An investigation into possible misuse of taxpayer dollars in Deerfield Beach has led straight to the local church till. The pastors of three North Broward congregations have been questioned by auditor Michael Kessler as to how they used thousands of dollars entrusted to them by the city.
Their answers have not inspired much faith.
In a phone conversation this week with Kessler, the Rev. Wylie Howard of St. James Missionary Baptist Church said he used the city's money for what he called "intergenerational programming," according to an email provided through a public records request. That's a vague term, but whatever it was, it's worrisome that Howard told Kessler the program "lost money."
Not that that's reason for suspicion, exactly, but it sure doesn't help that Howard has yet to produce records of how he spent the taxpayer dollars. It's been more than a month since Kessler first asked for them.
Wrote Kessler of his conversation with Howard:
"He then stated that he must pull the records from cold storage and since his organization is completely volunteer, it is going to take a while."
Sounds a lot like the explanation we heard from the Westside Deerfield Businessmen Assocation. Howard did not return a call seeking comment.
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It happens that another local pastor has a connection to WDBA, or at least he used to. Dr. Nathaniel Knowles of Emmanuel Christian Ministries is listed as an officer of that charity, which has earned close scrutiny from investigators. Records show that when Kessler asked Knowles about that link, the pastor first refused to answer, saying that Kessler should ask WDBA. Knowles then claimed he had resigned from the charity three years before, but when Kessler asked for the pastor's letter of resignation, Knowles refused to provide it.
Another charity run by Knowles received an unknown sum of funds through a federal housing program administered through the city. It's not yet clear whether Knowles has furnished financial records of how that money was spent. (I've been playing phone tag with Knowles, who hasn't returned a message I left for him today.) There's no sign of Knowles' charity having filed a recent tax return.
Dr. Anthony Davis runs a nonprofit corporation named after his church, Brotherly Love. That nonprofit administers Deerfield Beach's United Way program. From records provided by the city, it's apparent that Brotherly Love was awarded a grant but that there's again a complete absence of accounting as to how the money was spent. It so happens that in a 2007 corporate filing, a Brotherly Love charity lists as one of its directors, Stephanie McMillian, the same Deerfield housing program director who appears to have neglected to mention her being related to the Poitier family, which runs the WDBA.
I've also been unlucky in my efforts to reach Davis, who returned one call. I've left a message with Davis and hope to hear back from him next week.