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Hillsborough Clerk of the Circuit Court

Republican Bart Siegel is the first challenger Richard Ake has faced since he was first elected.

By LARRY DOUGHERTY

© St. Petersburg Times, published November 1, 2000


Richard Ake hasn't drawn an opponent since he was first elected to the clerk's job in 1986. At age 60, Ake said he is running for one last four-year term "because I still believe I have something to offer."

Ake, a Democrat, said the biggest accomplishment of his past four years has been computerizing his office's files. All property deeds and other official records of the county are now made into electronic images and will be available online up to four years ahead of state deadlines for computerization of these records, Ake said.

There were months of difficulties, Ake acknowledged, with the updating of the computer system that tracks information for the circuit and county courts. The system is now running more smoothly, he said.

Ake said his 800 employees also have been busy adapting to an increasing flow of paper. The volume of traffic citations has doubled in the past two years because of increased enforcement in Tampa, Ake said.

Ake's first challenger in 14 years is Bart Siegel, a 42-year-old certified public accountant. Siegel, a Republican, resigned his job as an internal auditor in the Pinellas clerk's office to run.

Siegel is focusing his campaign on the auditing function he performed for the Pinellas clerk. All Florida clerks are required to conduct internal audits of county finances. The audits are advisory in nature and county commissioners are not required to act on them.

In Pinellas, Siegel documented poor financial tracking of millions of dollars at the local convention and visitor's bureau. Siegel said Ake's office hasn't been aggressive enough in rooting out waste. Siegel said he can't provide details of waste in Hillsborough government yet, but expects to find some once he is in office.

"It's government," Siegel said. "There's a lot of dead weight."

During Siegel's four years at the Pinellas clerk's office, his evaluations slid from better than satisfactory to satisfactory. Five months before Siegel resigned, he was faulted by his superiors for arriving late to work, making too many personal calls on the job and littering his office with the sunflower seeds he ate as a snack. Siegel blamed those comments on one supervisor with whom he had a personality conflict.

Siegel said he wants to bring a more sophisticated management approach to the clerk's job. Siegel said that Ake "has probably been a pretty decent clerk. But he's been in too long."

THE JOB

The Clerk of Circuit Court is the chief financial officer for the county, responsible for tracking and investing more than $1-billion in annual collections. The clerk maintains records of the County Commission, the Circuit Court and the County Court. The clerk also supervises a department of internal audit. The office carries a term of four years. The annual salary is $128,500.

REPUBLICAN

BART SIEGEL, 42, was born in Glen Ridge, N.J. Siegel got a degree in finance from Florida State University in 1981. He received a master's in business administration from Rutgers University in 1988. He got his Florida CPA's license in 1994. He has previously worked for the Pinellas Clerk's Office. ASSETS: house, land, businesses. LIABILITIES: mortgage. SOURCE OF INCOME: auditor's income. WEB SITE: http://www.clerkofthecourt.com.

DEMOCRAT

RICHARD AKE, 60, was born in Moultrie, Ga. He joined the clerk's office in 1961. He was appointed to the top job in 1985 by then-Gov. Bob Graham. Ake is former president of the State Association of Circuit Court Clerks. He is married and has two grown sons. ASSETS: residence and beach time-share, retirement, savings. LIABILITIES: mortgage. SOURCE OF INCOME: clerk's salary.

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