Although Florida is being impacted by the effects of COVID-19, the Osceola County Clerk of the Circuit Court’s Office is making necessary changes, working to keep as many staff members employed as possible both in-office and by telecommuting, and making continued progress on a framework to implement changes as a result of Florida Amendment 10.
Armando Ramirez, Osceola County Clerk of the Circuit Court, is committed to keeping as many employees working as is possible. While some employees are working in the courthouse, following safe distancing and other safety protocols, others are working from home, and still others are receiving 80 hours of sick leave and continued health care benefits under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, after which they can use accumulated leave time or utilize unemployment assistance.
Clerk of the Circuit Court operations are funded primarily by fees, which have been substantially reduced since the courts are currently shut down until at least June 1 (other than for essential proceedings). The office will continue to rely on health experts at that state and national level regarding resuming operations. Accordingly, the Clerk’s Office has taken proactive steps to address the anticipated budget shortfall, including having to reduce staffing. Five new job offers were rescinded and three positions had to be eliminated. Also, salaries of the most highly compensated employees have been reduced to reduce costs and save jobs.
“We want to keep as many of our team members employed as we can, while also operating within the budget,” said Clerk Ramirez. “We can’t expend more than we take in and we don’t know at this point how long we will be impacted by COVID-19 disruptions.”
One key project that is continuing to progress despite COVID-19 involves organizational changes from Amendment 10, approved by Florida voters in November 2018. Staff from the Osceola County Clerk of the Circuit Court and the Osceola County Manager’s Office have initiated a staff-level working group that is meeting online during the COVID-19 crisis, to chart the best path for the changes.
Amendment 10 includes a requirement to ensure voters elect certain constitutional officers, including the Clerk of the Circuit Court. Since Osceola County is a charter county, some of the provisions of the charter were inconsistent with the new state law. Under Amendment 10, the functions of ex-officio clerk, accountant, financial auditor and custodian of county funds are once again responsibilities of the Osceola County Clerk of the Circuit Court.
“My goal is to work closely with the County Manager and his staff, and ultimately the Board of County Commissioners to make this transition in a way that puts service to our residents at the forefront,” said Ramirez. “My commitment to the citizens of Osceola County is to continue to address priorities like Amendment 10, even during this difficult time, and to ensure accountability and responsiveness from the Clerk of the Circuit Court Office,” Ramirez added.
The Clerk of the Circuit Court Office and staff will continue to provide updates, as needed, in response to the impacts of COVID-19 to help maintain communication and transparency with the community.
Responsibilities in Osceola County assigned by the Amendment 10 to the Clerk of the Circuit Court include:
- Ex-officio duties as Clerk to the Board of County Commissioners – Attend meetings of the Board of County Commissioners, and its boards and committees; produce, record, index and distribute official minutes of the meetings; maintain custody of resolutions, ordinances, and contracts of the Board; maintain custody of the official seal; Attestation services; and process appeals for the Value Adjustment Board.
- Auditor – Restricted to audits of a financial nature, which does not include the authority to establish an inspector general’s office.
- Custodian of all County funds
- Comptroller – Including accounting services, accounts payable, payroll, accounts receivable, financial statements and reports, cash investment management, and internal auditing.