What is the most Powerful Office in County Government?
Depending on the county, most people think of the Sheriff or the County Commission or a particular county commissioner. Sometimes, believe it or not, the School Board.
The reason usually given is the vast patronage opportunities available to these offices. If used dishonestly, a powerful political machine can take control of a portion or all of county government.
The same thing goes for any municipality, it works there also.
What has kept that from happening so far is State of Florida oversight. The State, through the Governor and sometimes, the Cabinet, can remove local elected officials for cause.
This has happened in Seminole County in the past.
But now, we have a new unique situation, one which totally transforms the power structure of Seminole County Government. It is called the power of the purse.
Seminole County is leading the way in this new reality. Other counties are sure to realize the hidden power of this heretofore mundane political office.
Who holds the power of the purse? Our very own Tax Collector, Joel Greenberg, does. All previous collectors interpreted the duty of their office was to collect the taxes and turn the funds over to the various operating entities of the County. Those used the funds to run the Sheriff's department, the County Commission operations, etc.
Mr. Greenberg decided on his own to withhold funds, millions of dollars in fact, from the County Commission. He said he needed the money for his own department. They could wait. With that he spent $3.5 million in contracts to friends and associates.
Mr. Greenberg has awakened a sleeping giant. All over the state of Florida, tax collectors are watching and dreaming of untold power. More campaign contributions, bigger offices, the potential is endless. So far state oversight has been mostly complacent, supposedly hoping Mr. Greenberg will not be re-elected.
Whether he is or not, Joel Greenberg has demonstrated the power of the purse is superior to the power of patronage. If you don't do things the Tax Collector's way, you don't get the money. It is as simple as that.