Broward News

Corruption Hunter Starts This Week in Pompano

Kessler International is developing quite a franchise in South Florida. The New York City-based forensic auditing firm is in the midst of its second contract to audit Deerfield Beach. And this week, it will begin a similar review of Pompano Beach records.

Specifically, Kessler will take a closer look at the city's Office of Housing and Urban Development, which is similar to Deerfield's Community Development Division. In April, Michael Kessler issued a report that found "favoritism" and "suspected fraud" in the way Deerfield spent its state and federal housing dollars. So what will he find in Pompano?

Pompano Beach spokeswoman Sandra King stresses: This isn't an investigation, per se. "The city manager is being proactive," says King, speaking of Dennis Beach, who was hired as city manager in December.

And the staff at OHUI is also fairly new -- King says there's been 100 percent turnover in recent years. The analysis will go back to 2005.

Beach was out of town when we called last week, but there must be something about the housing office that has him worried. Of all people Beach knows how aggressive Kessler is. Beach used to be city manager of Fort Pierce, where in January Kessler issued a devastating report of that city's low-income housing programs, calling it a "corrupt organization." The current city manager of Fort Pierce shut down the office in the aftermath of that report.

It should be noted that Pompano's OHUI is separate from the Pompano Beach Housing Authority, which also receives money through federal and state housing programs and which has a history of fraud and corruption.

Yet another group that deals with housing -- the city's Northwest Community Redevelopment Agency -- was hit with a corruption case of its own this year when a member of its advisory team, Vicente Thrower, was arrested on charges of not disclosing consulting fees that he solicited in exchange for his support of development proposals.

Kessler International has already embarked on a second, more exhaustive review of Deerfield Beach spending. And even with a new job beginning this week in Pompano, Kessler has been mentioned as a candidate to perform similar audits in Hallandale Beach, where activists
have suspicions of impropriety by recently fired city manager Mike Good. But Hallandale Mayor Joy Cooper -- a long-time supporter of Good's -- is reportedly reluctant to invite Kessler to submit a bid.