise because Morton was in the middle of a project.

Results of the audit ordered by Ramirez show that before he took office, the clerk of the courts didn't return some unused state funds.

"It was a heavy burden for Tiffany Morton to find all those missing tens of thousands of dollars," said Ramirez. "She was unable to deliver on her promise to find the $63,000."

Ramirez said as Morton began her search months ago, she found some of the money trail and most of the $250,000 owed to the state, but some was still missing.

"She failed to accomplish her task and that is why I had been compelled to retain services of an interim forensic auditor," said Ramirez.

Ramirez said Morton didn't appear bothered by his intentions to bring on extra help.

"She didn't say a word. She didn't say anything," said Ramirez.

Ramirez said Morton kept on working and even attended a conference with him in Key West.

When asked how he would describe his personal and professional relationship with Morton, Ramirez answered, "Excellent."

He said that although she came up short in finding all the money, he never blamed her and just wanted the mystery solved.

"I am not in the business of blaming people. I am searcher of the truth. I just want to find out how the money was spent, where is the money," said Ramirez.

Before leaving her job, Morton filled out an exit questionnaire in which she mentioned a lack of leadership skills by Ramirez. In the questionnaire, Morton was asked to rate Ramirez on a scale of one to five, with five being the most satisfactory rating.

Morton gave Ramirez the lowest rating, a one, when asked about Ramirez following policies. She also rated him a one in his treatment of employees, a one in developing cooperation within department and a one when asked about Ramirez's ability to effectively resolve complaints.

"I never expected her to give me that kind of rating. She is a free agent acting upon her own free will," said Ramirez.

Ramirez has hired Ken Sokolsky, trained in forensic accounting, to help in the investigation. Ramirez met Sokolsky a week ago through a business associate

"It's the public money, and so to protect the public I am loyal to that," said Sokolsky.

Ramirez said he was loyal to Morton, even offering to bring in extra help to find the money that was still missing.

"You had no intentions of firing her?" Channel 9's Jorge Estevez asked Ramirez.

"No, no, no," said Ramirez.

Estevez tried to reach Morton for a comment but did not hear back from her.

In her exit questionnaire, she said leaving the office was in her best interest.

Sokolsky is doing the job on an interim basis making $70,000 a year.