Tavares, FL - Jan 21, 2011 - Update 3: Yesterday was the first public court hearing before the court Judge in Lake County regarding Marilyn & Stan Bainter's Lawsuit challenging the Constitutionality of the regulations establishing the North Lake County Hospital District and their legal right to collect 1 mill in property taxes from North Lake residents for the last 20 years.
After 3 hours of presentations from Bainter's attorney and from THREE of four attorneys representing three hospitals and also the Board, the Judge and the attorneys agreed to schedule another afternoon session. That will be 1-3 months in the future and we will post that date here.
The Judge has made several suggestions that any "order" he issues after hearing all the arguments will probably be appealed by the losing side, so he is making sure all the details are covered.
The courtroom was about filled. Channel 9 was there with a camera, and reporter Bernt Petersen, and reporter Steven Hudack was there from the Orlando Sentinel. There were probably about 100 people present, including senior management from Waterman, Leesburg and Lifeline Hospitals, plus over half were from Bainter supporters (i.e. taxpayers and Tea Party members, members of the local issues committee of the North Lake Tea Party (run by me) , plus some past members of Patricia Sullivan's Patriot Army).
HERE is the online video article from Channel 9 TV. - watch it or read the text version AND read the comments.
HERE is the Jan. 23rd Orlando Sentinel article by Steve Hudak about the court hearing.
I will ADD more comments and observations here on this page this weekend.
Thus the current situation is that the Judge said the hearing was about half over, so the verbal presentations and arguments should be finished at the next meeting, then we assume the Judge will take all the information and take a few weeks to issue his decision.
You can also monitor Hospital District issues at the website www.NorthLakeCountyHospitalDistrict.com .
Here are some comments posted at various sources by other parties:
The Florida legislature can create all the hospital districts they wish to, but in order for the district to have ad valorem taxation powers, it must be authorized via referendum by the voters who live within the boundaries of the district created. Example: In 2004, the legislature created the North Sumter County Hospital District via Chapter 2004-451. Reference: http://laws.flrules.org/files/Ch_2004-451.pdf
In Nov. 2, 2004, the North SUMTER county voters did not authorize ad valorem taxation powers to the North Sumter County Hospital District via a referendum by a vote of 74.24% against and 25.76% for, therefore, the district cannot tax the property owners. Reference: http://www.sumterelections.org/ew_pages/SOEContent/PDFs/Election%20Results/2004%20GENERAL.pdf
There has never been a referendum held for those living in the Northeast section of the North Lake County Hospital District to authorize the ad valorem taxation for support of Florida Hospital (Waterman) as required by the Florida Constitution.
Note: The above comment brings up another issue related to the Hospital District: Many of the earlier payments to Leesburg Hospital may have been used to subsidize construction of the new hospital in the Villages, primarily benefiting residents of Sumter County (where voters refused to approve a similar tax) and Marion County, because they all go to the hospital which was subsidized from North Lake County Hospital Tax District funds. We can't prove it because the District never required any kind of ability to define acceptable expenditures, nor an accounting method to verify where the funds were spent.