By Dan Christensen, BrowardBulldog.org
With no debate, Broward’s Value Adjustment Board voted Monday to rehire the father of County Commissioner Martin David Kiar as its $225,000-a-year lawyer, without going out for competitive bids.
The contract extension, for as long as five years, means that Monroe Kiar will continue to receive annual pay that’s tens of thousands of dollars above the yearly salaries of Florida’s Attorney General, Supreme Court justices, Circuit and County Court judges and administrative judges.
The 4-0 vote included Broward Mayor Barbara Sharief and Commissioner Stacy Ritter, both VAB board members. Sharief, Ritter and colleague Martin Kiar are all Democrats.
“I certainly have full confidence in your ability to do the job,” VAB chair Ritter told Monroe Kiar before the vote was taken. She will now negotiate a final agreement that will include a term of three years, with two additional one-year options.
VABs are independent authorities that hear taxpayer appeals regarding assessments and other adverse decisions by county property appraisers.
Monday’s vote closely followed the release of a critical audit by the Florida Auditor General’s office that raised questions about the independence and objectivity of VABs in Broward and other counties across the state. The audit said property tax appeals in those counties appear to have been rigged by local government officials more concerned in preserving tax revenues that fairly assessing home values.
Counties and school boards dominate VABs. Two county commissioners and a school board member serve on their boards. The county and the school board also pick the VABs two citizen members.
Monroe Kiar won a competitive process to serve as VAB counsel in 2009 while his son was a state legislator. This time, however, he’d asked the board to rehire him without advertising the post.
Legal services are exempt from county procurement rules. Still, the VAB’s vote to eschew a competitive process when hiring a county insider creates appearance issues that could become politically problematic.
State rules say VAB legal counsel “should avoid conflicts of interest or the appearance of a conflict of interest.” Kiar’s contract contains similar language.
Still, while serving as VAB counsel in 2012, Kiar was a member of a committee that held a re-election fundraiser for Broward Property Appraiser Lori Parrish’s husband, Geoff Cohen. Cohen is a Broward Circuit Court judge.
Kiar and his son, Martin, also contributed to the campaign of Parrish’s husband.