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Sun Sentinel
April 23, 2010

Audit of Deerfield Beach Community Development Division alleges mismanagement, fraud
Two employees put on administrative leave, computers taken

By Linda Trischitta

DEERFIELD BEACH - A forensic audit of the Deerfield Beach Community Development Division and nonprofit organizations and individuals that received city, county, state and federal funds alleges "significant internal control breaches" and "suspected fraud."

Interim City Manager Burgess Hanson said Tuesday the report would be forwarded to federal housing authorities.

"This will be criminal in nature," Hanson said. "HUD's Inspector General's office is expecting this report. However, they were not aware, as we were not until this evening, of the severity of this."

The audit will also be delivered this week by City Attorney Andrew Maurodis to State Attorney Michael Satz.

City memos show that on Wednesday, Community Development Division coordinators Debra Chatman and Stephanie McMillian were put on paid administrative leave while the city reviews the audit. The city took the employees' computers to preserve what's on them for possible, additional investigation.

Auditor Michael Kessler said his two month-long, 189-page review found "failure and disregard of regulations and requirements" that were "indicative of illegal activity."

The company reviewed three housing assistance programs run by the city and eight organizations paid to perform services for low-income clients, including preschool education; home repairs; family unit mentoring; youth employment and in-home food delivery and aides to elderly and handicapped citizens.

Allegations in the audit include:

-- Haitian American Consortium was paid $30,000 for a 2009 summer youth job program that included house painting. The audit says no paint was ever purchased. It also says homeowners were allowed up to five gallons of free, recycled paint from the Public Works Department. According to a Public Works employee, the audit states, Commissioner Sylvia Poitier picked up 225 gallons of recycled paint.

Poitier said Tuesday night, "How can I be blamed for something I didn't get? I cannot accept this report. I got several people five buckets of paint, when I would take them on my truck to get them paint. I have never, never been to Public Works and got over five buckets of paint at a time. Somebody is going to have to make that clear and not defame my name. I've come too far. Somebody has got to answer that."

-- According to the audit, Pastor Anthony Davis and his wife Margaret Davis own five properties, have a "moderate" income level, and were not eligible for $17,157 for work that included removal of architectural barriers in their home. Expenditures included $500 for shower grab bars, a $600 toilet and $400 bath chair that Kessler said were higher than the city's maximum allowed costs.

"I have not seen the audit, so I'd like to take a look at it first before commenting," Margaret Davis said. "There was no criminal activity as far as we're concerned. It was not bathroom repairs for us, it was for a disabled child. But not having the full detail, I can't fully confront it yet."

-- Before 19 elevators were installed at Century Village for $340,100, the Community Development Division did not provide documentation that it verified 50 percent of elevator users were full-time state residents or met federal income limits.Advertisement

The audit is available on the city website.

Linda Trischitta can be reached at ltrischitta@sunsentinel.com or 954-356-4233.


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