Municipal Service Benefit Units

An Opinion By Jan Bergemann 
President, Cyber Citizens For Justice, Inc.

Published September 20, 2011


Many municipalities are flat broke. They wasted all the taxpayers' money on "great" projects in the past and forgot to put money aside for rainy days. And they allowed roads to deteriorate to the point that plain maintenance doesn't work.


The latest victim of this conspiracy to squeeze more money out of homeowners to take care of the roads: The homeowners of the Majestic Oaks Homeowners' Association of Ocala, Inc. The excuse mailed to one of the homeowners in a letter, dated August 11, 2011, by Myra Tedder, Director of MSTU/Assessments for Marion County sounds simple: "The County has not failed Majestic Oaks with the maintenance of the roads. The County will fill a pothole, clean a culvert, grade a ditch, etc. as maintenance dictates, however, the county will not expend general tax dollars to improve the roads in Majestic Oaks or any other subdivision unless provided through an assessment process."


But who is to blame for the fact that these roads can't be fixed with simple maintenance? Clearly:  The County, which failed to keep up with the day-to-day maintenance -- maintenance that would have prevented the roads from deteriorating to a state where simple maintenance isn't sufficient to get these roads back in acceptable shape.


Now the county officials are creating so-called Municipal Service Benefit Units, to make the homeowners pay for The County's failure to do the needed work in a timely fashion.


The county commissioners are fully aware that they will be challenged when they try to squeeze more money out of homeowners who rightfully expect the county to maintain "county roads."

Or why do you think that counties prepare for these challenges? Why are they putting money aside for legal challenges if everything would have been done by the book?  Here is the proof, showing that the commissioners expect serious resistance -- especially since they already lost some of these lawsuits. Read this article written by Bill Thompson, staff writer for the Ocala Star Banner: "County Commission sets aside funds to pay claims for MSBU lawsuits."


"Marion County commissioners have set aside $1.6 million to pay claims for lawsuits related to road projects challenged as illegal in ongoing lawsuits." In other words: The commissioners would rather waste $1.6 million to fight legal challenges instead of using this money for desperately needed road repairs. And that is not counting all the money already wasted in lawsuits that The County lost and had to pay legal fees and reimburse the owners that were wrongfully charged. Names like Rainbow Springs, Lake Tropicana Ranchettes and the Timberwood Community come to mind.


The latest victims of Myra Tedder's manipulation: The homeowners of the Majestic Oaks Homeowners' Association in Ocala. When the discussion about their deteriorating roads started, Director Myra Tedder asked the HOA board to pay $500 for a vote asking the homeowners in Section 1 - 4 for a simple YES or NO vote on creating a MSBU.


Tedder even explained the needed outcome of this petition: "THE TABULATION OF THE PETITION WILL BE BASED ON 50% + 1 OF THE AFFECTED LANDOWNERS THAT RESPOND IN FAVOR". And Tedder and the owners in favor tried everything to achieve a favorable outcome: The board members even used two common-interest properties owned by the association and cast a YES vote for these properties. But no matter what they tried, the needed favorable vote count was NOT achieved.


These are the Results of the Petition as officially published by Wallace K. Watford from the Internal Audit Division of The Marion County Board of Commissioners. 

Findings and Conclusions

We identified and counted the owner petitions for this proposed assessment. We confirmed that more property owners who timely responded voted "No" than "Yes." Our results are summarized

Total Property Owners 579
Total Owners Responding Timely  385
Total Owners Responding In Favor  185 (185/385=48%)
Total Owners Responding Not In Favor 200 (200/385= 52%)

We understand that the above agrees to separate petition counts performed by ten (10) representatives of the Majestic Oaks community and an MSTU/ Assessments Department staff member.

The owner petition clearly stated: "In order for a project to be considered for approval by the Board of County Commissioners, 50% +1 of the responding landowners must be in favor of the proposed road assessment project." We have concluded that 48% of the timely responding property owners voted in favor of the proposed project.


In other words, considering that it was announced that a favorable vote of the owners participating in the voting process is needed, this petition process was dead -- it FAILED -- no questions asked. Since close doesn't count, this petition clearly failed to get the necessary majority. 


But that's only if you use common sense and the rules that were established before the vote took place, not if a manipulative department director like Myra Tedder is involved in the process. In my opinion her "handiwork" already caused The County to lose the above mentioned lawsuits. And it seems she hasn't learned one bit from the failure of her manipulations.


Since the final count didn't work in her favor, it was necessary to change the rules -- after the facts. How about changing the participants? The above outcome allowed owners of all four (4) sections to vote, but if the votes of the owners of Section 4 are discounted, the result changes. 








Suddenly, just using the votes of the owners of Section 1-3, a majority was achieved and the project could go forward. Did anybody ever ask the owners of Sections 1-3 if they would have still voted YES if they would have been told that the cost will not be evenly split between the owners of Section 1-4, but only among the owners of Section 1-3? Because now they will be dealing with different dollar numbers. 


Let's be honest, this is just another example that shows that our government officials would rather spend tax dollars on legal challenges than on the projects the tax dollars were actually collected for -- the reason why we paid all these high taxes.


With government officials manipulating not only citizens, but as well outcome of votes, it is no wonder why the State of Florida is in such bad shape financially. Don't forget: Florida has the highest rate of government officials convicted of corruption in the whole nation. 


When will Florida's voters finally wake up and vote out the elected officials that allow this kind of manipulation to happen? Don't forget, these elected officials -- in this case county commissioners -- are responsible for the actions of the government workers under their supervision!