Clerk Tiffany M. Russell says her office complies with statutory requirements, but does not concur with all findings and recommendations
From the Orange County Clerk of Courts Newsroom
In response to a report released Monday, March 1, 2021 by the Orange County Comptroller regarding an audit of the Orange County Clerk of Court’s (OCCC) administration of the guardianship program, Clerk Tiffany M. Russell has expressed serious concerns about the report’s findings and recommendations.
The purpose of the audit, which covered the 2016-2019 time period, was “to determine where the Clerk’s Office complied with the requirements of Chapter 744, Florida Statutes,” the law governing the guardianship process in the state. In its own analysis of the audit report, the Clerk’s office noted that it was in compliance with all statutory requirements as outlined in Chapter 744.
The Clerk’s Office says it is seeing the Auditor’s Comments in appendix B for the first time and is currently reviewing them. In addition, there appears to be additional editing of the final report previously provided to this office.
“While some findings and recommendations included in the document are well-intentioned, we strongly disagree with a number of them, primarily because they are outside the scope of the audit and reflect a misunderstanding of our office’s responsibilities under the law,” said Russell. “But, let us be clear: When it comes to guardianship, all of us involved in the process are working toward a common goal – to protect the most vulnerable in our community. We want the system to work effectively and efficiently on their behalf.”
Out of 13 findings and recommendations set forth by the Comptroller, the Clerk’s office concurs with two, partially concurs with seven and doesn’t concur with four.
The timing of the audit spanned two different operations managers in the Clerk’s office, three Guardianship Judges in the Ninth Circuit, several changes in Statutes by the Legislature, and many process improvements made voluntarily by the Clerk to increase efficiency and effectiveness. These changes in leadership and process render several of the recommendations null and void given the office’s present-day process.
Throughout the audit period, auditors provided OCCC with case numbers to review in order to validate their findings. In some cases, the Clerk’s office found that the auditor’s findings were not accurate. However, due to the significant time involved in performing case reviews, OCCC determined nearly three years into the audit that they could no longer invest the time and resources to conduct the reviews. Without a review of 100% of the cases in the auditor’s sample, OCCC was not able to fully concur with all the audit findings.
“Although we’re bound by statutory responsibilities, the Clerk of Court’s office is committed to a culture of best practices and continuous process improvement,” added Russell. “We welcome feedback and oversight – and we will work with all offices of government to help improve the guardianship system so that, together, we can better serve those in our care.”
To view the Clerk’s fact sheet and response summary document, visit www.myorangelclerk.com, or click on OCCC – Audit Recommendation Fact Sheet and Summary Updated 3-1-21 for details.