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Sun Sentinel
May 6, 2010

Deerfield Beach dismisses board members, orders second audit
Kessler International wins another contract, worth $100,000

By Linda Trischitta


As the city expands its review of the Community Development Division, Commissioner Bill Ganz called for the immediate dismissal of volunteers on city boards who were named in an auditor's report.

While auditor Kessler International's first report on the division is still being studied and no criminal charges have been filed against anyone, the commission approved Ganz's proposal.

"My recommendation is to remove those people to make sure we're not creating a distraction on those boards," Ganz said Tuesday night.

Marta Rivera and Edgardo Rivera were appointed to the Community Relations board that was to communicate between city government and the public, and Dan Poitier, who was on the Planning and Zoning board, a city spokeswoman said. They were all dismissed until a second audit that was commissioned this week from Kessler is completed.

The Riveras are affiliated with social service agency Centro Cristiano, and Poitier was with the Westside Deerfield Businessmen Association, which once ran the city's Community Housing Development Organization.

Financial records for both groups are incomplete, Kessler alleged in its first audit.

The Riveras and Poitier did not respond to messages asking for comment. Their replacements would be nominated by commissioners.

Ganz said his motion to remove the volunteers was "not to implicate" them in the audit allegations, but because the people named in the audit were a "distraction" to others still serving on civic boards.

"It's unfair to the other people," Ganz said. "I'm not looking for a temporary suspension. I'm looking for removal and would be more than happy to bring these people back. Who knows how long it will take for this to air out?"

The second audit will cost up to $100,000 and will examine contracts, bids, permits and inspections performed within the Division's community development block grant programs, Interim City Manager Burgess Hanson said.

Also to be reviewed are documents for the Deerfield Beach Housing Authority's bid awards, and three events that have received municipal funding: the Mango Festival, Founders Day and Brazilian Festival.

The city turned Kessler's first audit, which cost $30,000, over to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Inspector General and State Attorney Michael Katz.

That report alleged "significant internal control breaches" and "suspected fraud" in Community Development, nonprofit organizations and by individuals that received city, county, state and federal funds to serve the poor and elderly.

Two of the Community Development Division's employees, Debra Chatman and Stephanie McMillian, were put on paid administrative leave while the city reviews the first audit's findings.

Hanson said there is no delivery date for the second audit because the contract with Kessler is still being written.

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

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