Wednesday, October 5, 2011 at 1:51 p.m.
When the former Hollywood city manager found out he was under investigation for possible shady dealings involving the delivery of a city-owned generator to his dad after Hurricane Wilma, he went to discuss it in one of the brighter symbols of his tenure: the multimillion-dollar ArtsPark at the center of Young Circle.
Benson had championed the park from the beginning, although he acknowledged that it was sometimes unpopular: "It's been tough professionally and personally," he told the Miami Herald in May
, just as his more recent troubles were beginning. "There were plenty of people out there that thought it would never be done and shouldn't be done."
But it was, and to Benson's credit, it's a beautiful park. Tranquil, even. So after he got a phone call from the Sun-Sentinel
's Megan O'Matz asking about anonymous allegations
that he had instructed a police officer to bring a city-owned generator to his dad's house in Lauderhill, Benson realized he needed to do some damage control. He called the city's public-information officer, Raelin Storey, and arranged to meet with her at ArtsPark.
"According to Storey, this was an unusual request," says a recent FDLE report (see below) that cleared Benson of the accusations.
Benson told Storey that O'Matz had been to his parents' home to ask about the generator. He told Storey that his father had needed one after Wilma and that he had recalled that some recently purchased generators were in storage on city property. He told her that generators were subsequently taken to his father's home.
"Storey explained that Benson did not 'seem' to remember how the generators were obtained... Storey explained that Benson told her that he did not really remember specifics regarding the incident," reads the report.
Investigators later obtained a copy of a check made out to the police officer who delivered the generator, in the amount of $1,415, signed by Benson's mother and dated October 26, 2005. This was to reimburse the city for the generator.
The report concludes that there is "no evidence to support that Mr. Benson committed any crime in reference to the generators... Therefore... the FDLE will take no further action."
Not discussed in this investigation are other allegations that appeared further up in the anonymous letters sent to city commissioners, that Benson accepted bribes for giving a lucrative waste-hauling contract to WastePro. The report fails to mention them aside from noting that "there were other allegations that alleged that several Public Works employees accepted bribes... The Florida Department of Law Enforcement opened a case related to the allegations solely on the generators."
No word yet on why the other, seemingly more serious charges were not investigated. Benson left his post in June after taking the brunt of blame for the city's budget crisis.
Cameron Benson allegation letter 1
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