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News-Press.com - Fort Myers, Florida - Southwest Florida
March 4, 2010

Cape Coral mayor says auditor has been contacted

Cape Coral Mayor John Sullivan says Michael Kessler, the man responsible for an audit almost four years ago that sparked controversy and division in the community, has been contacted about finishing that audit.

Kessler, a forensic auditor from New York, is currently compiling a detailed list of information he believes he needs to complete the report. At the time of the first audit on the city's massive utility expansion project in July, 2006, he made allegations of bid rigging and turned the information over to the Department of Justice. He claimed he was denied crucial payroll information from MWH on employee labor rates and other costs he needed to determine if the utility contractor was unfairly charging the city and residents in the SW 1-3 project areas. Other audits have disagreed with those conclusions.

Sullivan said he was not sure when Kessler would have his list of requests prepared. Sullivan says if MWH does not cooperate with Kessler's requests, he will have council request the records through subpoenas.

The mayor wants city auditor Dona Newman to act as a liaison between the city and Kessler. "He will give a detailed description of what he wants to complete the audit," Sullivan said. "If he can't get the information then all bets are off (for him completing the audit). Sullivan added that if Kessler can't complete the audit, they will pay him some of the $60,000 budget for work he is doing now.

"We want a complete audit no matter how it comes out," Sullivan said. "We may find out people have money coming back."

Council voted Monday 4-3 to bring Kessler back to finish the audit at a cost of $60,000.

Kessler said his staff is currently pulling the records of the previous report from archives "to go through what we need." He did not know how long it would take him to compile the info.

Assistant city attorney Marilyn Miller says it is not clear whether council can actually subpoena financial records. Council can have that power to subpoena witnesses in investigative matters involving the affairs of the city. "But would this fall within investigating the affairs within the city," Miller said. "This is more of the nature of a contractual dispute. We will probably advise council that this is really unclear."

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