“It’s personal.” That’s how Scott Ellis describes his race to unseat incumbent Mitch Needelman for Brevard County Clerk of Courts.
Ellis was Clerk from 2000 – 2010, when he resigned due to health reasons. He had beaten Needelman in 2008 by a wide margin. However, when he left office, Needelman ran again and won.
Ellis has been waging a two-front war since his decision to run again for the office he vacated. First, he is campaigning relentlessly on what he describes as “chaos in the Clerk’s office.” He believes the decision by Needelman to outsource jobs was a created crisis.
“These positions are detailed-oriented jobs. Now workers know they have little chance of getting badged (being hired by the state) so they have a day-labor mentality,” Ellis said. “The place is in disarray. My opponent brags about a 25% turnover rate. But that’s just not how you treat people.”
If elected, Ellis will re-transform the office. “I will wipe out the new layer of management that Mitch has installed – they will be gone. I will also rescind the pay raises that were given.”
Secondly, Ellis has been directly engaging his opponent’s use of a bidding process called “Invitation-to-Negotiate” as opposed to a more traditional method of “Request-for-Proposal.” A bid through an ITN usually takes less time to process than does a bid through an RFP. Ellis calls the ITN process “a sham” because “you only have seven days to present a multi-million dollar bid.”
And he has been filing requests for public records at a prolific pace to try and prove that his opponent is practicing cronyism through this process.
“It is, however, tough to pierce the veil,” he said. “I don’t get it. If you’re not doing anything dishonest, why not release the public records? You shouldn’t need a legal opinion on this.”
And Ellis particularly has his sights set on a contract pending with a firm named Blueware that Needelman is negotiating with to perform digitizing of old court records.
He has requested records for any payments made to Blueware, what account the money is coming from, and the date and purpose of the payment. Ellis believes that a personal friend of his opponent is reaping financial gain from the contract – a digitizing job that Ellis thinks is unneeded in the first place. He calls them “kickbacks.”
“The whole office is for sale. Everything he touches is corrupt. The whole point is to give Blueware millions of dollars. Digitizing those old records is a waste of time and money.
“Plus, Mitch is now promoting a Blueware device called a digital pen to the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office. Why should the Clerk of Courts be promoting a project to another agency?”
Ellis also takes exception to his opponent’s characterization of the clerk’s office’s fiscal situation.
“It’s a big lie. Mitch claims he saved the state and county money. How could he ‘save’ money if he just put it back in for raises for his new managers? That is not a savings.”
Ellis describes the campaign as an affair in bullying. “They are accusing me of having frequent blackouts and doing cocaine. I drive all over this county everyday and have not had an accident. Does that sound like someone suffering from blackouts? Plus, I have never drank (alcohol) or smoked. Does that sound like someone with a cocaine problem?”
“If this stuff sticks, I lose. If it doesn’t, I win,” Ellis added.
In the meantime, all of this has not deterred Ellis in his personal confidence about his ability to do the job again.
“I told someone the other day I wish I could clone me. I could then be in each constitutional office and on the commission and bring some sense and fairness back into our local government.”