Auditor Unloads on Deerfield Beach Housing Programs; Finds Evidence of Favoritism, Fraud

Deerfield Beach officials who administer home loans and grants to low-income residents engage in "favoritism" and "suspected fraud," according to statements made at this evening's commission meeting by forensic auditor Michael Kessler.

"The entire process of awarding funds to deserving individuals should have been administered in a documented, precise, calculated, and unbiased manner," Kessler told the commission. "But what was revealed during my review is that this was clearly not the case."

The firm Kessler International was hired in February to conduct a forensic audit of Deerfield Beach's Community Development Division. The Kessler report will be furnished to investigators for possible criminal prosecution.

As Juice has reported in recent months, Kessler's analysis found instances where city workers in that division failed to properly qualify recipients of public housing dollars. Those same workers also failed to disclose potential conflicts of interest in awarding funds to relatives.

In addition, at this evening's meeting, Kessler told commissioners that the division's workers allowed contractors to issue change orders by which those contractors collected a significantly higher payment than they had submitted in winning the original bid.

More problems were found with the cast of nonprofit agencies that administer the public housing programs. Kessler's remarks suggest that none of the agencies questioned in his audit had properly documented their spending of public housing dollars.

The scraps of financial information that Kessler's firm did receive from the nonprofits raised even more questions, as with the Westside Deerfield Businessmen Association. That nonprofit, whose president is Felicia Poitier, daughter of Commissioner Sylvia Poitier, submitted a financial statement to the city in March 2009 that made mention of having received loans that do not appear in its tax filings.

City Attorney Andy Maurodis and City Manager Burgess Hanson cautioned commissioners and city staff not to discuss the audit with the media. Juice has received a copy of the 200-page, highly detailed audit, and we'll be slogging through it over the next few days. Stay tuned.


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