What an Auditor Could do for Pembroke Pines

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How much money is Pembroke Pines wasting?
The Pembroke Pines city commissioners are debating whether to hire an internal auditor. In these cash-strapped times, they're looking for someone who will monitor the Broward suburb's spending habits and report on them truthfully, without feeling beholden to the city manager.

Not surprisingly, City Manager Charlie Dodge isn't keen on the idea. He's happy with the current city controller, who performs audits, but also works for him."I think the system we have works,'' Dodge told the Miami Herald.

But recent history suggests there are many things an independent auditor might find questionable. Here's the short list:

--Dodge's salary. His consulting firm, Charles Dodge LLC., which consists of him
and his deputy, gets paid about $735,000 a year. Dodge also receives free health insurance and office space from the city. One more perk: He's technically retired from the city, so he also collects a pension.

--The role of Calvin, Giordano & Associates in the city. Last year, the Fort Lauderdale consulting firm took over the job of inspecting buildings for Pembroke Pines. But the firm also has multi-million dollar contracts to do engineering and survey work for the city, such as overhauling its waste-water treatment plan. Dennis Giordano, the firm's president, says there's no conflict of interest when the private firm inspects projects that could impact its own bottom line. Would an auditor agree?

-Finally, the city's bidding process merits a closer look. A recent efficiency study, performed by the Orlando consulting firm Moore Stephens Lovelace, found that Pembroke Pines policy "allows what would appear to be an inordinate amount of exceptions to the bidding process." This "leaves open the possibility that the city is not securing the the best economic value under many contracts."

"Exceptions" to the bidding process? This sounds like the city isn't putting enough contracts out to bid, or is routinely hiring someone that charges more than the lowest bidder. But that would be favoritism, and wasteful spending. No city in South Florida could be accused of such a thing, could they?

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