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Mock and Nesta clash over core issues

Discourse, portfolio policy, and a forensic audit have become a sticking point in the Seat #4 election


Local debates and forums are an opportunity to contrast candidates and decide who shares your values. They can also be a glorified press conference. Watching politicians explain their passions in running for office while looking down at a notebook can be frustrating.

But sometimes, debates reveal core differences between opponents.

Four candidates for the Apopka City Commission participated in the Northwest Orange Republican Women Federated forum last Thursday. In Seat #3, Nadia Anderson takes on Darryl Richardson. Seat #4 pits Eric Mock against incumbent Commissioner Nick Nesta.

The forum lasted less than an hour, but Mock's closing statement was perhaps the most intriguing section.

At a time when most candidates are discussing their own merits, Mock laid out three issues where he is attempting to draw a contrast with Nesta.

"The reason that I think we could have made more progress than we did was the discourse that's going on in the city council. There's a conversation about discourse. But if you look that up, healthy discourse is one of the words that are there. And if you read the word healthy discourse, it comes with respect and dignity. You take any one of those three words out, all you have is discourse. And while you have that, you have a distraction and just, you know, complete disarray. And you can't get as far as you should."

It's a common theme from all three non-incumbent candidates in this election. If the City Council did less debating and arguing, then more governing would be getting done. I would challenge that premise and ask for an example of any issue, referendum, or initiative the Council took on and did not complete because of a debate or argument. 

Mock continued on with his closing remarks, getting specific about Nesta's performance on Council.

"We're still looking for comments about the forensic audit with the scope and severity that my opponent suggested that we should have a forensic audit here in this city. And we still don't have the scope and severity of what that forensic audit will be."

Mock closed with a recurring topic about the new Apopka Investment Portfolio policy.

"Recently, in the last several months, there has been a discussion about finding an investment firm outside of the state of Florida outside of Apopka and moving funds from local banks. I will say this... I'm an "Apopka First" person. If there's not somebody in Apopka, then central Orlando as opposed to taking our money to an entity in Denver, Colorado. While that might be fine, I never heard anyone ask or request that entity to move and open an office here in Apopka. If you're gonna do that, then if you think you need to open an office in Apopka. You didn't hear that. So I'm just saying to you I want to move the city forward. I want to move what we have been doing for the last two years. I'm bringing the voice of reason."

This is a topic that was debated throughout 2023, with no significant pushback from the City staff, Council, Apopka banks, or in public comments. Finance Director Blanche Sherman ultimately endorsed it. But during the December 6th City Council meeting vote, Mayor Bryan Nelson, Commissioner Alexander Smith, representatives from two local banks, and Apopka Area Chamber President Cate Manley suddenly stood up to protest the new format.

The vote still carried 3-2, but since then, Manley has written multiple letters to The Apopka Chief, still debating the issue. Now Mock has added his name to the list of last-minute opponents to the new policy.

After the debate, Mock responded to a request by The Apopka Voice to amplify his closing statement about the forensic audit and the new investment policy.

"When asking for a forensic audit, I believe one should be able to provide the scope before asking for the forensic audit. Lacking the scope, no firm will be able to bid the cost nor provide timelines to complete. The current accounting firm, which has provided service to Apopka for several years, is a firm with 100+ years of experience providing services in 6 states. This firms credibility is being called into question. If there is a question, first work to get clarification of the discrepancy, if that doesn’t satisfy, then request a second opinion from another firm before requesting the forensic audit. Accounting and audit firms practice under specific guidelines which are Generally accepted accounting principles, GAAP and Generally accepted auditing standards, GAAS. This firm would not be in business for 100+ years not following these standards.

As far as the portfolio issues, be clear, pick a date, request all banks or investment firms to provide best and final offers on interest rates on a specific date. Provide ALL costs. Do the firm(s) charge for investment advice ? Do they charge if your investment loses money ? Is the original amount of investment secure ? What is the net effect at the end of the projected investment timeline ? Are there any penalties for early withdrawal ? If the firm does not have an office in Apopka, would they be willing to open one in Apopka ? Will bank(s) or investment companies be willing to support local events financially? Provide what the amount has been in past years.

Apopka City Council should adopt an Inclusive Procurement and Purchasing Policy. If there are no businesses within Apopka, then branch out to other local central Florida companies before looking out of state."

Just to be fully transparent, I have supported the new investment policy in an editorial. The policy needed to be re-written from its 1995 origins, and diversifying its portfolio to include Treasury Bills as well as local banks is a popular conservative approach. It should also be stated that no mention of investing funds in a Denver bank was ever discussed.

Nesta, who didn't get an opportunity to respond to Mock's points at the debate, held nothing back in his statement to The Apopka Voice.

"On February 15, 2024, at the Northwest Orange Republican Women Federated (NORWF) 2024 City of Apopka City Commissioner Candidate Forum at the Hilton Garden Inn in Apopka, many inaccuracies and misinformation/lies were provided from a self-proclaimed “leader” candidate Eric Mock. By continuing to follow the lead of others who are disseminating misinformation throughout the City of Apopka candidate Eric continues to affirm that he himself is in fact a misinformed “follower” and prides himself with others in attempts to create a group of additional misinformed followers throughout the City. A comment made by candidate Eric stated that the City of Apopka’s funds are being moved out of local banks to Colorado. That is patently and blatantly false and has been refuted multiple times on/in many official records including the most recent City of Apopka Council meeting on February 7, 2024. Clearly candidate Eric is not involved in the civic process he is applying for or he is actively making statements that are inaccurate about an opposing incumbent candidate with the goal to deceive the public through malice (a violation of FS 104.271), which Candidate Eric prides himself on doing. Additionally, candidate Eric made the comment questioning the long overdue City of Apopka Forensic Audit that has been delayed that I have been a strong advocate for. In the short time I have been Commissioner - Seat 4 we’ve had two different Chief Financial Officers for the City of Apopka. Within the last three years we have had three different Chief Financial Officers for the City of Apopka. During these transitions or employee turn over, the City of Apopka financials have not been in sync with basic norms, there are funds that cannot be accounted for, funds have been moved incorrectly, etc., and funds have simply been lost. We absolutely need a Forensic Audit to create and restore confidence to our residents that their tax dollars are being properly spent as well as ensure no funds have been inappropriately spent/allocated whether through fraud or ineptness. Lastly, what the City of Apopka needs is a City that is restored to the proper integrity status that has been compromised by a select few who have the sole goal of disseminating misinformation throughout the City of Apopka to maintain "control" in the City of Apopka."

Until now, the Seat #3 and Seat #4 elections could be described as a cordial competition. The three debates/forums mostly had no punches landed or even thrown. But that ended with Mock's closing statement, at least in the Seat #4 race.

It was always an interesting decision why Mock would challenge an incumbent on the City Council instead of running against two first-time candidates in an open Seat #3. It's an election he would have most certainly been the favorite to win. But if you are going to take on an incumbent, you have to make a case for why they aren't performing, and you will. And as an incumbent, you also have to explain why you deserve another term. Both Mock and Nesta are now embroiled in making those cases.

But now, with only 28 days until election day, the gloves are off, and Mock vs. Nesta has turned into a fistfight.

Eric Mock, Commissioner Nick Nesta, Apopka City Council, Apopka Elections 2024, Opinion, Analysis


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