Wednesday, September 28, 2011

City of Deerfield Beach Taxpayers May Be "On the Hook" for Over 3 and Half Million in Penalties to FEMA...

Below is an email and public records request that I sent to the City of Deerfield Beach, regarding an investigation and audit conducted by the United States Office of the Inspector General on the City of Deerfield Beach, which was initiated in 2010 and concluded in January 2011 with the official documents going out in April 2011.  It's an interesting read and I recommend everyone follow the included links and read through those documents as well.  

The findings will shock and amaze you.

I just performed an internet search for Deerfield Beach Audit(s) because I was looking for the 2010 OIG HUD report for the City of Deerfield Beach to find out about the $360,000 (three hundred and sixty thousand dollars) or so in payback to HUD that the City publicized this year and which resulted in the thousands of dollars being spent on Kessler and a highly publicized Kessler Audit result, which ultimately found Sylvia Poitier and others at fault for this $360,000 plus payback to the Federal Government, i.e. HUD.  Which coincidentally, the City is now in a witchhunt along with Chaz Stevens looking into a possible mismanagement over at the Deerfield Beach Housing Authority.  (*Now isn't that the pot calling the kettle...) 
So it was totally surprising to see this FEMA OIG audit result from an investigation initiated in 2010, about the same time as the HUD audit,  because I had no clue and I didn't remember seeing any articles in the Sun-Sentinel or Observer which informed the residents and citizens that such an investigation into our City was even being conducted by FEMA.  (Don't get me wrong I know that I don't read everything in those media publications so I am fully aware that I may have missed those informative articles.)  But, I do remember a highly publicized and quoted Kessler Audit report results from the City Manager, Burgess Hanson and Bill Ganz along with all of the Commissioners and media outlets. 
Anyway,  it was shocking to me to learn that FEMA, after performing this investigative audit, determined that the City of Deerfield Beach may be responsible to FEMA for a payback ($3,928,753) over 10 (ten) times the amount of that which it had/has to pay to HUD ($395,298 penalty) because The City accounted for FEMA funds on a project-by-project basis according to federal regulations for large projects. However, the City’s claim included $3,928,753 of costs that were ineligible.  Both amounts would if paid back would obviously be the financial obligation of the City of Deerfield Beach's, to take the words from the Lisa Zahner article in the report from July 7, 2011
 "... taxpayers – not the employees who messed up the reimbursement paperwork – might be on the hook ".
 So, FEMA reviewed costs totaling $13.5 million claimed under 11 large projects from the period of October 24,2005 to May 11, 2010. During this period, the City received $13.5 million of FEMA funds under the projects reviewed. At the time of our audit, all large projects were completed and the City had submitted final expenditures on those projects to FDEM.   
So again, just to reiterate, it is shocking to discover that this un- or underpublicized FEMA Audit of the City of Deerfield Beach resulted in a finding of over 10 times the dollar amount ($3,928,753) in City responsible Federal Funds Payback than the OIG HUD payback ($395,298 penalty) 
So, my first question to all of you is:
Is this payback part of the real reason  the City of Deerfield Beach is imposing this Utility Tax and why the Commissioners and City Manager w/ Staff is trying so desperately to discredit the obvious "will" of the people, as shown by the amount of residents that signed the petition to rescind the utility tax?
*Please note:  Many of the signatures from the petition drive that the City is determined to have thrown out by the BCSOE and basically disenfranchising the voters is because the signature and address appear, but the voter precinct number was not input.  Please see the correspondence submitted to the SOE by the City of Deerfield Beach Clerk, Ada Graham-Johnson. 
The way I see it, no matter what any City official or SOE states, the will of the people was clearly demonstrated and illustrated with the number of registered voters that took the time to voice their opinion by signing the petition.  It is a shame that the City of Deerfield Beach is working doubly hard just to ignore and have the will of the people averted for their own selfish gain.
Also, would it be prudent to ask which of you, except maybe Commissioner Ben Preston, knew of this since January 20, 2011 as reported in the "Discussion with Management and Audit Follow-Up" Section of the OIG FEMA Audit of Deerfield Beach, which can be read here. (If you missed the earlier link, of course.) 
Oh by the way, there is rumor abound about laid-off employee lawsuit paybacks, which could put the City and ultimately the taxpayers on the line for a more substantial amount of money in the near future or the recent past.  This next part you can consider my official request for public records under the Great State of Florida's Sunshine Law... 
-Can you please provide the the City's "action taken or planned to take" documentation and/or information that it supplied to the OIG FEMA Audit, as requested by the Inspector General by July 12, 2011.  (This would be the documents and information requested on page 6 of the report.) 
-Can you please provide a list of current and past lawsuits that the City of Deerfield Beach is and has been as the "Defendant/respondent" with in the past 2 years.  Please include the outcomes and notification if still pending.  I also understand that the outcome and current status updates of litigation(s) currently in-progress can be considered under Attorney-Client and therefore, not subject to Florida's Sunshine Law.
Also, can you please provide the General Public with an explanation as to why this information was not publicized by the City of Deerfield Beach on it's website because transparency in a town which has had three major public corruption scandals within 5 years should be of the utmost important to all elected and public officials, especially in Deerfield Beach.  It is time to restore the public trust (which right now is at an all time low all over the country especially here in Deerfield Beach) and you can begin this by being upfront and honest with the residents and stop lying to us then spinning and withholding the whole truth. 
It is within that spirit of the public trust that I humbly ask and request that a full audit be performed of all City functions and resolution be passed to allow the public to engage in open discussion with the Commission at all "public meetings" as defined under the Sunshine Law.  Our City Charter does not prohibit the public from speaking and the rules established for public meetings under CODB resolution 2007/052 definitely do not limit or ban any content of an individuals comments beyond the time-frame and it makes the exception of slanderous and profane comments made towards the individuals on the DAIS.  So, please consider this request and make "public meetings" in Deerfield Beach, just that "PUBLIC", and open up the floor with the legally prescribed limits as outlined in resolution 2007/052.

When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty.
- Thomas Jefferson 

Then the commissioners and satraps began trying to find a ground of accusation against Daniel in regard to government affairs; but they could find no ground of accusation or evidence of corruption, inasmuch as he was faithful, and no negligence or corruption was to be found in him  
-Daniel 6:4 NASB

*Italicized portion set aside with an asterisk has been updated and was not included in the original email to the City.

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