[UPDATED] Charity Linked to Deerfield Commissioner Took Out 10 Percent Loan With Relative
A charity under investigation by Deerfield Beach took out a high-interest loan from a brother of Commissioner Sylvia Poitier in hopes of paying taxes on property it owned in the city. The charity then listed that liability in a financial statement to the city, raising questions about whether it intended to use public dollars to pay back its debt.
In a phone interview Monday, the president of the Westside Deerfield Businessmen Association, Felecia Poitier, told Juice that her charity took out a $46,000 loan from Lionel Ferguson, brother of Sylvia Poitier, so it could pay property taxes.
"The interest rate was 10 percent," said Felecia Poitier of the loan. Asked why her organization would borrow at such a high rate, she said, "We couldn't borrow it from anywhere else."
Based on interviews with Sylvia Poitier and Felecia Poitier, the commissioner's daughter, it's become clear that WDBA, which occupied an important role in administering state and federal housing programs, has made extremely poor financial decisions. And the fact that money was changing hands among family members raises questions about whether those mistakes were truly naive.
As we pointed out in a post yesterday, WDBA probably could have earned an exemption from paying property taxes. That it failed to apply for that exemption is not only embarrassing to the charity but to the city, which ought to have noticed this oversight in 2004, when it formally registered WDBA as the city's Community Housing Development Organization.
Again, the question is whether that oversight was merely naive or whether WDBA's political connections helped it earn the blind trust of city officials.
Last week, Sylvia Poitier told Juice that the loan from her brother occurred while she was still occupying a manager's role at WDBA, meaning it must have happened around 2003 or 2004, which was the year before she was elected to the commission.
Sylvia Poitier, who said the loan was $42,000 -- it was $46,000 according to Felecia Poitier -- could not explain how that liability could be listed in a financial report as $70,000. But if Felecia Poitier is correct in saying that the loan's interest rate was 10 percent, then that may explain how the liability appreciated so dramatically.
Asked to explain the $70,000 liability her charity reported to the city, Felecia Poitier said, "We guesstimated the interest that was owed and what that would be."
Presently, WDBA is under fire for not cooperating fully with efforts by an outside auditor to collect financial records. Thus far, the charity has provided only the information that relates to one of its two bank accounts.
Felecia Poitier insists that the delays in responding to those requests are based on the time-consuming nature of the city's request. City Attorney Andy Maurodis, however, told commissioners last week that he may have to sue the charity to secure the records. He has received permission from the commission to sue when he feels that's his last resort.
Update: Forgot to post a portion of the interview with Felecia Poitier. As noted in the comment below, WDBA did not list a liability to Ferguson in its tax returns -- why? "I'll have to ask my accountant," said Felecia Poitier, who signed the tax return.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss New Times Broward-Palm Beach's biggest stories.