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Seminole tax collector to allow employees to openly carry firearms

 

Seminole tax collector to allow employees to openly carry firearms - Naples Gun School FFL Sales

ByOrlando Sentinel  June 28, 2017 3:55pm

Seminole County Tax Collector Joel Greenberg soon will allow his employees to openly carry firearms, particularly those workers who seize property such as desks, chairs, computers, file cabinets and phones from tax-delinquent businesses.

“When we go out and seize property, we don’t know what could happen,” Greenberg, who was elected last year after promising to “modernize” the office, said Wednesday. “I’m a big believer in the Second Amendment, and this is mainly to protect our staff, our customers, and to serve as a deterrent.”

Under the new policy, certain employees with concealed-weapons permits also will be allowed to carry a firearm openly as a security measure at branch offices. Employees handle large amounts of cash from residents, “and we don’t have any security,” he said.

Greenberg recently sent a letter to Seminole Sheriff Dennis Lemma and the seven police chiefs in the county to notify them of the policy. Greenberg pointed out that according to state law, he and his employees are considered “revenue officers” and therefore exempt from Florida’s ban on the open carrying of firearms while performing their duties.

Greenberg estimated his office will save about $350,000 a year by not hiring a private security company to accompany deputy tax collectors to seize property or staff branch offices, where scores of residents walk in daily to renew their vehicle registrations, obtain hunting or fishing licenses or apply for concealed-weapons permits.

Fifteen to 20 of his employees will be allowed to openly carry a firearm, Greenberg said. Most will be field officers who are responsible for seizing property from owners to satisfy their unpaid tangible personal property-tax bills.

“We wouldn’t force them [employees], but I can’t imagine that they wouldn’t want to,” Greenberg said. “But anybody who does come aboard is going to have the proper training. And we expect people to act extremely professionally.”

Tangible personal property is nearly everything besides real estate that is used by a business, most organizations or a rental property. It includes computers, machines, signs, supplies, desks, chairs and trucks.

Tangible-property owners must file a tax return by April 1 every year. After that, they would be in default and be subject to fines based on a percentage of the assessed value of the property. The Tax Collector’s Office can also obtain a court order to seize the property or tap into the owner’s bank account to recoup the unpaid taxes.

In the past, the Seminole Tax Collector’s Office has tried to work with the property owners to encourage them to pay their outstanding tax bills. Greenberg said his office will continue doing that. However, some owners will delay their payments for months on end without making an effort to settle the bills.

“We’re trying to be more proactive,” Greenberg said. “The last thing we want to do is go in and shut down a business. It’s a fine line. It’s a sensitive area.”

Greenberg, who took office in January, said the Tax Collector’s Office didn’t have any seizures last year. As of Wednesday, the office had 75 outstanding tax warrants issued in circuit court.

Eddie Ayala, a spokesman for Orange County Tax Collector Scott Randolph, said his office only has one or two seizures of business property a year. However, after the economic collapse, field service officers conducted 15 to 20 seizures a year.

“They can’t recall any situation where they felt threatened or uneasy about approaching a business or home,” Ayala said. “It’s not like they’re kicking down doors.”

The Lake County Tax Collector’s Office for several years has hired a private firm to conduct seizures. Before then, David Jordan, who is now chief deputy tax collector, said a deputy sheriff would often accompany him to seizures at a cost of $30 per hour. That cost is passed along to the delinquent taxpayer.

“They were there to keep the peace, in case anything got sideways,” Jordan said. “But there’s all kinds of other remedies. You can garnish people’s bank accounts, and you don’t need a gun to do that. … But it’s pretty disconcerting to show up to a business with a court order to take people’s stuff.”

Many who are in arrears are businesses that have closed, although that doesn’t relieve them of their tax bill. Lake County Tax Collector Bob McKee said his office will work with people who have unpaid tangible taxes, including putting them on a payment plan.

“The idea is to keep them in business but make them pay,” he said.

As in Lake, the Osceola County Tax Collector’s Office contracts with a private company to conduct seizures, and those employees don’t carry firearms.

Even so, Greenberg said he is looking for ways to save taxpayers money and provide security for the public and his staff.

“At the end of the day, this is to bring in more revenue and saving taxpayers their money by not hiring an outside firm,” Greenberg said.

 

Source: http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/93975894-132.html

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