By William Gjebre, BrowardBulldog.org
Hallandale Beach City Manager Renee C. Miller
After a brief period of independence, the Hallandale Beach Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) is once again under the thumb of the city manager.
CRA oversight by Hallandale Beach city managers was a key issue in the year-long investigation by the Broward Inspector General’s Office which recently found that city officials had “grossly mismanaged” millions of dollars in CRA funds.
While the Inspector General expressed concern about a shift back to the city manager-directed CRA, City Manager Renee C. Miller said Hallandale was in line with the majority of Broward’s CRA cities – eight of 12 of which use the city manager to also head the CRA.
In its recent report criticizing the city, the Inspector General noted that CRA management improved briefly last year under the direction of former executive director Alvin Jackson who pushed through a number of changes that addressed the concerns of the county’s investigators. They included new measures to comply with laws and rules governing CRA grants and donations to community groups and to improve accountability.
“In August of 2012,” the report says, “the community redevelopment board finally provided for independent leadership of the CRA by promoting Dr. Jackson to the position of executive director. …Unfortunately, the city has since… receded from this course of action.” That’s a reference to Jackson’s January resignation under pressure from the mayor and the city commission, who also sit as the CRA’s board.
CITY MANAGER REGAINS CONTROL
The board then handed off the executive director’s duties to the city manager – the model that got the city into trouble in past years.
Except for last year’s blip, Hallandale Beach’s city manager has headed the CRA since its creation in 1996. Jackson was hired as CRA director in January 2011, but reported to then-city manager Mark Antonio.
Jackson quickly found the CRA lacked or was missing documents and had failed to create bylaws or establish a separate CRA trust fund to hold its funds. It also had not updated its operating plan, as required by law.
State law requires that each municipal CRA be led by an executive director, which can be a city manager or some other employee. It also requires the CRA to operate as an independent agency.
The Inspector General’s report said the CRA should create both a stable staff and “incorporate some level of independent management…whether the CRA executive director duties remain with the city manager or are again filled by an independent officer.”
Miller, who was not the city manager during most of the period investigated by the Inspector General, said she embraces those goals.
She said the CRA now operates as a separate entity even though she is in charge of both the city and the CRA. She said she also seeks a stable staff for the agency, and wants it to operate in a “clean, transparent” manner.
In that regard, Miller said one of her first actions was to hire in February a former colleague, Daniel Rosemond, as deputy city manager/CRA director at a salary of $146,300.
Miller did not advertise the job, or do any search, saying she had confidence in Rosemond because they worked together at city hall in Miami Gardens, she as deputy city manager and Rosemond as an assistant city manager.
LAZAROW RAISES QUESTIONS
Some residents, however, have raised questions about the hire.
For example, City Commissioner Michele Lazarow. She said the Inspector General recommended that the CRA executive director should have CRA experience, and that the job should be “separate and distinct from the city.”
Lazarow said Rosemond will split his time between his duties as CRA director and deputy city manager in charge of several other departments, including public works. She said the CRA has major projects to complete.
“The CRA requires and deserves a full-time director; not a part time employee,” Lazarow said. “I want to see a separate CRA director, like Hollywood and Dania. “We have the budget to support an independent, separate executive director,” Lazarow said.
Miller said Rosemond’s experience in the past and his additional work assignments as deputy city manager will allow for better coordination of projects involving the CRA. Public Works, she said, has tie-ins to CRA projects. She added that Rosemond’s dual positions will enhance accountability between the CRA and other city departments.
In the past, she said Rosemond has worked in community development for numerous cities. He’s also knowledgeable of budgeting, planning, permitting requirements. Having a top city official in charge of the CRA, Miller said, should assure that the CRA functions properly with other departments.
“I think he’s doing a fantastic job,” Miller said.
Mayor Cooper could not be reached for comment. It’s not surprising that she favored restoring the city manager as executive director of the CRA. She told Inspector General investigators that she preferred to have the city manager as CRA executive director rather than some other employee and had been opposed to Jackson’s promotion to executive director, according to the Inspector General’s report.
By William Gjebre, BrowardBulldog.org
Nearly $11 million in fines imposed for property code violations in Hallandale Beach in the past five years have been excused by city managers without the city commission’s review or approval, according to city records.
The city collected only a fraction of the total.
Breaks worth tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands of dollars, were handed out to individual property owners, developers, businesses, banks and investment companies.
“There needs to be accountability. There needs to be transparency, especially on those not elected,” said former Miami City Attorney George Knox, a professor of law at Florida International University. “There should be some review to avoid the appearance of favoritism.”
Last month, a report by the Broward’s Inspector General’s Office was harshly critical of top Hallandale Beach administrators it said had “grossly mismanaged” millions of dollars in public funds related to its Community Redevelopment Agency.
Hallandale property owners may appeal fines to the city manager. The managers have lowered or erased fines under a policy begun in 2004 under then-City Manager Mike Good. The policy gave them the authority to slash fines 95 percent for homesteaded property and 90 percent for non-homestead property. In hardship cases, fines could be cleared completely or owners charged only the city’s costs.
The question of whether the city manager should have unbridled authority to reduce code violation fines split the city commission, which voted 3-2 in February to affirm that authority by incorporating the administrative policy into the city code and adding clarifying language.
“No one should have that spending authority,” said Commissioner William “Bill” Julian, who noted commissioners have not been informed of reductions in property fines. “I want to be part of the process. We were elected to oversee.”
Commissioner Michele Lazarow, who joined Julian in voting no, said she favored city commission approval of all fine reductions “over $50,000.”
Mayor Joy Cooper and Commissioner Anthony Sanders did not respond to calls for comment. Vice Mayor Alexander Lewy could not be reached. The trio passed the measure to strengthen the city manager’s authority on fine reductions.
From 2008 through 2012, assessed fines totaled $11.7 million, with the city only collecting only about $751,345, or six percent, according to city documents. The fines were drastically reduced by Good; his successor, Mark Antonio; and current city manager Renee Crichton Miller.
Records show there were 276 fine reduction cases during that period, with 75 cases for fines above $50,000. The smaller cases typically involved work done by homeowners without permits and ailing or elderly homeowners who could not afford to keep up their property.
As BrowardBulldog.org reported two weeks ago, the largest fine reduction occurred last month when the city commission voted to wipe out $453,000 in fines against longtime Miami developer Tibor Hollo.
Professor Knox said he was not surprised that the fines reached as high as they did and the small percentage amount the city collected was what could be expected. “In this context [cities] collect a penny or two on the dollar,” he said.
Knox called the fines, which can escalate on a daily basis, “a brutish method” to coerce property owners to clear up violations that is nevertheless “lawful and constitutional.”
Knox, however, said that is a mistake to put “too much authority in the hands of the manager…without a rendering back of accountability.” The manager should be required to provide regular reports to the commission explaining the rationale for such fine reductions, he said.
With Commissioners Julian and Lazarow urging a change in the process, the commission decided to ask City Manager Miller to come back with a report on how other cities handle the reduction of fines for property code violations.
Miller cautioned that requiring commission approval to reduce any fine by more than $50,000 would slow the process of dealing with code violations and fines, and said the commission find itself “flooded” with cases involving small property owners, she said.
“This is not about power and authority,” Miller said. “It’s not about the manager’s authority; it’s about what makes sense.”
The matter would not have surfaced had the Hollo group accepted the 90% fine reduction — to $45,300 – the city manager could grant. But Hollo wanted the fine reduced to zero, something only the commission could do.
The Hollo group bought the 3.5-acre property along N. Federal Highway, next to the Mardi Gras Casino, two years ago. A 250-room hotel, residential and retail complex called “Bourbon Street” is planned. The code violations and fines existed before the purchase.
The developer’s representatives have said there was an understanding with former City Manager Mark Antonio that if their company corrected the code violations and cleared debris from the property the city would drop the fines completely. There was no formal agreement, however.
The Hollo group has a commitment from the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) to receive $25,000 to help it clean up the site.
Ultimately, the commission approved a deal in which the Hollo group agreed to pay the city’s costs of $4,600.
By William Gjebre, BrowardBulldog.org
Hallandale Beach City Hall
Current and former top Hallandale Beach officials defended – or offered excuses for – the handling of millions of dollars in community redevelopment funds to county investigators who have now accused the city of “gross mismanagement.”
The Broward Inspector General’s office slammed the city last week in a 50-page report, citing “numerous” improprieties and deficiencies.
Mayor Joy Cooper staunchly defended the controversial spending by the city’s property tax funded Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA), which she chairs, according to the report.
For example, the mayor said a $50,000 “loan” to the South Florida Sun Times, a local newspaper where she has been a columnist since 2003, was an appropriate 2009 CRA expenditure that she likened to an incentive for a struggling business.
“They were having issues and might fold,” Cooper said.
Under the terms of the deal, the Sun Times was only required to repay half of the loan – $25,000 – even though the paper’s owners paid themselves $469,000 in salaries the year before. Cooper told investigators she was unaware of those prior salary payouts when the CRA Board approved the generous loan.
Former city managers Mike Good and Mark Antonio, who oversaw the huge pool of CRA funds during most of the past 11 years, admitted to investigators that they never had any training regarding the state law (Chapter 163) that governs CRAs.
Ex-City Managers Mike
Good, left, and Mark Antonio
Good, in charge for most of that time, told Browardbulldog.org this week, “I don’t think anything was grossly mismanaged during my administration” adding “I will be vindicated” and so will the city.
Antonio did not respond to a request for comment.
The 14-month probe by the Inspector General began after a string of stories in BrowardBulldog.org about questionable city loans to local businesses and land purchases through the CRA.
Last week’s preliminary report found at least $2.2 million in “questionable” CRA expenditures between 2007 and 2012 – including loans to local businesses and grants to nonprofits. The report also found that bond proceeds had been improperly used.
The report said the city was supposed to set up a separate CRA trust fund in years past, but instead co-mingled CRA money with city funds. It also said CRA funds were improperly spent for parks outside the CRA’s boundaries and city fireworks displays.
In one case, investigators reported finding “probable cause” to believe that the founder of one local nonprofit diverted about $5,000 in grant funds for personal purposes, including making a payment on her Orlando timeshare. The matter was referred to the Broward State Attorney’s Office for prosecution.
City records regarding payments to non-profit groups were so lacking, the report said, that investigators were “unable to reliably assess the amount of possible losses suffered by the CRA as a result of ‘misapplication of funding by non-profits.”
Florida law does not permit the CRA to fund charitable donations to non-profits, the report said.
Hallandale’s CRA was established in 1996 under a state law that allows it to use an increase in tax revenues to rid slum and blight conditions in the designated area, in this case the entire city west of Northeast 14th Avenue.
The funding total since then has reached approximately $70 million, approximately one-half coming from the county and most of the other half coming from the city.
The five members of the city commission control that money because they also serve as directors of the CRA governing board.
Cooper, the leader of the city commission, had a different viewpoint than investigators on a number of issues. She contended that CRA funds can be used for expenditures such as Fourth of July fireworks held “outside the CRA boundaries” because such activities “also benefit and promote the CRA.” the report said.
While the Inspector General asserted that a 2010 Florida Attorney General’s opinion required CRA expenditures be related to “brick and mortar” projects, Cooper stated “she believed CRA funding for festivals was” permitted by the Attorney General’s opinion.
Hallandale Beach Mayor Joy Cooper
When investigators questioned Cooper about the CRA’s donations to local charities because they were not mentioned in the city’s CRA plan, Cooper said that “those donations were identified in the city budget” and “encompassed the actual goals and objectives of the CRA plan,” the report said.
Cooper also told investigators that the law that governs CRAs is “pretty general” and allows them “flexibility” to spend CRA funds as it sees fit to “address slum and blight,” the reported added.
Cooper would not be interviewed, said city spokesman Peter Dobens.
Good, city manager from 2002-2010, “had a free hand to implement anything for the CRA” and rarely asked for and considered any other opinions, former CRA director Kendrick Pierre told investigators.
Another former CRA director, Bobby Robinson, said he told his immediate superior about inappropriate spending and other problems, but nothing was done.
Good was given wide latitude in making CRA business loans. He OK’d the controversial $50,000 Sun Times loan under a program he created to assist businesses having financial problems, the report said. Like the mayor, he told investigators that he was unaware of information in CRA files that showed the paper’s executives had paid themselves $469,000 in 2008.
Good acknowledged his 2009 recommendation that the CRA waive a requirement that a startup business, Digital Outernet, own its business location in order to receive a $75,000 loan. The owners planned to install closed-circuit television screens in local businesses to provide information to the public, earning income by selling advertisements.
Digital Outernet made one installment payment of $2,284, then shut down after its local partner died suddenly. The city never obtained a signed guarantee document from the firm’s partners and was eventually forced to write off nearly $73,000.
“Sometimes in a blighted area, you take a risk,” Good told investigators.
Mark Antonio, who took over after Good was fired in 2010 due to chronic work absences and other reasons, told investigators that he, too, “never received any CRA-related training.” He served for two years, following stints as Good’s chief assistant and finance director.
Antonio told investigators that before 2011 “the CRA had no viable process in place for managing charitable donations it provided to non-profits.” He said city commissioners would use the CRA’s money to “fund whatever they wanted” and that “neither the city nor the CRA attempted to verify how they were spent,” the report said.
When Alvin Jackson was named the CRA’s executive director last August, he was the first person to head the agency that did not take orders from the city manager.
With that independence, he pushed through a number of changes that addressed investigators‘ concerns. He created a separate CRA trust fund and bylaws; hired an independent finance director to conduct an annual audit; employed an attorney experienced in CRA law and established an accountability system for grants to local groups.
But Jackson resigned under pressure from the CRA board in January following a dispute with some commissioners.
Today, Hallandale Beach once again is operating the CRA under the city manager model that got it into trouble.
“Whether the CRA executive director duties remain with the city manager or are again filled by an independent officer, the CRA should incorporate some level of independent management for CRA issues,” the report recommended.
William Gjebre can be reached at email@example.com
By William Gjebre and Dan Christensen, BrowardBulldog.org
Broward’s Inspector General has found that Hallandale Beach officials “grossly mismanaged” millions of dollars in public funds “entrusted to the care of its Community Redevelopment Agency,” according to a report obtained by BrowardBulldog.org.
“The OIG (Office of Inspector General) investigation substantiated the allegations and uncovered numerous deficiencies in the city’s administration of the CRA,” says the 50-page preliminary report that has not been released publicly.
Investigators said they found at least $2.2 million in questionable CRA expenditures between 2007 and 2012, including inappropriate loans to local businesses and grants to local nonprofits – as well as the improper use of bond proceeds.
The city improperly spent $416,000 of CRA money for parks outside the CRA boundaries, says Tuesday’s report.
The spending, which was not always documented, was often done at what amounted to the whim of former city managers Mike Good and Mark Antonio, the report says.
Former Commissioner Keith London told investigators that his colleagues “looked at the CRA fund as one big pile of money and they didn’t care how or where the money went,” the report says.
Mayor Joy Cooper, however, offered a different take. “She was not concerned with the CRA administration’s lack of (expenditure) verification because the CRA Board members observed the work of the nonprofits when they went out in the community,” the report says.
Cooper and the rest of the city commission also sit as the CRA’s board of directors.
“This report vindicates everything I have stated for the last six years,” London said Tuesday night.
Cooper could not be reached for comment.
Former commissioner Keith London
The probe began 14 months ago following a string of stories in BrowardBulldog.org about questionable city loans to local businesses and land purchase through the CRA. It surfaced publicly last April when county agents sought a multitude of records at City Hall.
In some cases, the report says, the CRA awarded funds despite a 2010 Florida Attorney General opinion that CRA expenditures must be connected to “brick and mortar” capital improvements – not, for example, to promote economic development or promote socially beneficial programs by nonprofits.
In one case, the line of what’s legal was apparently crossed and a crime may have been committed, the report says.
The Inspector General’s findings about Hallandale Beach are the latest to cite serious mismanagement of CRA funds. A year ago, for example, the Inspector General slammed Lauderdale Lakes for misspending $2.5 million in CRA funds. More recently, the Florida Auditor General identified misspending by Hollywood’s CRA.
“It is becoming increasingly apparent that the gross mismanagement of CRA funds by a Broward County municipality is not a unique occurrence,” the report says.
The CRA was established in 1996 under a state law that allows it to collect tax revenue to be used to rid slum and blight conditions. It receives 95 percent of the taxes collected on the appreciated value of properties within its boundaries. The county has provided Hallandale’s CRA with approximately $35 million since it began.
Inspector General John Scott’s report includes what amounts to a warning to other Broward cities that his office will be eyeballing their CRA’s to see how they spend their property tax dollars.
“The OIG will continue to examine the expenditure of CRA funds by municipalities,” says the report.
The final report will recommend to the county that it look over its legal options “to prevent the ongoing abuse of the CRA process and recover those funds that may have been misspent,” the preliminary report says.
In Hallandale, there was an apparent lack of regular monitoring by the CRA of who got its funds and how that money was spent.
In one case, the report says, a nonprofit grant recipient spent nearly $5,000 in funds to make a payment on her time-share at the Westgate Resort in Orlando, make payroll payments to herself and her brother and on other things.
Dr. Deborah R. Brown with former Congressman Kendrick Meek
“We found probable cause to believe that Dr. Deborah Brown, the founder and director of the Palms Center for the Arts (PCA), engaged in criminal misconduct in the handling of a $5,000 award the PCA received from the CRA,” the report says.
Brown could not be reached for comment Tuesday night.
The matter has been referred to the sheriff’s office and the Broward State Attorney for prosecution.
The Inspector General’s report also clears Commissioner Anthony Sanders of allegations that the CRA showed favoritism toward him by substantially overpaying his nonprofit, Higher Vision Ministries, for property it purchased in 2009 at 501 NW First Ave.
“The investigation did not substantiate the allegations, although we found that the CRA fomented an appearance of favoritism by failing to consider the purchase of the property in a fully transparent manner,” the report says.
The report also cites “institutional deficiencies in the establishment, organization and function of the CRA” that it says contributed to numerous instances of gross mismanagement. They include:
• Failure for nearly 16 years to establish a CRA trust fund, as required by law, which led to the commingling of CRA funds with city funds in the city’s bank account. A trust finally was set up last May.
• Failure to operate the CRA independently from the city. Former CRA executive director Alvin Jackson told investigators the CRA “was treated like any other city department and that the city had ‘free rein to tap into CRA funds.
• Failure to timely generate detailed CRA plans and adhere to them, as well as a lack of a “stable and empowered CRA staff to ensure compliance” with the law.
“We also identified multiple instances where city officials ignored warnings from CRA staff of various deficiencies in the management of the CRA,” the report says.
The report notes that before Jackson there were several CRA managers under City Manager Good’s heavy managerial thumb. “More troubling is evidence that Mr. Good and other senior officials lacked understanding of” state statutes governing the CRA “and did not require compliance.”
The report notes that in 2011, after news reports about CRA problems in BrowardBulldog.org and elsewhere, it undertook “remedial steps” to improve its management and effectiveness.
But the Inspector General indicated those steps, including the establishment of the trust fund, are not enough.
The report includes a half-dozen recommendations intended to “ensure the independence of the CRAs,” including building a stable and knowledgeable staff with the authority to ensure compliance with the law, and diligent future monitoring of expenditures.
By William Gjebre, BrowardBulldog.org
Hallandale Beach officials altered city pension guidelines to enable the son-in-law of former city manager Mike Good to join a lucrative management-only pension plan after it was closed to additional employees.
The policy revisions made by top city staff – apparently without city commission approval – extended the defined-benefit plan’s cutoff date, allowing Douglas Grant Baber to participate.
City records obtained by BrowardBulldog.org state that in 2006 then-City Manager Good ordered the plan shut to new management employees effective January 1, 2007.The move followed complaints by city commissioners about the plan’s escalating costs. Instead, those employees would enter a 401(a) defined contribution plan.
But that deadline would soon change.
On March 5, 2007 then-Assistant City Manager Mark Antonio sent an email to Human Resources Director George Amiraian, with a copy to Good, with the subject line “Pension Options for Douglas Baber.”
Baber was hired as an administrative analyst in early 2006 and in February 2007 he was promoted to personnel analyst. It was a position that would have made him eligible for the management retirement plan if it were still in effect, and Baber wanted in.
Antonio’s memo says that because of the January 1st deadline he had “assumed” Baber would instead enter the other plan.
“However, based on our recent conversations, it appears Doug (Baber) is expecting to enter the Defined Benefit (management) Plan and I’m not sure how to accomplish that without a new pension plan amendment and ordinance,” Antonio said. “Please set up a meeting to discuss with me and or the city manager.”
No record of that meeting could be located. But handwritten notes on a copy of the same email maintained in city files indicate that Good OK’d Baber’s entry into the management plan.
“Sent Doug app. for DB plan per C.M.,” the notes on Antonio’s email say.
Baber, now 37, married Good’s daughter on March 31, 2007.
Good, a 25-year city employee who served as city manager from 2002 until his dismissal for excessive absences and other reasons in June 2010, did not respond to requests for comment.
Baber, who no longer works for the city, declined to comment.
Antonio’s solution, it turned out, did not require an amendment to the pension plan or a new city ordinance.
He explained his decision in twin memos to Amiraian and representatives of the company that administers the pension plan, the Principal Financial Group, on May 17, 2007.
The memos state in part that employees hired prior to Oct. 1, 2006 and promoted to a “professional/management” position prior to Oct. 1, 2010 – a description that fit Baber – “will be eligible to enter the defined benefit (management) plan.”
Antonio’s memos cite no authority for that decision, nor do they explain why the change was being made.
The city clerk’s office said it could not locate any reference to the policy change in city commission minutes.
Browardbulldog.org asked Amiraian how Baber was allowed into the management pension plan after it was closed. His assistant, Radu Dodea, later cited Antonio’s memos to show how it was accomplished.
A Principal Financial Group enrollment form in Baber’s personnel file showed he was placed in the management plan as of his promotion date on Feb. 5, 2007. That form is dated April 18, 2007.
The Professional Management Retirement Plan, approved and implemented by the city commission in 2001, boosted pensions for top city bureaucrats in several costly ways. For example, it was calculated to equate their jobs to the “high risk” duties of police and firefighters and granted retroactive credit for prior years of service even if they were in another city retirement plan.
Baber, whose annual salary was $65,000, resigned after five years of city employment on Feb. 22, 2011. When he left, he took a pension plan payout of nearly $20,000.
Today, the city is suing Baber for failing to repay $6,400 in tuition reimbursements he received. Baber, however, has sought bankruptcy protection in federal court in Fort Lauderdale.
Antonio, who succeeded Good as city manager and retired last June, would not discuss the policy changes, saying he could not recall the circumstances.
Former City Commissioner Keith London, who lost a race for mayor in November, said the reason for the retirement plan deadline change is apparent to him.
“It’s obvious it was for Doug Baber,” London said. “This was all Good’s doing. Who else could do it?”
By William Gjebre, BrowardBulldog.org
Hallandale Beach City Hall
Two Hallandale Beach commissioners who backed generous retirement benefits for top city officials said they were never told that the program granted retroactive credit for years worked prior to the plan’s start in 2001.
Those extra years and subsequent improvements are allowing those ex-administrators to collect millions of dollars in enhanced benefits that some say amount to undue compensation.
The commissioners’ claim was buttressed when City Manager Renee Crichton said her office has been unable to find any official documents that authorize the granting of retroactive retirement credit
However, two ex-managers – Mark Antonio and Randolph J. “R.J.” Intindola – said commissioners were given details in an actuarial report on the pension plan back in 2001.
“It’s easy for them to say now,” said Antonio, a former city manager and finance director who has said the plan was developed and approved because the existing plan was inadequate.
The controversy surrounding the costly executive retirement plan has intensified as election day approaches. The flap surfaced as the Broward Inspector General’s Office continues its investigation into city management practices.
One current and one former city commissioner are now calling for an outside audit to review the plan and determine how it came to include the lucrative provision granting credit for past years of service – with an eye toward possibly rescinding or halting some of the benefits for those covered by the plan.
The plan was stopped in 2007 for new employees, however about 70 former and current employees continue to accumulate benefits under the program.
COMMISSIONERS KEPT IN THE DARK
Current Commissioner Dorothy Ross and former Commissioner William Julian, who is running again, say they were not aware of the richness of the perks when they backed the management retirement program 11 years ago.
“It was never explained,” Ross said. “Why do something for past years of service? I don’t see the reason for it.”
“When we voted on the pension plan that never was brought up to us,” said Julian. “I never saw any documents about free years. They should not be getting anything free.”
Former Mayor Arthur “Sonny” Rosenberg agreed.
Rosenberg, who was off the commission when the plan was voted on but attended meetings about it in the months before, said there was no discussion about retroactive service credit.
“Robbery, that’s what it was,” Rosenberg said of the plan. The city staff, he added, misled commissioners about the plan and its costs.
Rosenberg said he saw a memo from the finance department stating that the plan would cost “no more than $10,000 a year” and would benefit only about 15 employees with 15 to 20 years of service.
City Manager Crichton, who took over this summer, said she can’t find details on the pension agreement in the city record.
“The city does not have any item that speaks directly to the credit of back time,” Crichton wrote in her memo last week. She attached minutes of various city commission meetings in 2001 where the management plan was discussed and approved but there were no references to approving retroactive service credit.
CITIZEN STEPS IN
Crichton’s memo responded to a public records request filed by commission candidate and community activist Csaba Kulin.
“As I expected there is no authorization to grant all those extra years of service to managerial employees,” said Kulin. “It was done illegally….The three previous city manager, starting with R.J. Intindola, have given themselves and others, illegally, millions of dollars.”
While she could not find any reference to the retroactive credit, Crichton said it is possible the approval was “inherent” when the commissioners approved documents outlining the management plan. She said she has no intention of hiring an outside auditor to review the matter, unless instructed by the commission.
The chance of such a review would appear to increase if Julian and Kulin are elected next month. Both said they want one.
“The commission can reverse anything it wants,” Julian said.
City commissioner Keith London also entered the fray, saying that if he’s elected mayor next month he will seek an outside audit and obtain legal advice on what aspects of the plan can be reversed for current retirees or halted for future ones.
BrowardBulldog.org first reported last week how the management retirement plan has paid off big for some top city officials who helped set it up, or backed later enhancements. Three former city managers – Intinola, Antonio and Mike Good – are among those who have received generous payouts, including monthly pensions totaling $37,000.
Intindola received nearly 20 retroactive years of credit when he retired in 2002. In addition, the plan allowed him to purchase an additional four years without actually working. Without those 24 years his pension would be 96 percent lower. He currently receives an annual pension of $111,700. His highest base city salary was $118,664.
Antonio, the city’s finance director before he became city manager, retired in June and received 14.25 years of retroactive service. He also bought five additional years. Without those 19.25 years his annual pension would be 77 percent lower than its current $127,000. His highest annual salary as a city official was $165,000.
Antonio accumulated another $744,637 in a city DROP (Deferred Option Retirement Plan) savings account.
Good was fired in 2010 after eight years as city manager, for chronic work absences and for other reason. Good now receives a monthly pension of $17,522, or more than $210,000 a years, just $2,000 under his highest regular base pay of $212,000. He also cashed out $786,000 from his DROP account shortly before leaving city employment.
Good did not receive retroactive credit for past years of service in the management plan. Previously, he was in the city employee group pension plan, and his years and payments were transferred to the new plan.
By William Gjebre, BrowardBulldog.org
A short-lived, perk-laden retirement plan has paid off big for some top Hallandale Beach officials who helped set it up a decade ago – but today it’s costing city taxpayers extra millions of dollars.
Approved and implemented by the city commission in October 2001, the plan’s key provision granted those ranking city officials retroactive credit for prior years of service – even if they were in another retirement plan.
The Professional Management Retirement Plan also boosted pensions for top city bureaucrats in other costly ways. For example, the plan was calculated to equate the sedentary desk jobs of department heads and their assistants to the “high risk” street duties of city police and firefighters.
City commissioners were also eligible for the plan, but because their pay was so low, and their length of service varied, the financial impact was minimal.
Three former city managers who played key roles in developing the retirement plan or subsequent add-on benefits are now collecting pensions that are at or near their highest annual salaries when they were active city employees.
Ex-city manager Mike Good was fired in 2010 after eight years due to his chronic work absences and for other reasons. Today, at age 51, Good receives a monthly pension of $17,522, or more than $210,000 a year. His highest regular salary was $212,000.
But a higher monthly pension isn’t the only way that Good and his fellow city managers have benefitted from the management retirement plan.
Good, who started working for the city as a welder in the 1980s, cashed out $786,000 from his city DROP (Deferred Retirement Option Plan) savings account a few months before he departed. The account, established under the retirement plan, was funded largely by the city.
Good also received another $146,000 in accrued sick leave, vacation time and other benefits when he left.
The city commission closed the retirement plan, including the DROP program, to new employees in 2007 citing exorbitant costs. City records indicate that about 70 employees, active and inactive, are eligible to receive benefits under the plan that initially required employees contribute five percent of their salary, but was later hiked to seven percent.
“It’s outrageous: fat, oversized pensions,” said Csaba Kulin, a community activist and city commission candidate. “This was mismanagement…employees should not have gotten credit for past years of service. They should have begun accumulating benefits when the plan went into effect. It’s undue compensation.”
The pension disclosures come as the Broward Inspector General’s Office continues its investigation into suspected mismanagement and fraud involving city loans to local businesses and questionable land purchases by the city’s commission-run Community Redevelopment Agency.
PAYOUTS JACKED UP
Payouts to top city workers were further jacked up by management plan provisions that reduced the full retirement age from 60 to 52 with 25 years of service, inserted regular cost of living increases, and allowed workers to purchase additional years of service for time they didn’t actually work.
Some top employees also received two pensions because they were allowed to keep 10-17% of gross salary contributions by the city in the previous retirement plan.
Some details of the Professional Management Retirement Plan are unclear. BrowardBulldog.org asked the city clerk’s office to provide commission minutes and documents regarding the authorization of retroactive service credit for employees prior to October 2001, but was told those records are “not available.”
Mark Antonio, 56, is a former city finance director who succeeded Good as city manager in 2010 and retired at the end of June. In 2001, he explained aspects of the retirement plan to commissioners before it was approved. He now receives a monthly pension of $10,645, or $127,800 annually. City records state that his highest base city salary was $165,000.
Like Good, Antonio accumulated a considerable city-funded nest egg in his DROP account: $744,637 by July 31, 2012, according to city records. City officials said he was also due about another $100,000 for unused sick and vacation days and other earned benefits.
Ex-City Manager Mike Good
Randolph J. “R.J.” Intindola, under whose administration the retirement plan was adopted, retired as city manager in 2002. He receives a monthly pension of $9,308, or $111,700 annually. His highest base city salary was $118,664.
Intindola, now 61, retired a year after the plan was implemented citing health concerns. At the time, the plan did not allow him to have a DROP account. He did receive a payment of $139,000 for accrued sick, vacation and other benefits, according to city documents.
Two city commissioners who backed the plan in 2001 now wish they hadn’t.
“My thinking today is ‘no,’ ” said Commissioner Dorothy Ross. “We can’t go back to that time.”
William Julian, who left the commission but is now running again, said he had “no experience with pensions” when the matter was brought up years ago by City Manager Intindola and staff. He said they told him the plan was “normal” for top city officials.
“Looking back, we should never have offered the plan,” said Julian, especially the granting of credit for past years of service. “I was new,” Julian said. “It sounded logical and we took staff at their word, but I wouldn’t take it now.”
The cost of the plan is in the millions, said Julian. He added that cost includes the $900-a-month he began to receive last year. He was credited for service on the commission from 2001 until 2010 when he was not reelected.
Mayor Joy Cooper, who has been on the commission since 1999, was the lone vote against the plan back in 2001. “I did not feel comfortable,” she said.
She said she also now opposes the idea of equating top management jobs to those of police and firefighters – something she voted to approve in 2003.
“Police and firefighters are in a different category,” Cooper said. “They put their lives on the line.”
EX-CITY MANAGERS LIKE THE PLAN
Each of the three former city managers defended the management retirement plan, though only Intindola acknowledged that it has elevated costs to taxpayers by millions of dollars.
“Absolutely, it was okay,” said Antonio, who got retroactive credit for the 14.25 years he worked for the city before the plan went into effect in 2001. He also purchased an additional five years of service credit at a cost of 8% of salary for each year purchased.
Without credit for those 14.25 years, Antonio’s pension would be about 57% lower. Without those years and the extra years he purchased, his pension would be approximately 77% lower.
Antonio said commissioners implemented the management retirement plan to address a lack of fairness regarding pensions for top managers. At the time, the city was contributing 10 to 17 percent of gross salary to their 401a retirement accounts.
Intindola agreed. “It was a good thing,” he said. “We had to improve the [existing] plan; we had a high turnover.”
Intindola began working for the city in February 1982. He received nearly 20 years of retroactive credit under the management retirement plan, and also bought another four years of service.
Without those nearly 24 years of credit, Intindola’s pension would be about 96 percent lower.
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?
The 2001 switch to the management retirement plan was not supposed to be costly, Intindola said. The amount the city was then paying in benefits was expected to cover most of the new plan.
But changes made after he left, including the addition of a cost of living adjustment (COLA), and a guaranteed 8 percent annual increase to DROP accounts, proved to be “a killer” – driving up annual pension costs by $2 million, Intindola said.
Radu Dodea, a Hallandale personnel official who administers the management pension plan, said he has no estimate as to how much the city will have to pay management plan participants over their lifetimes.
But city activist and commission candidate Kulin said those cost estimates are exorbitant. He estimated the long-term cost to city taxpayers for the years of service and other benefits total about $10 million.
A city financial report from 2002 obtained by BrowardBulldog.org stated those payouts could amount to nearly $9 million. The report said the initial estimate for unfunded costs, including covering past years of service for employees, was approximately $1.7 million.
The change that Intindola said caused the city’s costs to spike occurred while Good was city manager.
Good, unlike the other ex-city managers, said he did not receive retroactive credit for years of service because he had been in the General Employees Pension Plan since the day he started in March 1985. He switched to the management plan for its superior benefits when it was approved in 2001 and transferred money he and the city previously contributed. By then he was director of Public Works.
It was also under Good in 2007 that the management plan was finally shutdown for new employees.
“The economy went kaput and defined pension plan costs were rising and they wanted to cut costs,” city Human Resources director George Amiraian said.
By William Gjebre, BrowardBulldog.org
Hallandale Beach City Manager Renee Crichton
New Hallandale Beach City Manager Renee Crichton has hired an independent auditor to review the controversial $1.1 million purchase last year of property from a charter school company run by former Broward County Congressman Peter Deutsch.
Crichton retained former longtime West Palm Beach internal auditor Imogene Isaacs to determine how the purchase was approved and who actually bought the property – the city or its Community Redevelopment Agency.
“It is paramount to me as an administrator to always strive for integrity and transparency in my operations,” Crichton told city commissioners in an Aug. 31 memo. “The time involved in doing a proper inquiry may be extensive.”
The city’s attempt to sort things out regarding the 1.9-acre parcel at 416 NE Eighth Avenue comes amid a broader investigation by the Broward Inspector General’s Office into allegations of mismanagement and possible corruption involving questionable city loans and CRA land deals.
The property was purchased in July 2011 from Deutsch’s Hallandale School LLC, which had planned to open a Ben Gamla Charter School there. Deutsch, a Democrat who served in Congress from 1993 to 2005, pushed hard for city support, but the plan wilted in the face of stiff neighborhood opposition.
Still, Deutsch’s group, which owned the property for just three years, netted a $600,000 profit on the sale to the city.
In her memo, Crichton said City Commissioner Keith London raised questions about the acquisition at last month’s meeting of the CRA’s board of directors. The directors are the five members of the city commission.
Commissioners, sitting as CRA board members, authorized acquisition of the “Ben Gamla” property with CRA funds.
But that’s not what happened.
Former City Manager Mark Antonio’s administration instead used city funds – not CRA dollars – to buy the land, and then titled it in the city’s name, not the CRA.
“No official action was taken by the city commission” to acquire the property using city funds, Crichton said in an interview.
In her memo, Crichton said Isaacs’s job will be to “review the circumstances surrounding the approval process and use of funds associated with the purchase of the Ben Gamla School property; to issue a report on the findings, including recommendations on how to improve the process.”
Several months ago, BrowardBulldog.org reported that all 59 properties purchased with CRA money in recent years are in the name of the city – not the CRA. The CRA has been seeking to re-title 43 of the properties in its name, with 16 others remaining in the name of the city.
PLAYING GAMES WITH MILLIONS?
London, who is running for mayor against incumbent Joy Cooper, said he was “disgusted and disappointed” that city officials “would play games with millions of dollars in funds.”
The money that actually paid for the Ben Gamla property was leftover dollars that developers put up to help pay for traffic, sewer and park improvements. “The money has been sitting there for years,” London said.
Commissioners had expected the funds to come from the CRA, and what happened was not authorized, according to London.
“This is sleight of hand with our money,” he said. “I’m looking forward to…the auditor’s report on who is responsible,” London said.
OLD PRO CALLED UPON
City Manager Crichton turned to a veteran auditor to get to the bottom of what happened.
Isaacs has 37 years of internal audit experience, which includes 25 years of work for West Beach Beach and Lakeland. She also worked in the Inspector General’s Office of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for 12 years.
Earlier this year, Isaacs resigned as West Palm Beach’s first internal auditor after a dispute with City Commissioner Keith James who had instructed her not to meet with “any person from outside the city” without permission, according to a story in the Palm Beach Post.
In stepping down, Isaacs, 71, said she saw “some attempts at controlling the independence of the internal auditor,” according to the Post story.
In 2007, she wrote a critical audit of West Palm’s federally funded program to re-roof low-income housing after recent hurricanes, according to another Post story. Eventually, according to the Post, the city had to pay back the federal government $1.67 million.
Crichton said Isaacs will be paid $50 an hour. She expects the total cost of the audit to be as much as $3,000.
By William Gjebre, BrowardBulldog.org
Broward Inspector General John Scott Photo: CBS4 Miami
A Hallandale Beach program that funneled hundreds of thousands of dollar in grants and contributions to community groups is a key focus of the Broward Inspector General’s widespread investigation of city management practices.
Documents obtained by Broward Bulldog show the Inspector General obtained city files on eight community-based organizations, several linked to City Commissioner Anthony Sanders or his wife, Jessica. The documents include information about city payments to Jessica Sanders and others associated with the groups.
Those disclosures, and others about the probe, are contained in a 15-page letter sent to Inspector General John Scott on April 23 from City Manager Mark Antonio. The letter was the city’s formal response to Scott’s request two weeks earlier for dozens of city records.
Among the records turned over to county investigators are thousands of pages of city memos, reports, minutes, email, budgets, policies, programs, audits, grant reviews and program files. The records sought are for the fiscal years 2010-2012. Antonio also referred investigators to additional public documents on the city’s website.
Some requested information was not supplied. For example, investigators asked for all city records that would show attendance by nonprofit grant recipients at quarterly workshops, as required by grant agreements. Antonio said, however, that there were no sign-in sheets to verify attendance
Antonio, who retires next week, said, “The city has diligently fulfilled the request for records to the best of our ability.’
Scott does not comment on pending investigations.
Antonio’s letter says investigators also sought information about the leasing and rental of city property to local groups; plans and loan programs operated by the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency; and expenditure reports involving the CRA, the city’s general fund and the Law Enforcement Trust fund.
County investigators are also reviewing whether non-profit groups receiving city funds followed procedures, assessments, and commitments.
Broward Bulldog reported last week that the City Manager’s Office has not been fully cooperative with investigators by declining to set up interviews between city commissioners and county investigators who want to speak with them. Those commissioners also sit at the CRA’s board of directors.
The refusal was cited in a June 13 letter from the City Attorney’s Office, which also sought the identities of commissioners who might be targets.
INVESTIGATORS VISIT CITY HALL
The Inspector General’s office began its probe on April 10 with a visit to city hall where investigators met city with Antonio and CRA Executive Director Alvin Jackson. Jackson started in January 2011.
Investigators revisited City Hall in recent weeks, meeting with Jackson for several hours. Documents state that IG special agent William Cates and senior auditor Susan Friend also met with other city officials, including Jennifer Frastai, an administrator in the City Manager’s Office, and Marian McCann-Colliee, the city’s Human Resources Director.
The probe appears to be limited to the past three years, but some requests for records have resulted in the city providing documents going back to 2000.
In March, an outside audit was critical of city management and the tracking of CRA loans and property acquisitions. Broward Bulldog also reported then that the audit, which raised questions about the city’s loan practices, did not review more than $20 million in contracts with city vendors because the city failed to provide the information and limitations on the scope of the audit.
In several of the loan deals involving taxpayer property tax dollars, recipients did not have to pay back the amount as much as half of the value of the loan.
COUNTY FOCUSING ON GIVEAWAYS
While records indicate that the Inspector General’s probe is multi-faceted, investigators appear to be strongly focused on city grants and charitable contributions made through its Community Partnership Grants program.
City records show that such giveaways increased 60 percent in the past three years – from $400,000 in fiscal year 2009-2010 to $647,000 this year.
“As economic times worsened the city saw a greater need for services in the community which directly corresponded with the increase in the amount of requests to the city,” Antonio said in his letter. He added that for 2012 “two teams of professional who were non-city employees” reviewed 29 applications.
Available city documents show that in 2010 and 2011, city grants and donations did not specify where the money came from: the general fund, CRA or the Law Enforcement Trust fund. But this year, after a CRA management makeover, they were shown as follows: general fund, $256,130; CRA, $274,600; and Law Enforcement Trust Fund, $116,654.
The Inspector General asked for the files on these program recipients:
- Eagles Wings Development Center Inc., job training and social services program, $50,000 in the past two years.
- Greater Mt. Everett Resources and Learning Center, a work force training program for construction trades, $61,000 this year.
- Lampkin’s Creative Arts for All LLC, including Dizzy Fingers School of Excellence, Inc., training youth in how to advance in the arts, $50,000 this year.
- Palms Center for the Arts, Inc., a youth arts and job preparation program, $107,000 past three years.
- Palm Community Action Coalition, community based program assistance, $26,000 over two years.
- Palms of Hallandale Beach Weed and Seed, a crime prevention and community development program associated with the Department of Justice, $143,000 past three years.
- Phileo Outreach Ministries Inc., a program for rehabilitation of youth, $45,000 past two years.
- Zamar School of Performing Arts, Inc., $25,000 two years ago.
COMMISSIONER SANDERS AND WIFE
State corporate records for Eagles Wing listed Hallandale Beach Commissioner Anthony Sanders as president and his wife, Jessica, director, in 2009. In 2010 and 2011, Jessica was listed as director, but Anthony Sanders was not listed. He was appointed to the city commission on Sept. 8, 2008 to fill a vacancy.
Commissioner Anthony Sanders
Jessica Sanders also has ties to two other non-profits on the Inspector General’s list, according to public records.
She is a contact for the Palms Community Action Coalition, which until April 2011 was known as the Palms Community Development Corporation. Jessica Sanders, as “interim site coordinator” for Palms of Hallandale Beach Weed and Seed, appeared at a July 14, 2011 Hallandale Beach commission meeting before a vote to award a $45,000 grant to her group. “Vice Mayor Sanders excused himself from the dais during the presentation and recused himself from voting,” city minutes say.
In an interview this week, Commissioner Sanders indicated that he is perplexed about the county’s inquiry.
“I can’t answer why they are asking for the records,” he said. “They are looking at nonprofits. I don’t mind that they are looking at Eagles Wings. It is a service to the community and always has been…food programs, job training and other services.”
Sanders indicated he may meet with IG investigators soon.
Jessica Sanders said, “I’m not concerned about the probe.” She said there has been no wrongdoing and noted that she has provided some records to IG investigators. She said that she and her husband “stayed here to make a difference. We do good work.”
Her income from the Weed and Seed program was not from city funds, she said, but came from the Department of Justice, which backed the program. She said that on several occasions she was asked by the Weed and Seed governing board to operate the program when the group’s administrators failed to perform.
The county investigators also sought information payments made by the city to Nellie Bacon, Clara Brown, Deborah Brown, Selinda Washington-Jackson and Jacquelyn Rosenau.
According to state corporation records Rosenau is director at Eagles Wing. Clara Brown is corporate secretary for Palms Community Action Coalition. Deborah Brown was president of Palm Center for the Arts in 2011, and a principal and director of Zamar School in 2011. Washington-Jackson works for Weed and Seed. Rosenau used to work for the agency.
The city supplied copies of its lease and rental agreements with non-profits to investigators.
Those agreements are with: Hallandale Beach Area Chamber of Commerce, Zamar School of Performing Arts, and the Palm Center for the Arts.
The chamber, which received $25,000 from the city in 2010, has an office in City Hall, next to the commission chambers. The rental fee for approximately 400 square feet of space is $1 a month.
The Palm Center for the Arts, 501 NW 1st Ave., sits on land the city purchased with CRA funds in 2009 from Anthony Sanders’ nonprofit Higher Vision Ministries; a commissioner at the time, Sanders did not vote on the sale.
Sanders bought the property in 2001 for $45,000 and sold it to the city for $235,000 after receiving a $46,000 property improvement loan. The city initially agreed to forgive $7,500 of the loan. When the city bought Sanders’ property, however, it forgave an additional $7,500 when at the time the sale was finalized. City officials have said it was an error by the city.
In August 2009, the city leased Sanders’ former property to the Palm Center for the Arts for a one- time fee of $10, on the condition it provide community art and music training programs. While the lease states the center is not allowed to sublet or rent the facility, the city modified the agreement to permit the Zamar School for Performing Arts to operate a summer camp at the center in the summer in 2009.
A provision in the Palm Center lease allowed for a summer camp music program. The city helped Zamar with $25,000 to operate the camp.
The IG’s office has also requested information about additional money given to various groups that was more than initially authorized.
William Gjebre can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
By William Gjebre, BrowardBulldog.org
Commissioners Dorothy Ross, left, and Anthony Sanders
Hallandale Beach City Manager’s Office has refused to fully cooperate with the Broward Inspector General’s Office investigation into the city’s management of the Community Redevelopment district.
City Attorney V. Lynn Whitfield informed the Inspector General’s Office by letter Wednesday that City Manager Mark Antonio’s office will not voluntarily schedule requested meetings between county agents and city commissioners, who also serve as the CRA’s Board of Directors.
City Attorney Whitfield also sought in her letter to identify the target or targets of the investigation.
“As it relates to the members of the City Commission, it is imperative, in order to properly advise them as to the availability of legal counsel, that I know whether your investigation is directed to the actions of the City Commission as a whole or to the actions of only individual City Commissioners,” Whitfield wrote. “This will assist me in advising whether or not they need to obtain independent legal counsel.”
The Inspector General began an investigation in April of city management practices following numerous news stories in Broward Bulldog and elsewhere regarding the city’s poor record keeping of land acquisitions and loans through the CRA.
County investigators have been to City Hall at least twice. They are known to have met with Antonio, who retires June 29, and CRA executive director Alvin Jackson. The city also has responded to the Inspector General’s request for various documents dealing with the CRA and other aspects of city operations.
But in yesterday’s letter addressed to county Special Agent William Cates, the city refused complete cooperation – apparently until the county is willing to disclose which commissioners are under scrutiny.
Outgoing City Manager Mark Antonio
“It is my understanding that the City Manager’s office has notified you that they will not be scheduling those meetings and advised that all such requests should be directed to me or the CRA attorney Steven Zelkowitz,” Whitfield said.
Antonio, a 25-year city employee who has been city manager for the past two years, did not respond to a request for comment. Neither did Whitfield or his replacement, Renee Crichton, who is working alongside Antonio until his departure and has assumed administrative duties, according to a city spokesman.
Special Agent Cates also could not be reached for comment.
Despite the letter, two city commission members told Broward Bulldog that they are willing to be interviewed if asked. Two others indicated they would not talk without consulting with the city attorney.
Commissioner Keith London said he does not understand the suggestion that city officials refrain from cooperating with investigators.
“I will go as quickly as I can. I have nothing to hide and look forward to speaking with the IG about (the) CRA and Hallandale’s mismanagement of fund,” he said. “I look forward to the final report and the arrest and conviction of people who mismanaged taxpayers’ money.”
The Inspector General is not conducting a criminal inquiry. It can, however, refer its findings to the State Attorney’s Office for possible prosecution.
Commissioner Dorothy Ross was not aware of the city attorney’s letter, but said she was willing to meet with county agents. “I’m of the opinion there is nothing to investigate; there is nothing wrong,” she said.
Commissioner Alexander Lewy was more cautious. “If they subpoena me, fine,” he said, adding that the county was “fishing for information.
Lewy said city staff has told him that most of the information the county has sought predates his election to the city commission in November 2010.
Vice Mayor Anthony Sanders took a similar stance. “I would check with (the city attorney) if asked for an interview,” he said.
Mayor Joy Cooper did not respond to a request for comment.
The CRA was created in 1996 with a 30-year mission to facilitate redevelopment in the city. But while it has spent millions in tax dollars over the years, critics complain the city has little to show for it.
Many of the issues faced by the city happened before Antonio and Jackson were in their current posts.
A number of controversial findings and actions regarding the city’s redevelopment agency have surfaced in the past year:
- An auditing firm reported in September that the CRA failed to properly track city land acquisitions totaling more than $28 million and loans to businesses exceeding $1.5 million. In March, auditors said the city also failed to provide them with $20 million in vendor contracts for review, limiting the scope of their audit report.
- The CRA acquired nine properties for $23.5 million during the past five years – taking them off the tax rolls – yet the city has enacted no plans for how to use eight of the parcels. The value of those properties has also fallen by $9.1 million.
- A local weekly newspaper that regularly features a column written by Cooper – and has touted her in front page puff pieces – received a $50,000 CRA loan in 2009 that only required the paper to repay half of that amount.