City/town: MetroWest (Orlando)
Family: Married for 40 years to Shabnam Muneer; five children
Education: Bachelor’s degree with honors in behavioral science, University of Aston in Birmingham, UK; diploma in banking (London)
Qualifications: Professional development; Leadership Orlando 1997; Political Leadership Institute 2017; Leadership International Drive Chamber 2019; Nomura Leadership Institute in Tokyo, Japan; real estate brokers license for 20 years; certified property appraiser course completed
Why do you want to run for Orange County property appraiser?
I am troubled by the corruption scandals and wastage of taxpayers’ hard-earned dollars for the last eight years since the incumbent has been in office as reported by the media. As a community and business leader, I felt the need to help taxpayers of Orange County by establishing credibility and honesty to the office.
What qualities and skills do you bring to the position?
I am a businessman and not a career politician, and property appraiser’s office is where my area of expertise is as I have 23 years of experience in residential, commercial and business brokerage and appraising has been very much part of it. I am the founder/owner of my real estate company, Jupiter Properties Inc., (which was founded)18 years ago and is one of the largest real estate companies in Central Florida. Previous to that, I was in investment banking for 17 years handling billions of dollars of investment portfolios. I know the whole of Orange County and I can do the job more efficiently. I have worked with Orange County business and government leaders from Disney, Universal, Orlando Magic, and as a member of the executive committee of the Orlando Economic Development Commission, and (I am) very comfortable with dealing with all tiers of leadership. I have also served in leadership roles as president with various Orange County chambers such as Asian American Chamber of Commerce and on the board of nonprofits such as Harbor House.
Why are you the best candidate for the job?
I am the only qualified candidate when you look at the others. I have the knowledge, experience, the skill set and integrity established with over a decade of serving the people of Orange County and working with the business, government and community leaders. A person’s home and his business are his biggest lifetime investments, and you want to make sure the person responsible for appraising them has detailed knowledge of the real estate and appraisal process so assessments can be made accurately so they do not overpay on their property taxes. In addition, the person has to guide the staff of over 120 appraisers in the office with his knowledge to prevent wrong decisions being made. We saw what happens when the correct appraisal methods are not chosen with the Disney case. (This was) where the judge ruled the hotels in Orange County were being appraised with the Rushmore method, which has been overvaluing the hotels, and now the property appraiser’s office faces possible claim of hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars which the county can ill afford, not to mention millions wasted in legal fees all coming out of taxpayers’ pockets.
What are the challenges of this office unique to Orange County?
Honesty, integrity and transparency are the issues facing this Orange County office.The office is scandal-ridden with the incumbent regularly making the headlines for the wrong reasons (and) wastage of taxpayers’ dollars on unnecessary lawsuits against employees and taxpayers —costing millions in legal fees and hundreds of millions in lawsuits for use of illegal appraisal practices. On top of this, wasting taxpayers’ money on personal promotion on vehicles, bags and other promotional items when the average person is struggling to put food on the table. Orange County is unique in the sense (that the) appraisal process is complicated due to the seven theme parks and the 290 hotels and commercial property — which account for close to $97 billion in tax assessments. Appraisals are not a one fit for all, and intricate knowledge of the appraisal processes is important.
How would you rate the performance of the Orange County Property Appraiser’s Office and why?
Anyone who Googles his name is shocked to read (dozens of) articles on him about scandals, corruption and abuse of power. It is unbelievable that the Florida Department of Law Enforcement has recommended to the state attorney that the incumbent be criminally charged with 10 counts of official misconduct after a year of investigation of his office by the FDLE. This is all public knowledge as reported by the Orlando Sentinel, WMFE, WFTV. Several elected officials have been removed in the last three months for lesser crimes. No trust or accountability.
What, if any, changes need to be made to the department?
The changes that need to be made will start with transparency and re-evaluation of the appraisal methods being used so that taxpayers’ biggest life investments — their home and businesses — are being appraised accurately and objectively after the recent Disney lawsuit and court ruling so that (you) are not overpaying your property taxes. We will need to look at the non-Rushmore method of getting a more accurate valuation of theme parks. I will sit with the leaders of the corporations — who are also our biggest taxpayers and employers — to discuss the issues relating to their taxes as I have worked with them in the past as member of the Orlando Economic Development Commission, and hence immediately save millions and millions of dollars being spent on legal fees. I will work to stop the brain drain in the office as more than 120 employees left over the years due to harassments and the legal cases that are still going on with more wastage of taxpayers’ dollars. Appraising is a complicated process and deep knowledge is required to know all the options to guide the staff. If you don’t spend time with them, then the office will not be able to perform well. As I am not a career politician, I will be able to focus more on the job for which I am elected.
If elected, what do you hope to accomplish as property appraiser?
I will restore credibility, honesty and transparency to the office. The office has a terrible reputation with our neighboring county appraisers due to properties not being appraised in an accurate and objective manner and the corruption and scandals. I will work to fill the leadership shortcomings and for all the 1.4 million residents of the county to make sure their biggest lifetime investments, their homes and businesses are protected.
What are the challenges this office will face during and and after COVID-19, and how will you address those challenges?
COVID-19 has hit Orange County hard, especially with loss of various sources of revenue such as the tourist development tax. No doubt residents are facing financial hardships and hence their ability to pay taxes. I will work with county and community leaders and experts to discuss possible options — including relief and payment plans — to deal and alleviate their economic hardship.