State Senator Joe Abruzzo Orders Two Shady Audits, Opponents Cry Foul [Updated]
Over the last few months, Delray Beach has been torn up by a debate over the Arts Garage, a popular multi-purpose space in the city's downtown area. The issue is whether a law firm should be allowed to outbid the non-profit on the high-end real estate. If you've been plugged in to back and forth, you know it's been nasty.
But the latest twist might take the blue ribbon for chicanery. Arts Garage supports say the other side is flexing political muscle in retaliation.
Specifically, State Senator Joe Abruzzo ordered a state audit recerntly of the Delray Beach Community Redevelopment Agency - the Arts Garage's funder. It's no coincidence, some say, and the proof is that this is the second suspicious audit involving Abruzzo.
Update: Sen. Abruzzo called us back Friday morning with comments and clarifications on the issue. More below.
"I think it's politically driven," Delray Mayor Cary Glickstein tells New Times. "I think people that don't support the Arts Garage and know that it's wildly popular here in town think in some twisted way, 'We'll just tap the CRA for supporting it.'"
Abruzzo didn't return New Times' call for comment. But his explanation for who's sitting in the driver's seat of the audit has changed. Originally, Abruzzo said the request came from State Senator Jeff Clemens - which raised the question why Clemens would want a state-sponsored snooping of the Delray CRA's books, when the city isn't even in his district? Abruzzo later copped to the truth, admitting he asked Clemens to file the request for an audit. [See update]
"[I]n 25 years [the CRA] has not been audited," Abruzzo told the Sun-Sentinel. "That is grounds enough to be audited."
Not so, says Glickstein. A third party audits the Delray CRA every year. He calls Abruzzo's move a "misuse of office."
"In my opinion he's misrepresented facts to both his own committee as well as the public," the mayor says.
But this isn't the only audit Abruzzo has aimed recently. He's also ordered an examination of the Palm Beach County Commission on Ethics. As the Palm Beach Post pointed out this week, the audit was announced days after Abruzzo's legislative aid Philip Massa was not awarded a six-figure job with the commission.