Sunday, February 18, 2018
News Roundup

Q&A: Letters to President Obama, Pinellas tax collector Diane Nelson

President does read his mail

On average, how many letters arrive at the White House every day, and has President Barack Obama kept his promise to read at least 10 letters from ordinary citizens daily?

The White House gets tens of thousands of letters, emails, phone calls and faxes every day. Mike Kelleher, director of the White House Office of Presidential Correspondence, said his staff sorts through every one.

Letters are categorized. Some go into a red box for "life-and-death constituent case work," Kelleher told the New York Times in 2009. "So someone says, 'I'm despondent and I want to commit suicide,' or 'I have a life-threatening illness and I need help here,' we immediately respond to those." The Secret Service gets the threatening notes.

A few hundred representative notes are then sent to Kelleher, who looks over them and selects 10 messages to give to the president daily.

The president reads through them and responds to three or four every night with handwritten notes.

The White House has posted a video from 2009 explaining the process. It's at www.whitehouse.gov/video/Inside-the-White-House-Letters-to-the-President.

Checks payable to tax collector

Having just paid my property taxes in November, I thought I'd ask why they request the check be made payable to Diane Nelson, tax collector? Why not request the check be made payable to just Tax Collector, Pinellas County or simply Pinellas County? Payable to Diane Nelson seems to make it too easy for someone to take a check for personal gain.

We sent a query to the tax collector's office and got this response from Chad McLeod, manager of public affairs and compliance:

"We certainly accept checks that are made out to "tax collector," and that happens often. However, asking taxpayers to write the tax collector's name on their check is a common practice throughout Florida, and there are several reasons for this.

"We have found that people in the community like to know who holds the office, and requesting that checks be made payable to Diane Nelson, tax collector, reinforces the level of responsibility that a tax collector has. It also serves as a reminder that the tax collector is independent from other county offices, directly accountable to the citizens of Pinellas County.

"For those who might be concerned about the tax collector misusing a check for personal gain, we have processes in place that prevent this. All checks are received and processed at a central operations center, which is different from the tax collector's main office. We also have an outside firm conduct an audit every year to ensure the highest level of accountability. We have received a clean audit every year since Diane Nelson took office."

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