June 11, 2010
Housing Authority wants $300,000 to produce records
By ELIZABETH ROBERTS
After being asked by an independent auditor to produce millions of pages of documents necessary to review the city's finances, the Deerfield Beach Housing Authority is asking that the city pay for the agency's cost to comply. The Housing Authority called a special meeting last week to draft a response to the auditor's records request.
"We have to do it. We are required by law," said William Crawford, the Housing Authority's attorney. "But the cost of it, the city must bear."
The Housing Authority is asking the city to pay, by its own calculations, a $354,000 bill necessary for the agency to comply with the request.
The internal audit was spurred by blogger Chaz Stevens' scrutiny of two city contracts that were awarded without being put out to bid, as is required by law. Since then, the Housing Authority has been asked by auditor Kessler International for four years' worth of documents.
"Did you talk to the city about this? Did you ever find out why the city is asking us for it?" said board Chairman Keith Emery. "This agency is required to be audited every year and that audit filed with the state."
"We are required to provide the records to any [agency] requesting them in writing or over the telephone. There is an attorney fee if we do not comply," Crawford said. "But the same law that mandates disclosure also mandates that we redact private information."
Part of the $354,000 comes from the cost of paying someone to redact confidential information, which would require a dedicated employee and should be at the city's expense, Crawford said.
The cost to photocopy the agency's 57,136 leases would produce more than two million pages. At 15 cents a page, the copy costs alone are $300,012 according to the Housing Authority's executive director, Pam Davis. The agency also claims the request would require a special copy machine, which would have to be leased.
Crawford also said that the City Commission had originally voted to pay up to $100,000 toward the cost of expanding the audit.
"If they can't afford it, they aren't going to get it. So that's the bottom line," Emery said.
City Attorney Andrew Maurodis said he did not want to comment until he had seen the Housing Authority's written response.