Cullen's Crud: Tax Collector's Fiasco, etc.

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The first letter I received from Cullen after yanking my endorsement from her is now available here. If you wish to read the next letter, it will be up later this evening.

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In her bid to become the Brevard County Tax Collector, Lisa Cullen sent out mailings that stated, "Lisa Cullen has a plan to immediately make the Tax Collector's Office more efficient and cost effective."1

Nothing wrong with that. In fact, that sounds very good. A plan to save money. It sounds like a good thing.

Too bad it only sounded good for less than an hour after being in office on her first day. A February 15, 2009 Florida Today article by Jeff Schweers addressed the problems Cullen has created: "Cullen has put some people into top positions that, for now, lack tax-collecting experience."2 He also states that Cullen, "demoted his [Rod Northcutt's] pick for director of taxes to the rank of tag clerk"2. Hmmm... Does that not sound "more efficient" to you? Great idea. Get rid of the person who has experience working within the Brevard County TC Office and bring in others who do not. On Cullen's own campaign website, it states, "In the current economic times we can not [sic] afford on the job training.3" But the person she brought in and put "into top positions" do not have experience: thus are going to have "on the job training". That's exactly what she said she didn't want during her campaign. Anyone besides me see a problem with what Cullen is now doing?

I put a Freedom Of Information Act Request in to my five County Commissioners hoping to get info. Well, little did I know that they were not the correct people to ask for that info, but I suppose the wording on that request made them sit up and take notice because I soon found out that they were forwarding my request to the correct person to answer my question: Cullen herself. Considering that I had pulled my campaign support for Cullen after finding out that she was the one who brought the union into the TC office and that she was found culpable in the final PERC ruling for helping push the union so much that they ruled, "Because of Cullen's active role in the organizational campaign and her authority as a director, at least one employee held a reasonable belief that employees were required to support the union [my bolding]"4, I didn't expect to hear a word back.

However, I did hear from the TC office, via a letter from Lisa Cullen's new Assistant Tax Collector (a $100,000 per year job that Cullen created), Dee Dee Causey, that gave the requested info on who was now in and who was out of which positions. Of course, I was pretty certain it would happen this way because of who Cullen showed herself to be during the election.

When Cullen found out that I was pulling my endorsement of her, she wrote to me trying to explain things. In part, she wrote (referring to those she allegedly spoke with about the alleged inequities in the TC office):

"I am glad that I never shared those names of the other employees with Mr. Northcutt. Knowing the toxic environment I endured after that meeting, I would have hated myself for putting someone else in the position of the wrath that came down on me. Even so, on several occasions, I addressed concerns about pay inequity, promotional opportunities and favoritism with him. He refused to listen or act. The employees felt they had no chance for resolution and the union process began."5
I'm wondering: Isn't this a bit of the pot calling the kettle? Cullen allegedly talked to Mr. Northcutt and allegedly feared for her fellow employees because she thought that Mr. Northcutt would take revenge on them if they complained. She states that the "employees felt they had no chance for resolution and the union process began." I think the rulings of the PERC were clear in stating that it was Cullen herself who started the unionization process, not "the employees". She is the one who went and found out the info, not others who then came and told her. It was she who went and talked to the union rep, and who was told by that rep that he didn't think she would be eligible to participate because of her position within the TC office. And yet, she states that "the employees" were responsible. Best of all, she finishes her first paragraph of defense in her letter to me with the words,
"Blame lies solely with him [Mr. Northcutt]."5

Good way to step up to the plate, Cullen. You're not responsible. Even though the PERC rulings found you so.

She then went on to state in her second paragraph of her weak self-defense,

"2) The PERC hearing was about charges brought by Mr. Northcutt against the union, not against me. I was not able to participate in the hearings, except as a witness. I did not have the right to respond to the allegations and untruths told about me in depositions because I was not on trial."6
While this is the truth, the fact remains that the PERC hearing officer found Cullen responsible for bringing the union into the TC office, found Cullen an instigator, a leader, a person of authority who the employees thought Cullen's support meant that they had to support the union as well. The PERC ruling found that there was enough credible evidence to prove all of this. In the PERC ruling, there was no word, no mention, not a jot or tittle, about Cullen telling the employees otherwise, or of Cullen trying to dissuade the TC employees of the notion that her support did NOT mean that they had to support the union as well.

So, according to Cullen, the union thing was just to straighten out the problems within the office, it was all the employees' doing, and it was something that she barely helped with -- of course, without dissuading others of their perceived need to support the union -- and she was not responsible for any of it. Everything said in the PERC ruling was a lie and she was an innocent victim of Mr. Northcutt's vindictiveness.

So we have a vague idea as to why I didn't expect to hear from Cullen in answer to my FOIA request. Cullen's history was not indicative of someone willing to deal openly and honestly.

In the letter from Causey (on letterhead to make it official), I was told that,

"Ms. Cullen has requested that I respond to you. Even though we did not receive the email request from you directly to this office we are most happy to provide the requested information to you."7
Isn't that special? They are required by law to provide the information and it's being touted that they are doing so. So if they don't speed on their way to their next "In-Service Day", they're going to write to the cops and toot their own horns for not breaking the law by speeding? Wouldn't surprise me.


I requested the names of the people who had been promoted since Cullen took office, their former positions and salaries, as well as their current (new) positions and salaries. I did get that. To wit:

EmployeeNew PositionNew SalaryFormer PositionFormer Salary
Dee Dee CauseyAssistant Tax Collector$100,000Orange County Director of Motorist Services$123,000 Orange County Taxpayer Dollars
Karen HirschmillerPayroll/Benefits Manager$48,000Private sectorUnknown
Ena ChestnutDirector, Tax Payer Services$65,000Manager, T-ville Tag Agency$43,923
Tracy BallingtonSupport Services Administrator$57,941Supervisor, Mail Tag Agency$47,290
Kelli GrantlandTax Payer Services Administrator$57,941Supervisor, Melbourne Tag Office$42,469
DemotionsNew PositionNew SalaryFormer PositionFormer Salary
Lori Van Sickle2Indian Harbour Beach Tag Agency Tag Clerk (counter worker)UnknownCountywide Director of TaxesUnknown
Barbara Hantz7Title/Registration Specialist$25,263Executive Assistant/Payroll Specialist$32,981
Lisa Johnson7Merritt Island Tag Clerk$25,263Executive Assistant/Benefits Specialist$32,981

Cullen decided to try to "fix things" in the TC office via bringing the union into the office. She declared on the Bill Mick Show that "With nearly $300,000 dollars of taxpayer money spent in the unionization of this office, I believe the concerns and issues of the employees need to be addressed." While declaring during her election efforts that she was going to make the TC office "more efficient and cost effective" she was already spending $300,000 taxpayer dollars because she was the one bringing the union into the office and Mr. Northcutt was trying to prevent it in order to save taxpayer dollars. Ever heard that old saying, "Here's your sign"? That was my sign. Cullen was going to save taxpayers about as much as Michelle Obama is with her expensive tastes that taxpayers are footing the bill for. Yeah, write me the check for the amount Cullen is saving us. I'd be able to buy how much? Nothing? Oh. Sorry!

This sentence, to me, sums up Cullen's culpability in the whole thing:

"I never went to Mr. Northcutt and made a full confession of my conspiracy against him."6
I love that she admits to me (in a letter received after asking her about the PERC ruling) that, in her own words, she had a "conspiracy against" Mr. Rod Northcutt. That's a slip of the pen that is very telling. It is also very telling to her way of doing things.

I also love the sentence she says,

"5) I have not and will not promise any union anything other than I will respect and treat employees fairly."8
I find that amusing. She promised me -- in trying to get my endorsement back during her campaign -- that she would be fair. Is it fair to demote someone who has years of experience and replace them with one of your cronies who hasn't as much experience in that particular position? Is it fair to the people of Brevard County, who pay the salaries of those less experienced people?

An aside, if I may: I will post the full letters from Cullen to me so that you may see everything she said during her campaign. I think it is very telling that during her campaign she wrote to me in her own defense. After she became a public servant, she had one of the peons do the writing.

Another instance of how well Cullen is being fair to the taxpayer and saving us dollars, is her recent "In-Service Day" held at the Cocoa Expo. I have just sent a FOIA (Freedom Of Information Act) request to Cullen asking her how much the "In-Service Day" cost the Brevard County taxpayers (you and I). I requested info on how much she paid the speaker, how much she had to pay for the speaker's hotel, gas reimbursement, etc., as well as how much the food cost, the Expo office cost to rent, etc. The biggest expense I think will be the cost to taxpayers to have every Tax Collector's office closed for an "In-Service Day" when it wasn't a holiday. It was an arbitrary decision to close the TC offices to allow the employees to,

"spend the day getting to know me [Cullen] and my administrative staff."9
How many of you tried to go to the TC office to do business that day, thinking they would be working since the other Brevard County offices were open? And how many of you had to take lunchtime or time off later that week to do your business because Cullen decided that it was the perfect time to hold an "In-Service Day" to allow her employees to get to know her? The memo goes on to state,
"Come and hear my plans for the growth of the Tax Collector organization; have an opportunity to meet with vendors that provide services to the staff; ask questions and get answers from the source and you also get to hear a dynamic speaker. Lunch will be provided. Business casual dress is permitted. Please plan to meet at your office and carpool to the meeting."9
Isn't it nice that the taxpayers of Brevard County paid for lunch for every employee who showed up there? We paid for the "dynamic speaker" to be there. How much, is what I want to know. How much did that little fiasco cost us, the taxpayers of Brevard County and how does that square with Cullen's campaign promise to make the TC office "more efficient and cost effective"?

From the many sources I have, the "In-Service Day" consisted of the morning session with a person from the Sheriff's Dept. teaching the Tax Collector's office employees how to keep their children away from internet predators with some explicit and questionable choices for presentation. Then there was lunch, and then the "dynamic speaker". (Oooh... I tremble in anticipation!) The afternoon speaker explained to the employees what "in power" and "being in charge" meant. This speaker used the phrase "get on the bus" and Cullen spoke afterward, taking up the "in charge" theme and reiterating the "get on the bus" idea and reminding employees that she was driving the bus and that if the employees were half on the bus, or not on the bus at all that they might get run over by the bus.10

Isn't that special?

An elected official who writes to me during her campaign that she "will respect and treat employees fairly" is now threatening Brevard County employees with running them over with the bus that she is driving if they don't get on the bus.

Let me repeat that: An elected Brevard County official, someone the majority of Brevard County taxpayers voted to put into office, who promised to treat her employees fairly and with respect, promised in her campaign to make the TC office "more efficient and cost effective" is now threatening her employees with running them over if they do not support her fully because she is now "in charge". Is this the person you voted for? Is this someone you want to pay a salary to?

Shades of Barack Hussein Obama!

Cullen has gone beyond the pale in my never to be humble opinion. She has rounded the power bend and has hit the skids within the first hundred days of her time in office. To be sworn in Jan. 5, 2009, and to have this sort of egotistical power trip is way too early for the scheduled date. An elected official is supposed to wait at least three months minimum, but no, Cullen could only make it forty-seven days before her hyper-inflated ego burst through its seams and she had to tell her employees, during a taxpayer-funded "In-Service Day" that she was "in charge" and to "get on the bus" or they would be run over. Power corrupts.

What I wonder about is what Cullen is afraid of? Why does the need to threaten the employees like that arise so early in her administration? What is she worried will happen if someone defies her? What will she do that is worse than what Schweers reported she did to Lori Van Sickle, demoting her to an embarrassing counter position from Mr. Northcutt's right hand person? What can the TC office employees look forward to next? An actual bus? Or just feeling like they've been run over by the proverbial bus because Cullen has no self-control to prevent herself from taking retaliatory action against anyone she doesn't feel is "on the bus"?

If that is what the TC office employees have to look forward to, then I wonder about her campaign promises and her letter to me in which she promised to treat the TC office employees "fairly", operate "more efficient[ly] and cost effective[ly]" and how does that square with her "In-Service Day" treatment of her employees?


"I never went to Mr. Northcutt and made a full confession of my conspiracy against him."6

Compare her "In-Service Day" and what happened there as well as the promotions and demotions within the office to Cullen's website's homepage:

"my experience will make the transition a much smoother process, ensuring you continue to receive a high level of service"3
It sounds to me as though Cullen is setting up her own "Good Ole Girl" system and demanding participation or a thorough bus running over.

As I said earlier, I will be receiving information from Cullen about how much the "In-Service Day" cost us, the taxpayers of Brevard, and will post that information. I will keep you posted.

1) Lisa Cullen's Campaign Card, "Experienced, Educated, Qualified!"
2) Florida Today article, Feb. 15, 2009, "Tax chief Cullen shakes up staff", Jeff Schweers
3) Lisa Cullen's Campaign Website (Note: Finally! She took her website down about April 1st. No harm in leaving it up an extra four months, yes?) after the endorsements; illegally up since it was supposed to be removed thirty days (Dec. 4, 2008) after the elections of November of 2008. So much for her respect for the law.
4) Final PERC Order
5) E-mail letter from Lisa Cullen, received 9/15/2008, numbered paragraph 1.
6) E-mail letter from Lisa Cullen, received 9/15/2008, numbered paragraph 2.
7) Letter from Dee Dee Causey, Feb. 5, 2009, paragraph 3.
8) E-mail letter from Lisa Cullen, received 9/15/2008, numbered paragraph 5.
9) Cullen memo dated Feb. 2, 2009, To: "All Brevard County Tax Collector Staff" on letterhead, initialled by Lisa Cullen
10) Many confidential sources confirmed this information regarding the "In-Service Day" of Cullen's doing.
Extra Link )PERC Recommended Ruling

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