January 29, 2010
Editorial: Audit alleges serious failures in city housing programs
That's the general assessment of the Community Services Department of the city of Fort Pierce as a result of a comprehensive audit.
Conducted by Kessler International, a New York-based firm specializing in investigations of white-collar crimes and corruption, the audit examined 52 cases involving the city's use of federal and state housing authority money. The audit alleged the appearance of "fraud," "theft," "bribery" and "bid rigging."
City Manager David Recor, who ordered the audit, said this week its results will be turned over to the State Attorney's Office, Florida Department of Law Enforcement and U.S. Attorney's Office to determine whether any criminal activity occurred in operation of the city's housing-assistance programs.
The allegations that employees of the department used state and federal dollars to benefit themselves, friends and relatives are serious and need to be treated seriously. If the public trust was violated and taxpayer funds misused, there must be accountability.
The Kessler report said, "This audit found that there was a complete abdication of the oversight role of the (Community Services Department) staff to protect and properly distribute taxpayer funds. Taxpayers should never have to worry that their money is treated like candy."
City commissioners have an obligation now to step in and see where possible failures of leadership and oversight may have occurred within the department staff and above it. They need to be asking the tough questions and taking the tough actions that their positions as representatives of the people demand.