Letters to the Editor
Sunday, September 02, 2007

Accountability doesn't exist in Riviera Beach

Here we go again! "Federal prosecutors eye Riviera audit" (Aug. 28) and "Group looks to consult for Riviera" (Aug. 27): These two articles are their own indictment of the latest version of incompetence and criminality in Riviera Beach government.

Nothing has been or is being built. Why have the Community Redevelopment Agency at all? Look at what it spends, look at the audit article: $5.6 million gone on research? Another consultant company? Please make this stop now. No receipts for clothing, gas and restaurant purchases on city credit cards? Absurd. No accountability anywhere.

Floyd Johnson, CRA director, and Bill Wilkins, city manager, are the problem; they cannot fix it. It's just so obvious. You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows. Not in Riviera, for sure.

BILL WALSH

Riviera Beach (Singer Island)


                                       

 

Federal prosecutors eye Riviera audit

By WILLIAM COOPER JR.
Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, August 28, 2007

RIVIERA BEACH Federal prosecutors are reviewing a state audit critical of the city's accounting practices and the Community Redevelopment Agency's financial procedures, a federal prosecutor said Monday.

Andrew Lourie, supervisor of the U.S. attorney's office in West Palm Beach, said federal prosecutors are thoroughly examining the audit done by the state auditor general's office. Lourie declined to disclose the areas of the audit, which was made public in December 2006, of particular interest to the prosecutors.

 

"I can't discuss specifics," Lourie said. "Our mandate is to investigate and prosecute federal criminal conduct."

The audit, which chronicled poor record-keeping, unpaid sales taxes, lack of competitive bidding and undocumented expenses, was referred in February to State Attorney Barry Krischer by the state's Joint Legislative Auditing Committee.

The audit was sent to state prosecutors after Riviera Beach officials failed to convince the bipartisan committee at a meeting in Tallahassee that the audit's findings were not consequential and did not point to criminal activity.

State Rep. Carl Domino, R-Jupiter, the committee's co-chairman, said he learned from his staff last week that the audit was in the hands of federal prosecutors. Domino, lobbied by Riviera Beach residents in 2005 to launch the audit, said his committee rarely refers its audits for criminal prosecution.

"There are still many unanswered questions both on the criminal and noncriminal side," said Domino, adding that state auditors will do a follow-up over the next year.

"Clearly, there is a magnitude of concern that rises above average."

For months, Krischer's office has remained tight-lipped about its probe. Spokesman Mike Edmondson continued to be so Monday.

"Given that there's multi-agency involvement, it would not be appropriate for me to comment," Edmondson said.

State auditors examined spending by the city and the CRA from Oct. 1, 2004, to Nov. 30, 2005. Their 29-page report made 25 findings and recommendations.

Auditors found that both the city and the CRA lacked good record-keeping. They concluded that the CRA spent $5.6 million on consultants and had little work to show for it.

At city hall, auditors discovered that purchases consistently lacked the proper documentation. City-issued credit cards were used to pay for groceries, gas, clothing and a $2,093 car repair bill, but auditors failed to find receipts for the expenses.

At a workshop held after the audit's release, Riviera Beach City Manager Bill Wilkins defended some of the spending in the audit, saying some of the purchases, such as the groceries, were made during emergencies like hurricanes.

The car repair bill was for a vehicle being used by the police department for surveillance, he added.

Contacted Monday, Wilkins said he was not aware that federal prosecutors were reviewing the audit. Neither he nor his staff have been contacted by the U.S. attorneys office, he said.

"I'm sure they will notify us," Wilkins said.