2020 Strategic Update
Dear Polk Residents:
As my second term comes to a close and I enter my third term as your elected Clerk and Comptroller, I want to thank you for your trust in my abilities to uphold the duties and responsibilities laid out in the constitution. The opportunity to serve as your Clerk and Comptroller is an honor that I value and deeply respect.
It is my duty to maintain public records and safeguard county funds. These services are critical to the stability of our county. From court cases to marriage licenses, buying a home or paying a traffic ticket, my office is involved in numerous facets of this community.
In our ever-changing world, my office continuously seeks new, more efficient ways to improve access to our services, engage with our customers, serve the community, and protect public trust. The strategic goals laid out at the start of my second term in 2017 have helped us enhance the services we provide and prepared us for the unexpected arrival of COVID-19. These guiding strategies allowed us to adapt to the sudden changes brought by the pandemic and continue to serve the judicial system and Polk County community safely.
This report details the goals my office set and highlights the actions taken to meet those goals in 2020. I look forward to serving you safely as I begin my third term as Clerk of the Circuit Court & Comptroller for Polk County.
Stacy M. Butterfield, CPA
Clerk of the Circuit Court & Comptroller
Polk County, Florida
Clerk & Comptroller Strategic Goals
Increase access and continue development of a paperless courthouse through technological advancement
Since 2012, the Clerk’s office has worked to become a more efficient, paperless courthouse by actively seeking and implementing new technology. In 2020, we furthered our efforts with several new electronic services that make access to service easier.
Do-It-Yourself Court Filings
The Do-it-Yourself court filings service through TurboCourt helps users prepare forms to begin a new eviction case, Injunction for Protection (restraining order), or divorce case. Forms can be prepared 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Once forms are generated, users can file as a Pro Se user online in the Florida Courts E-Filing portal. Learn more on the DIY page.
Online Marriage Applications
This new online service enables customers to begin the process of applying for their marriage license, saving them time when visiting the Clerk’s office. Once the application is complete, couples will need to appear in person to complete the process within 90 days. View the app on our marriage page.
New and Improved Clerk Website
One of the major goals set by the Clerk's office in 2020 was a complete overhaul of our website. The new and improved website is designed to make taking care of Clerk business easier and more convenient. It includes a fresh new layout and a variety of useful features centered around our most-used services, making the service you need just a few clicks away. Learn more about the website's key features by watching our overview video.
Provide public education and awareness through community outreach and engagement
The Clerk’s office continues to increase public knowledge of the Clerk’s role in the community through educational engagement efforts and community outreach.
Jury Bill Championed By Clerk Butterfield Becomes Law
Florida students now have one less interruption to worry about. A jury service bill championed by Polk County Clerk & Comptroller Stacy M. Butterfield has been signed into law by Governor Ron DeSantis. The new law allows full-time students that meet specified criteria to be excused from jury service upon request.
At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Clerk's office quickly embraced technology to continue its engagement with students, the community, and legislative groups and organizations in order to teach them about the Clerk's role in the judicial system, new services, and provide a glimpse into the day-to-day operations of the office.
The Clerk's office recognizes the importance of giving back to the community it serves. In 2020, the Clerk's office coordinated and participated in a variety of events to give back to the Polk County community. Employees participated in Thanksgiving Food drives and donated gifts for the residents of the Rohr Home to provide holiday cheer during a difficult time for assisted living facility residents. Additionally, employees signed more than 250 holiday cards to distribute to Rohr Home residents and through Volunteers in Service to the Elderly (VISTE) to show love and support for our elderly neighbors during a particularly difficult and isolating holiday season.
Operation Green Light
Once a year Clerks throughout the state hold Operation Green Light, a driver's license reinstatement event. At this time, Clerks waive collection fees applied to delinquent court fines, including traffic tickets, providing customers the opportunity to save up to 40 percent on their fines. Once paid, customers are able to proceed with the reinstatement of their driver's license. During the 2020 event, 74 customers paid their cases in full; 169 customers established payment plans; 264 cases were pulled from collection agencies; 7 customers were able to reinstate their driver's license; and an additional 97 customers became eligible to have their license reinstated.
Valentine's Day Group Wedding
Every Valentine's Day marks a day of celebration for the couples that participate in the Clerk's Group Valentine's Day Wedding. The event provides a stress-free ceremony and light reception for couples and their guests, and the standard $30 marriage fee is waived by the Clerk as a gift to the couples. Fifteen (15) happy couples tied-the-knot at the seventh annual wedding in 2020.
Each year the Clerk's office opens its doors for a Saturday passport event, giving residents an opportunity to apply for a passport without having to take time off of work to do so. One hundred and seventy (170) passport applications were submitted and 116 passport photos were taken during the event in 2020.
Continue to deliver exceptional customer service through increased convenience by implementing the latest cutting-edge technology in our services
In an increasingly online world, the Clerk’s office is more dedicated than ever to performing our constitutional and legislative duties required in the most efficient way possible while providing unparalleled customer service online, over the phone, and in-person. The COVID-19 pandemic emphasized the critical role technology plays in providing the public ease-of-access to crucial services offered by the office. In 2020, the Clerk's office enhanced existing online services and implemented new technology to provide even more services electronically.
The new Jury App allows jurors to check their summons status, request excusals and postponements, fill out the juror questionnaire, and more-- all before they report for duty. The app also provides jurors with a QR code that can be used for limited-touch check-in when they report for duty.
Find My Courtroom
This is a new program that allows individuals to quickly find the location of their courtroom or the link to their virtual hearing. The new system is called “Find My Courtroom”. Visit the Find My Courtroom page.
E-Notify provides alerts about upcoming criminal court dates via text and/or email. Users who sign up for the service choose how they will get alerts – by email and/or text – and timing of the reminders, choosing any combination of 14-day, 7-day, or day-ahead notifications. E-Notify was developed collaboratively by the state’s clerks of court and the courts system. It is designed specifically to fulfill the legislature’s direction to provide alerts to defendants in criminal cases. The system, however, is not limited to defendants and offers a valuable resource to others who wish to be notified of case events. Studies in jurisdictions where electronic alerts have been implemented show significant reductions in “failures to appear”, or instances in which defendants miss their court events. Register for E-Notify.
Maintain transparency and accountability in County Government through accurate reporting and safeguarding of public funds
As Polk County Comptroller, the Clerk is responsible for maintaining transparency and accountability in county government through accurate reporting and safeguarding of public funds.
Excellence in Financial Reporting
The Clerk produces the county's audited financial statements as required by statute. In doing so, the Clerk is providing the necessary checks and balances on the county's budget, revenue, and spending. These are then compiled into one Comprehensive Annual Financial Report. The Clerk’s office has consistently earned national recognition of its report from the Government Finance Officers Association, and in 2020, once again earned top honors in financial reporting from the Association. For the 40th consecutive year, the clerk's office earned an award of excellence in preparing the report.
As an added measure, the Clerk's office produces a condensed summary of the comprehensive report to provide county residents with a snapshot of where their tax dollars go and how the county budget is allocated. This supplemental report, known as the Popular Annual Financial Report (PAFR), also received recognition. For the 19th consecutive year, the PAFR earned an award for outstanding achievement for the report's preparation.
These awards serve as the highest form of recognition in government accounting and financial reporting, and the attainment of these awards is a significant accomplishment. Both annual financial reports are available on this site in our Public Funds section.
The duty of the twice-accredited Office of Inspector General is to prevent, investigate, and eliminate fraud, waste, and abuse of county funds and court-appointed guardianship cases.
The Department of Inspector General received its initial accreditation from the Commission for Florida Law Enforcement Accreditation 2015 and completed the process of re-accreditation in 2018. The re-accreditation process is required every three years, and the department completed it's third re-accreditation assessment in 2020. Based on the assessment, the Department anticipates receiving re-accreditation in February 2021.
In 2020, the Inspector General completed four audits, two follow-up audits, 11 guardianship investigations, and 109 guardianship audits. The Department assisted with the county-wide effort to approve applications for federal CARES Act funds. Two staff members spent 1,021 hours reviewing and auditing individual, small business, and senior and disabled applications for CARES funds.
Adapting to Succeed During COVID-19
When offices around the world closed their doors, the Clerk's office continued working to ensure critical services and access to the justice system remained available. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, the Clerk's office is working hand-in-hand with the courts and other players within the judicial system to adapted to succeed, reinventing court services to continue serving the community safely and keeping the justice system moving.
Clerk Drop Desk
The Clerk's office established a Clerk Drop Desk at the Bartow courthouse as well as the Lakeland and Northeast branches for document processing. This drop point served as a place for customers to provide us with documents in need of processing, such as Notice of Commencements. Once processed, documents were returned to the customer by mail or made available for retrieval at the Clerk Drop Desk. This service allowed customers seeking critical and time-sensitive services, such as injunctions for protection, safe access to the Clerk's office and justice system through the duration of court closures due to COVID-19.
Jury Duty Reimagined
Jury duty is the cornerstone of our justice system. When concerns for public safety due to COVID-29 resulted in suspension of jury trials by the Florida Supreme Court and Chief Judge for the 10th Judicial Circuit, Clerks and court offices state-wide immediately started working on a plan to safely reopen courthouses and resume jury trials.
The courts set guidelines and criteria for the reopening of courthouses throughout the state. In order to transition to Phase 2 of reopening, which permits jury trials, the 10th Judicial Circuit and the Clerk's office reimagined the structure of jury duty and implemented strict, new safety measures in order to safely balance public health with access to justice.
With the safety of staff and Polk residents as a top priority, safety protocols including social distancing, continuous sanitization of public spaces, hand sanitizer stations, the wearing of face masks, and undergoing temperature checks and a verbal screening for entry into the building were put in place. Large Monday jury pools shifted to smaller jury pools scheduled to appear throughout the week. Additionally, the Clerk's office launched a new app to provide jurors with a limited-touch check-in process. The standard excusal and postponement request criteria were expanded to accommodate specifically for COVID-19 matters.
Learn more about the safe steps we're taking in our informational "Serving You Safely" jury overview video.
Polk CARES Act
The Clerk’s office quickly mobilized a team of approximately 39 employees to work on the Cares project. Through collaborative efforts with the Board of County Commissioners, the $126 million Polk County received under the CARES Act was distributed to nearly 17,600 households and more than 5,700 small businesses in need of economic relief as a result of economic hardships caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, a two-person team in the Department of Inspector General spent more than 1,000 hours auditing and reviewing applications for the CARES Act to safeguard the funds and ensure they were distributed according to each program's specific requirements.