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Broward commissioner’s father wants no-bid VAB contract worth $225,000 a year

By Dan Christensen, BrowardBulldog.org 

Broward Commissioner Martin David Kiar, right, with his father, Broward Value Adjustment Board Counsel Monroe Kiar. Photo: Brittany Wallman

Broward Commissioner Martin David Kiar, right, with his father, Broward Value Adjustment Board Counsel Monroe Kiar. Photo: Brittany Wallman

Broward’s Value Adjustment Board will consider a resolution Monday to give a lucrative no-bid contract to the father of County Commissioner Martin David Kiar.

Incumbent VAB legal counsel Monroe Kiar, who makes $225,000 a year, has asked the board to extend his contract for as long as five more years without having to endure any competition for the job.

County rules exempt legal services from the standard competitive procurement process due to the specialized nature of attorney services. But a decision by the VAB, whose members include two of Commissioner Kiar’s county commission colleagues, to award a big-Money contract to a county insider without publicly advertising the job could have political repercussions.

Further complicating the matter is political activity by Monroe Kiar that raises questions about his evenhandedness as counsel to the independent quasi-judicial authority that decides disputes between homeowners and commercial taxpayers and Broward’s Property Appraiser.

In 2012, while serving as VAB counsel, Monroe Kiar was a member of the “Committee to Re-Elect Circuit Judge Geoff Cohen,” the husband of Broward Property Appraiser Lori Parrish.

Kiar and his son, then running for his commission seat, are both named on a committee campaign flyer as sponsors of a March 18, 2012 “backyard picnic” fundraiser at Cohen and Parrish’s Davie home. “Please make checks payable to: Geoff Cohen Campaign,” the flyer says.

‘INDEPENDENT AND IMPARTIAL’

Kiar’s VAB contract includes conflict of interest language that says, “It is important that counsel be independent and impartial in order to properly conduct its services for (the) board.”

Nevertheless, state election records show that Monroe Kiar also contributed $100 to the 2012 campaign of Parrish’s husband. Martin Kiar and his wife, Kelly, contributed $100.

“It’s a situation that surely lends itself to the appearance of something that’s not fair,” said veteran appraiser and tax representative David Zachem.

Kiar declined to comment for this article.

Monday’s vote comes on the heels of last week’s news of a critical audit by the Florida Auditor General’s Office that raised questions about the independence of VABs in Broward and other counties. The performance audit said it found evidence suggesting that property tax appeals in those counties appear to have been rigged by local government officials concerned with maintaining tax revenues.

VABs have five members. By law, they are two county commissioners, a school board member and two citizen members who are appointed by the county commission and the school board.

MAGISTRATES TRACKED

The audit cited Broward’s VAB for compiling “tracking reports” on special magistrates who recommended large reductions in property assessments to the VAB and used them to get rid of six magistrates who gave the highest assessment reductions.

Broward Commissioner Stacy Ritter, who chairs the county’s VAB, has said the agency no longer compiles tracking reports. She did not respond to a request for comment relayed through her chief of staff.

Monroe Kiar has been VAB counsel since he was hired on an interim basis in 2008. The job was not advertised. His son was then a Democratic state legislator representing Davie.

In 2009, Kiar won a competitive three-year contract, with two one-year extension options. The amount budgeted for the post that year was $200,000. The contract was extended twice and expires in October.

Under the terms of Kiar’s contract, he’s an independent contractor who receives a monthly retainer of $2,450, mostly for attending about a half-dozen VAB meetings a year, plus $175 an hour for additional non-retainer services like legal research and providing legal opinions. The board caps how much Kiar can charge at $225,000 a year.

Monday’s VAB Monday meeting is scheduled to run from 2 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. in Room 422 of the county Governmental Center in downtown Fort Lauderdale.

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Latest comments

  • The VAB hires Attorney and Appraiser Special Masters to hear cases and they are paid by the hour. Legal services for VAB meetings and research used to be provided by an Assistant County Attorney making somewhere between $60K and $100K, depending on their seniority. When did things change for the worse? Why is a $225K outside attorney suddenly needed for the VAB? What kind of sweetheart deal is this?

    Monroe Kiar used to be an Attorney Special Master for the VAB. This gig is infinitely better…and the taxpayers have to make up the difference! And his son is smoozing his way toward Parrish’s Property Appraiser job. How do you spell COLLUSION or better yet, CONFLICT OF INTEREST? Daddy could be making legal judgments on valuations and exemptions set by his son’s office! Broward County politics at its worst!

  • The VAB hires Attorney and Appraiser Special Masters to hear cases and they are paid by the hour. Legal services for VAB meetings and research used to be provided by an Assistant County Attorney making somewhere between $60K and $100K, depending on their seniority. When did things change for the worse?

    Actually things changed for the better when the county attorney was removed from the VAB process – per the recommendation of the Auditor General’s recommendation in 2005. See their comments regarding Palm Beach.

  • The change seems to have been implemented only for a “perception.” A private or contracted attorney can be swayed and influenced every bit as much as a civil servant…and probably more so. But what about the $225K per year for what is essentially part-time work?

    When you say things changed for the better…I assume you mean for the Kiar family!

  • Things changed for the better in several counties when outside counsel was employed by the VABs – which is a different subject than the payments being made for those services and for the relationships identified in the articles. The intended purpose for the change was to separate the county attorneys from the taxing authorities and eliminate those conflicts. If you read the first audit done of VABs and see what went on in Palm Beach you’ll understand.

    However, what is missing, STILL, is compliance with State law and sanctions for non-compliance which the current audit recommends. Also missing – an investigation by the Governor and Cabinet of whatever the auditors identified as improper conduct and Broward was highlighted.

    What seems relevant is that the Broward VAB never asked the Attorney General or the Ethics Commission or DOR if any of their reliance on the county attorney was appropriate – since 12D-9, Fla. Admin. Code prohibits the VABs from relying on county attorneys for legal advice. Also missing, currently, are enforcement mechanisms for the systemic malfeasance identified by the audits.

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