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Akins ordered to release records

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By The Staff

Circuit Court Judge David Glant ordered Levy County Property Appraiser Francis Akins to "show good cause" why the court should not force him to hand over public records.

The order to show cause was issued Jan. 4 and it gives Akins 15 days to respond. The judge's order follows a petition from Anthony Phillips, a deputy clerk in the civil circuit division who is running against Akins for property appraiser.

Phillips wants the court to compel Akins to relinquish public records he first sought on Sept. 21, 2007, and again requested on Dec. 14, 2007 and again asked to have on Dec. 31, 2007.

On the final day of 2007, court records show Phillips asked for the records again and Akins reportedly said, "Well I've made some personnel changes in the office and I'm trying to get you the most up-to-date records that I can. Yeah she's had that since October."

Phillips said Akins has had this request since September.

A copy of a written request to Akins shows Phillips is seeking:

* Detailed budget reports for fiscal years 2004-05, 2005-06 and 2006-07

* Salaries, years of employment, job classification and job descriptions for each employee.

* Annual raises and any additional increases (per employee) over the past three fiscal years.

* Bonuses given to any employees over the past three fiscal years with reason listed for the bonus.

Phillips told the Chiefland Citizen he sought the information, as any candidate should, to see the budgets of the office he wants.

Akins said he does not see this situation as a problem. He expects to give Phillips the records before the 15 days are over.

"My priority is to turn out an assessment roll," Akins said. "At the time when he asked for these records, it is a very busy time of the year. I had TRIM proposed tax notices, preparation for the Value Adjustment Board hearing and I had to prepare and send the assessment roll to the tax collector for collections, and I had to answer questions from the people and the press, and then there were the holidays."

Akins said he thinks this is purely a politically motivated action.

"Some of this information goes back from three years ago," he said. "I keep some records outside the office and my accountant (Beauchamp & Edwards) is finishing work on this as we speak."

County Clerk Danny Shipp said he is sorry that his employee felt a need to seek public records through the court, because it may reflect on the clerk's office.

"I wish he'd come to see me before he done what he done," Shipp said. "I would have advised him not to do it. I've agreed to work with him and to get through this point, but if it goes any further and it interferes with this office, I've told Anthony he will have to take an unpaid leave of absence, or he can resign or he will get fired. He can use vacation time until it runs out."

Phillips said Akins and Mary Golding, one of his employees, asked Shipp if the clerk put him up to asking for public records. That is not the case, Phillips said.

"They (Akins and Golding) questioned my motives," Phillips said.

The public outrage expressed over increased property values is what inspired Phillips to run, he said.

"The property appraiser has much more discretion to appraise values than some people might think," Phillips said. "The Department of Revenue has a manual and standards. When it comes to percentages and values, many of those are at his discretion."