Manager rebuts Riviera audit's findings

RIVIERA BEACH City Manager Bill Wilkins defended his administration's financial management Tuesday night in response to a state audit critical of the city's record-keeping and fiscal responsibility.

"There is no perfect city," Wilkins told the city council during a workshop on the audit conducted by the state Auditor General. "There is friction with every activity."

Source of city's fiscal woes:

Concerning Riviera Beach and its CRA, the state Auditor General found, among other things:

The city violated Florida law by contracting with a member of one of its advisory boards to provide grant coordination services.

The city violated Florida law by pledging a portion of half-cent sales tax revenues for the repayment of a CRA bond issue.

The city violated one of its ordinances by not obtaining competitive bids for repairs to the Wells Recreation Center.

The city spent $120,452 more than budgeted for the Jazz and Blues Festival in 2005 and $383,736 more than budgeted in 2006.

 

The workshop was held to address publicly the 25 findings state auditors noted in a report that blasted the city and its Community Redevelopment Agency. In his defense, Wilkins said many of the findings had already been resolved or that auditors failed to contact the appropriate individuals.

For example, auditors said the city should have tagged items in its inventory instead of using serial numbers to track them.

"It's not that there wasn't a system of accountability in place," Wilkins said.

Wilkins and the council labored through the audit, sometimes digressing into a political blame game, especially when it came to Mayor Michael Brown. The audit criticized Brown for not paying $6,000 to the city after agreeing to cover admission fees of youngsters to the city's water park, Barracuda Bay.

Brown said he hasn't paid the money because he disputes the method the city's parks and recreation department used to bill him. But Council Chairwoman Ann Iles questioned Brown after he criticized Parks and Recreation Director John Williams for sponsoring events such as a trip to a Miami Dolphins game without getting council approval.

"I think you were surprised at how much it cost," Iles said. "You are doing some things that aren't kosher, either."

Wilkins later responded that Williams didn't need the council's approval to conduct city-sponsored events.

Wilkins also countered auditors' criticism of the city's use of credit cards. Auditors found that employees used city credit cards to pay for groceries, car repairs and clothing.

But Jeff Williams, the interim finance director, said the expenditures weren't for personal use. For example, he said, the oil changes were for city vehicles and the groceries for city employees working during hurricanes.

City staff also clarified auditors' criticism of a $2,093 repair bill for a 1992 Lexus SC400 that is not owned by the city. Wilkins told the council that the car was used by police for undercover operations, not personal use.

The audit, made public Dec. 27, covered Oct. 1, 2004, to Nov. 30, 2005. Council members concluded that it painted a far worse picture than Wilkins' presentation showed.

"This was nothing new to us," said Councilwoman Liz Wade, who did question whether the city needed 47 credit cards.

Still, Councilman Jim Jackson didn't want to dismiss the audit's findings.

"They're not going to put this stuff in here if it's not true," he said.

In February, the city will have another opportunity to defend itself before the Joint Legislative Auditing Committee. The committee, which is chaired by State Rep. Carl Domino, R-Jupiter, will hear testimony in light of the audit's findings.

The city, the state Auditor General and the public will have a chance to testify.