Saturday, October 15, 2011

City of Deerfield Beach Commissioner, Admittedly Didn't Do Their Research on $3.9 Million Dollar HomeSec OIG FEMA Audit of City


Who runs Deerfield Beach?

Is it Peggy Noland, the duly elected (albeit suspect) Mayor.

Is it Bill Ganz from District 4, Marty Popelski of District 3, or is it Burgess Hanson, the appointed City Manager?

I guess this question really doesn't matter as long as all of those sitting on their dais, as elected or appointed officials are there and make sure that they research and do their homework on all issues concerning the operation of our City to ensure that, especially when voting, they are making informed decisions and not just relying solely on the information provided by the City Manager.  If that is not the case then why are "we" the taxpayers electing and paying them a part-time salary, health and retirement benefits, just to have them ignore us and totally agree with the City Managers recommendations, regardless of affect it would have on our City and its residents.

Now, at the September 20, 2011 City Commission meeting, newly elected Commissioner of District 2, Ben Preston made a comment that

"it is important that this Commission hears the concerns of the citizens. The information can be right and can also be in the best interest of the public. Notwithstanding, this is their money, and they hired the Commission to make good decisions.  Therefore, it is important that whatever decisions that are made; whether agreed or disagreed, that they are made in the best interest of the entire City.  
He said that it is also important for the Commission to  be better communicators  and provide the information to the public to help them better understand what is being done with their money; as we are obligated to share that information.  Maybe we have budget workshops and some people attend and  others do not;  nevertheless,  we must do a better job to make sure that they better understand what we are doing."
Now, this is true and each of the elected officials were elected because the residents believed that they would do exactly as Commissioner Ben Preston stated.  

"Additionally, Commissioner Preston said that the Commission must also consider that it is the public that hired the Commission, because they believed that they would make the best decision and had trust in them. Furthermore, when voting for the elected official, the public knew that they would not always agree with the decisions that would be made, but would trust that they would make the best decision in  their interest.  
Therefore, the public must keep this in consideration.  The most valued asset and resource in the City of Deerfield Beach are its residents.  Commissioner Preston agreed that this is the public‟s money and hears their passion, but it is also the  Commission's job to do what is best for everybody and not a particular group.  It is a shared sacrifice and  does not hurt just one group  but all may hurt to some extent. He said that  this Commission is charged with looking at every district,  as they represent the entire city.  He said that for any Commissioner to not have the entire city in his thought process is wrong.  They must consider every district regardless of how tough the issues are, there should be shared sacrifice. Whatever decision is made, it should be in the best interestof the citizens with a degree of integrity and trust from the public."
So, you can imagine my dismay when this OIG FEMA audit of the City of Deerfield Beach was discovered and I brought it to the attention of my Commissioner Ben Preston and found out that he too knew nothing of it and that he was just as shocked and amazed at the information as I was.  

So, when I sent him the link to locate the report on-line on the OIG website and advised him to read it.  I figured that he would do just that, especially since he made the below statement
"In closing, Commissioner Preston  reiterated that the Commission must do a better job with communicating these ideas to the public so that they better understand, to better inform them.  He expressed concern with the people walking out with hostility; sending a message that they do not trust their leaders. Notwithstanding, the City of Deerfield Beach is a good city.  He said that he does not believe that there is one Commissioner that will not do their research. Further, it is his commitment to hear the concerns of the people and understand them, and work even harder.  He said that we must all understand that we will disagree at times, but there ought to be a shared sacrifice."
He even went so far as to inform me of a response he received from Burgess Hanson and I advised him that "if hadn't read the report I would have been quite content with that answer.  So read the report and then think about the City Managers response and see if it jives with the information from the OIG audit of the City of Deerfield Beach."  He assured me that he would read it.

Well, color me dumbfounded when at the City Commission meeting my Commissioner, who had assured me that he would read the report affecting our City, showed a clear lack of understanding for what was actually in the report and he solely relied on the information provided to him by Burgess Hanson and staff.  

So, following the meeting I promptly contacted my Commissioner and asked how could you sit up there on the dais and follow the load of crap being spewed by Burgess Hanson, if you read the report as you assured me you would.  He confidently replied, "I didn't read it and I should have".  You are damn right, Ben Preston, you should have...and if any of the other commissioners did not read it, which obviously they either didn't read it or they are assisting in this cover-up and fleecing of the residents of Deerfield Beach.  This report is dealing with the City that they were sworn to be responsible for.  This report has the potential to cost the tax payers millions of dollars.  This report highlights possible incompetence or corrupt practices within City Hall and they didn't think it was important enough to read before discussing it.  Well, I guess they may have not had time since it was not really supposed to be discussed out in the open, per Burgess Hanson, until it was finalized and he only did so that night for "clarification" purposes.

Now, you are probably wondering what is this really about...

Well, this begs the question 

What else are these elected officials, not doing their homework on?

If this final report from the Homeland Security Office of the Inspector General after completing an audit whose very objective 
"was to determine if the City of Deerfield Beach accounted for and expended Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funds according to federal regulations and FEMA guidelines"
was ignored and not researched when brought to their attention by citizens and not City staff.

Why would not more effort, thought and consideration be giving to such a report which may have implications of corruption at City Hall and possibly be the source of a huge multi-million dollar payback to FEMA.  

Why would this not be a source of concern for the elected officials of the City of Deerfield Beach?

Well, these are the same questions that I am asking.  

Now before Bill Ganz makes a statement that "nobody asked questions, just accusations", I would like to point out that nobody accused the City of anything and all we ever did was ask questions to which we were attacked and lambasted.  The City and it's elected officials took a hostile stance against the public who was just trying to find out about this information and why it was concealed from us.  They actually changed the format of the Commission Meeting and spoke before the public.  

Now in the last 6 months that I have been attending these meetings faithfully, i have not seen the commissioners once move the "Comments by Mayor and Commissioners" portion of the meeting before the "public to be heard" section.  For the most part, after the public has spoken and the Mayor has closed the "public section", we are usually treated to Bill Ganz clarifying with the more to make sure the public can not speak anymore and then going into a long, spiteful, and full of "spin" tirade, which recently caused people to boo and noisily walk-out of the commission meeting.  So, why the change that night.  Some would argue that it was a pre-thought out and planned maneuver to quote on quote "clarify" the information and speculation that the concealment and now public attempt at "open" discussion of the ramifications that the revelation of the HomeSec OIG FEMA audit of the City of Deerfield Beach brought about.

I suggest everyone actually watch the video of that meeting and read the minutes (when they become available) to get an understanding of what went on and what was actually said.  Then read the HomeSec OIG FEMA audit of the City of Deerfield Beach and see if what the City Manager, Burgess Hanson, and Bill Ganz stated even compares to what the detailed report indicates.  I don't want to say that they were intentionally lying to us or trying to keep this public information out of the public arena.  If that is the case then they would have intentionally caused a public record to be falsified, which is a violation of FL Statute 839.13.  If they intentionally tried to withhold public information from the public by dictating and determining when and if it should be made available for public inspection is a violation of Florida's Sunshine Law.  

But hey, I am no lawyer and that would be a good question for Micheal Satz, State Attorney of District 17, who has the power to investigate and prosecute such claims oJohn W. Scott, Broward's first Inspector General, who has the authority to investigate cases of misconduct, including fraud, corruption, abuse and gross mismanagement.   Maybe, just maybe one or both of their offices should be looking into this matter to ensure the public trust and the law has not been willfully broken.

It is obvious that something fishy is going on and corruption in Deerfield Beach possibly resides in more than just the DBHA, as some would have us focus on.

It's time for accountability at City Hall...

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