Monday, June 25, 2012

Mitch Needelman

RETRACTION: Needelman 'Knows His Numbers'

In the story below that I wrote about Clerk of Court candidate Mitch Needelman, I wrongly stated that Needelman said he had used an "Invitation-to-Negotiate" process in selecting a company to provide staffing services for the Clerk's office.  During our conversation, we discussed a staffing contract, a digitizing contract, and a collections contract.  In recounting these discussions for the article, I misread my notes.  The Brevard County Clerk of Courts office did not use the ITN process for selecting Source 2 for staffing, but instead requested presentations from several agencies to a team at the Clerk's office.


Mitch Needelman knows numbers. 
For over an hour in a recent interview, he outlined in detail how the Clerk of the Courts budget process works.  And it is not a simple process. He says he has been able to master the Clerk’s budget because of his years in Tallahassee as a state legislator working with others crafting the much larger state budget.
“I was a cop for years and then it was ‘my way or jail.’  But when I went to Tallahassee I learned how to compromise. Many legislators like the policy side. Policy work is important, but you don’t see immediate results.
“I was fortunate to be in the room – in a small group – formulating Florida’s budget.  And with that, you see immediate results,” Needelman said.
And it was immediacy that Needelman felt when he took over the Clerk’s office in 2010.  He had run for the office in 2008 and had lost big to incumbent Scott Ellis.  After Ellis resigned in 2010, Needelman won the constitutional office. He faces Ellis again on August 14 in the Republican primary.
By his measure, there were budgetary issues that needed his attention quickly.  Due to a consistent reduction in state allocations due to poor performance-budgeting predictions, the office faced a potential shortfall of $2.5 million.  Needelman had few choices.
”I didn’t want to deny anyone services and I didn’t want to add to Brevard’s unemployment,” he said.
Using an Invitation-to-Negotiate bidding process – one that Needelman says is used statewide by many government agencies – he chose a staffing company to employ many of the state workers in his office and he did some reorganizing.  This didn’t make him any friends.
“I reduced the number of supervisors from 80 to 56 by combining some departments.  This reduced a duplication of processes.  For instance, there had previously been two Finance Departments – one dealing with the state and the other dealing with the county.  I made them into one.
“I terminated positions, not people. However, I also broke up some family units who had worked together for years. Many didn’t like that,” Needelman added.
Needelman claims that this move – and others – have resulted in a yearly savings of $1.2 million, much of which has been re-invested to assist all employees – those still employed by the state and those out-sourced.
“We now subsidize portions their health insurance and pay for county holidays.  We assist with dental, eye coverage, long and short-term disability and life insurance.  And we have planned for the future by building in a potential 15% increase in insurance,” Needelman said.
And despite the hotly-contested upcoming election, Needelman continues to plan for the future of the office.
“I would like to digitize everything.  The Florida Supreme Court has recently engaged in an effort to reduce paper and so should we.”  Needelman noted a gym in Titusville that is packed with Clerk records dating back to the 80’s and 90’s.  “We are still negotiating a contract for these services.  This would be an incredible advancement for my office.”
Being the numbers guy, Needelman also is looking forward in the budget as well.  “I want the Clerk’s office to be recession proof and we can do this by instituting a five-year plan for budgeting.  Also because of our efforts, we are now competitive with the open market in hiring.”
Needelman concluded, “I put my career on the line by ‘privatizing’ the Clerk’s office. But – as of now – the bills are paid and we have money in the bank.  I have a vision to continue cutting the budget while maintaining services, returning money to the state and county, and keeping people employed.
“The campaign is neck-and-neck, but we’re working hard so the numbers come our way.”
And – of course – Needelman is a man who knows numbers.

16 comments:

  1. Mitch Needleman knows numbers but he does not know math. Chains of numbers are thrown out but never do they come close to adding up. A slew of alleged savings are presented, yet the fact is only $100,000 out of a $14.6 million budget was returned despite getting an unexpected $600,000 windfall from an old state/federal lawsuit during the budget year. The biggest whopper is an IT was issued for the labor contract. There was no ITN and it cannot be produced. The labor contract like the imaging contract is an inside deal. Scott Ellis

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    1. Mr. Ellis knows all about inside deals. He bought software from Canada, He hired a friend from out of state, paid his travel expense (including rental car, meal, hotel room)and paid them thousands in a salary.

      Yup, that is the Ellis play book!

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  2. Looks like a campaign hand out. Did The Brevard Times stop reporting news and become a free political advertisement?

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  3. Mitch Needelman has my vote! You just can't argue with the facts.

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  4. Tail light or tag light out? Needelman raised the fee/cost/ticket for those who correct something very hard to know immediately from 10 bucks to 100 bucks.
    Good customer service best serving Brevard County's citizens? I think not.

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  5. Needelman has removed lots and lots of information from the Clerk's website since he took over. Now if one desires to print out a copy of information that formerly was A) free and B) available at one's computer you simply can not. Needelman (who keeps touting how he has supposedly improved customer service) now makes Brevard County citizens drive to a Clerk's office, stand in line and PAY for copies of formerly free information. This is neither satisfactory customer service nor efficient. Just like Needelman's entire regime change and methodology; not good for customer service (or employee service either) and inefficient at best. And that's before we get into all the hidden expenditures that Needelman will not Sunshine in a public office -That is WRONG and despicable and is gonna get him tossed out of any by itself.

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  6. As best I can tell (try finding someone in management at the Clerks office these days whom actually KNOWS what is going on since Needelman fired, threatened, condemned, demoted, demoralized and/or otherwise ran off such a large percentage of the knowledgeable competent staff): If one desires to say check out a tenant for suitability online (being green and NOT wanting to spend time and gasoline DRIVING to a Clerk's office to PAY for hard copies on PAPER that comes from trees), a VOTING CITIZEN has no idea if Needelman and his incompetent good ole boy buddies running things now have removed information or not as there is no note posted when information is removed from what files are left to view. Thus one may THINK they have found an acceptable tenant when in reality; evictions and other pertinent information may ridiculously have been "redacted" with no way to know one way or the other. Again very poor customer service from the current Clerk of Brevard County.

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  7. If true, what they need is a configuration management office instilled that is unbiased and has control of all records. Anything touched has to be signed in and signed out..and only copies distributed. Any changes to paper work must go through a change process officially and previously established, done before a committee, and signed off by all attending members.

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    1. All I know is that for the better part of ten years PRIOR to Needelman's so called "improvements" (just ask him, he'll confound with his half-baked untruths just like a typical career politician) in the Brevard County Clerk's Office, "CUSTOMER SERVICE" meant we the voting citizens got better and better service. Now, since Needelman took over, there has been a dramatic drop in quality of service, accuracy and morale in the office. Of course he is a political grand-stander and good ole boy so Florida Today/Brevard Times loves him no matter how badly he screws up such an important office...when the Judges are outraged at his mishandling of the office (he blames the Judges staffs for records misfiled, lost and etc. out of "my" Brevard Clerk's Office) it is time to re-elect someone to run the office that has proven record of competence and efficiency...Scott Ellis.

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  8. Do unto Mitch what he has done to so many others: "Outsource" Mitch Needel-nonsense!!!"

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  9. Your column truly disappoints me Mr. Parker. Having fallen for Mitch Needelman's lies myself, I can understand how the general public might be drawn into his lies, but for someone of your ilk to write a column repeating his lies, tells me someone did not do their research.

    Mitch Needelman is not an honorable man! I worked for the clerks office for 14 years, loved my job, loved my customers and was terminated by Needelman in his first month of being in office.

    Funny thing though, I supported Needelman in 2008, based on the lies he told me: No one would lose their job, he would listen to the employees before he would make any changes...there were personal emails from Needelman thanking me for my support and telling me to be safe as he wouldn't want to see me lose my job by assisting his campaign.

    Then his first month in office, I was terminated. (“I terminated positions, not people. However, I also broke up some family units who had worked together for years. Many didn’t like that,” Needelman added.) My position still exists. I was terminated. My position has had at least three people who tried to fill my shoes and I still have people ask me if I can help someone they know as the current replacement just doesn't have the knowledge to assist. Not that I was anything exta special but in my 14 years of working for the clerks office, I had gained an infinite amount of knowledge in many areas.

    Needelman terminated at least 160 people. By my termination, along with 19 others, he was able to bring in his two cronies at $90,000.00 each...plus benefits (shows you how little we were making that it took that many of us to allow him to bring in his friends).

    People like to talk about 'redistribution of wealth'. Well that is exactly what Needelman did with his job terminations and his outsourcing. Only he didn't take it from the wealthy and redistribute it to the poor, he took it from those who could least afford it, and contracted it out in no bid contracts to a company that is impossible to determine who owns it and brought in untold numbers of his 'friends' so that they could have cushy jobs where they don't do anything. He also bought some of the employees loyalty by giving them, on average a 12.9% raise. He didn't buy them all though as I still get a steady stream of people who tell me that they are praying that Scott Ellis gets back into the office as they don't care about the raise. The stress of being employed by Mitch Needelman isn't worth the raise.

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  10. FYI : I worked under three Clerks of Court: Sandy Crawford, Scott Ellis and Mitch Needelman. Feel free to look into my personnel file as unless it's been tampered with, you will find that I was an outstanding employee with outstanding evaluations, many commendations from my clientele, Employee of the Month twice, an Outstanding Puzzle Piece, and received an Above and Beyond reward. You'll also find one bogus write up given to me after Needelman came onboard.

    I may have deserved to have been terminated. But that was by Scott Ellis for having helped Needelman in 2008. Scott Ellis however, wasn't that type of person. When the 2008 campaign was over, he never looked back. I experienced no retribution from him for helping Needelman. If you want an honorable man to be your next Clerk of Court, you need look no further than Scott Ellis. He deserves your praise for attempting to expose Needelman for what he is. I wish that I would have listened to Mr. Ellis earlier regarding Needelman instead of being suckered in to Needelman's lies.

    A good question to ask any person who is delving into the Clerk of Court campaign, is where is all this money that Needelman has supposedly saved? Why isn't he cutting checks left and right back to the State and the County? It's not a savings if you redistribute it into your friends pockets is it?

    And the real question is, where do you fit in on this story? I hate to question your integrity but how can you write this glowing article on Mitch Needelman when according to you, you spent a little over an hour with him in an interview?

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    1. I don't normally respond to these types of comments, but felt I should since you questioned my integrity and insinuated bias. I write both opinion and straight news for Brevard Times. In a previous opinion piece, I was critical of both men. The two news articles written about the candidates are reflections of the equal time I spent with each man. I had never met either one prior to these interviews and did not write with a any bias. I will be writing an opinion piece later and will be commenting over time during my interview radio show- but to answer your question - I do not "fit" anywhere in this story.

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  11. Dear Sir, I thank you for your response. As stated above, I didn't want to question your integrity but having read both of your articles, it seemed to be that you were writing with a tad bit of bias. However, as also stated above, I too was once a victim of Mitch Needelman's...for lack of a better word, charms and I know how easy it is to believe what the man has to say. My request would be for you to delve further into his 'numbers' and his 'truths'and not let him off easy.

    I would request that you not take him at his word when it comes to firing the people who were outsourced that he claims he didn’t fire. If you listen to the tape that was made during the ‘outsourcing’ meeting you’ll hear them clearly be fired. And the worst part of it was that they lost thousands of dollars worth of benefits, literally in a matter of hours. For instance, if they had any money left in their high deductible insurance account, it was gone. Where did that money go? And, Mr. Needelman told me in my ‘reorganization meeting’ that I was fired. The letter might have said ‘reorganized’ but he clearly said “fired”. You know what else? He said it with pleasure. He enjoys firing people.

    As to supplementing the employees for insurance purposes, I surely hope he is. Reason being, I picked up the COBRA at $527.03 a month. I’m a relatively healthy person. Good thing as I had to meet a $1000.00 deductible before the insurance would pay for anything. And I have to pay out of pocket, $3000.00 before it will pay 100% of anything. Add on that I went to the dentist for my cleaning and not one penny of it was covered. If the employees have the same insurance as I was given with COBRA, I truly feel for them.

    Not sure if you’re truly aware but calling the clerk’s office ‘competitive with open market hiring’ is a bit of a stretch. Great that he is starting most of them all out at $12.00 an hour, but truthfully he has to pay that just to get them through the door. As to the raises given, I would never say that those that were there didn’t deserve a raise but raising a student to $12.00 an hour? It’s a bit much. As a whole, it had been far too long with no raises given, however I would say that we all understood that raises were out statewide and no one blamed Mr. Ellis for the lack of raises. I can also tell you that many of the employees would gladly give back their raise if that meant that their co-worker who does the same job as them, was brought back into the clerk’s office circle. As to budgets and furloughs, for the most part, the furloughs had become mostly voluntary. It actually worked out well for people with children to take off the summer months.

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  12. The family thing? That is just plain silliness from a man who has hired his circle of friends. What are friends but family that was chosen? And Mr. Ellis didn’t hire his family but he did on occasion have a friend who was hired. If you know someone is going to be the best person for the job, why would you not hire them just because they are related to someone who already works in the office? My daughter worked for the clerk’s office for seven years as a student. She started as a high school senior and stopped when she landed her first job in her field just prior to her graduation. She didn’t work in my department, nor did she work under my supervisor. She wasn’t granted any special favors because she was my daughter. Thankfully she left prior to Needelman so she still has fond memories of the job that she worked while helping to put herself through college. She also didn’t make $12.00 an hour. She was ok with her $7.75 an hour and appreciated that she got an occasional raise based on her performance. She understood she had to work.

    Regarding the outsourcing, it still hasn’t even been determined if it’s legal. There is a lawsuit pending. In my mind, I don’t see how it can be. In the beginning the outsourced people were sworn under oath three times before it was determined that perhaps they shouldn’t be allowed to perform certain functions. There might be people out there with passports that aren’t valid based on the fact that an outsourced employee signed their passport application. Under the laws regarding passports only certain people can issue a passport. A clerk’s employee can sign a passport application. An outsourced employee? Thus far, probably not. I believe the same holds true for marriage licenses and some other functions too. Mr. Needelman had been in contact with the outsourcing company before he was sworn into office in spite of the fact that Mr. Ellis informed him that the State would never let the deficit stand. He put his career on the line by privitizing? What about the 160 people he fired? What about their careers? He’s already a double dipper, I think even if he isn’t re-elected, he is going to be OK. As to my former fellow co-workers? I told them when I was terminated that it was a blessing in disguise as now I could be their voice. That’s why I respond to columns such as yours.

    I apologize again for questioning your integrity but I profess to an occasional bout of frustration on how many passes Needelman has been given regarding his lies. Thanks for your prompt response. If you would ever like to sit down and speak to some employees both current and former, I’m sure I could make it happen. However, it would have to be anonymous as their jobs would be threatened.

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  13. They are going to have to get a large courtroom for the trial.

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