August 11, 2010
Auditors hampered by missing Pompano Beach files
Department's practices under investigation
By Larry Barszewski
Pompano Beach —
A city department being audited to identify "oddities, irregularities and possible corruption" in how it does business is missing boxes of information requested by auditors.
The Office of Housing and Urban Improvement, in a report filed with the Broward Sheriff's Office last month, reported three boxes missing and the department's interim director suspects more may be missing.
City officials said auditors still have plenty of other documents available to do their work.
"My suspicion is there are sufficient records for a successful audit to be conducted," said City Manager Dennis Beach, who asked for the audit to address allegations that have been made about the department's practices.
Past department audits by the city and external auditors have shown some programs that did not conform to federal regulations and guidelines.
The city had to return about $600,000 to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in 2007 after a state attorney investigation of mismanagement of state and federal programs.
Auditor Michael Kessler, who is also reviewing housing and development programs in Deerfield Beach, in June was awarded a $40,000 contract for his audit plus $5,000 in expenses by Pompano Beach commissioners.
Kessler, who has no target completion date, said he has no way of knowing what the missing files would have shown.
The three missing boxes contained information about scholarships awarded under federal programs based on need, academic grades and other criteria from 2006 through 2008, city spokeswoman Sandra King said.
Last year, an office assistant was fired for taking it upon herself to award two scholarships, even though the scholarships were only supposed to be awarded by the Broward Education Foundation based on recommendations of its scholarship committee.
The two recipients' applications were not reviewed by the committee, city records show.
In one case, the employee, Jennifer Johnson, explained her action by saying "I sympathized with her and I thought she deserved a chance," according to city records.
The housing department's interim director, Miriam Carrillo, is uncertain what other information may be missing from the Copans Road storage facility, King said.
"She knows for sure the scholarship information is missing," King said. "She seems to think there were more boxes in there than are there now."
Carrillo last week fired the department's administrative coordinator, Alex Medina, for deleting documents from his computer and other acts of misconduct.
Medina had access to the storage facility, but the city has not accused him of removing the scholarship files, King said.
Medina has appealed his firing to the city manager and denied he deleted any important documents from the city's servers.
He also said the charges of misconduct were unfounded.
Medina said he last saw the missing scholarship files in Carillo's office in March, before he went on extended family leave.
He said he does not know if the files were ever returned to the storage facility.
Larry Barszewski can be reached at lbarszewski@SunSentinel.com or 954-356-4556. Get breaking news sent right to your inbox. Sign up for our Daily Newsletter at SunSentinel.com/joinus