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Charity President Says Agency Isn't Ducking Investigator

Felecia Poitier, president of a charity being investigated by Deerfield Beach for its management of housing funds, denied allegations that her agency has not cooperated fully with auditors, blaming delays on the time-consuming nature of the city's request.

"He's trying to get this [financial information] as fast as he can," says Poitier, speaking of Dan Poitier, executive director of the Westside Deerfield Businessmen Association. She said that Dan Poiter, her mother's second cousin, has another job that's made it hard to find the time.

Whether that's true or not, it's becoming clear that WDBA has problems far greater than time management. The charity is terrible with money.

For instance, Poitier says she didn't know that her charity was eligible for an exemption from property taxes until a conversation this afternoon, when I told her. "I guess we didn't know any better," she says.

It's a shame we hadn't talked in 2005, when WDBA stopped paying property taxes. I could have saved the agency $150,000 in taxes and fees.

The head-scratching history of WDBA, after the jump.

In 2004, Felecia Poitier's mother, Sylvia Poitier, occupied a manager's role at WDBA, for which she was paid stipends of various sizes.

And that same year, WDBA was selected to be Deerfield Beach's Community Housing Development Organization, meaning that it would receive federal and state funds for improving the city's low-income housing.

In 2005, Sylvia Poitier won election to the Deerfield Beach Commission, prior to which she claims she broke ties with WDBA. Felecia Poitier remained an officer of the agency. In the years to come, Sylvia Poitier would vote and argue in support of WDBA's role as a provider of low-income housing.

Strangely, in a year when the WDBA stood to gain income through its position with the city, it stopped paying property taxes.

As for the reason that Deerfield Beach officials contracted with a nonprofit agency that had failed to apply for its property tax exemption, that's anyone's guess. But whatever the explanation, it's evident that Deerfield Beach did a poor job of vetting.

In March 2009, a new commission was sworn in, and a rookie, Bill Ganz, wanted to know a bit more about the agencies that were getting money through the city, like WDBA. At Ganz's behest, agencies looking to do business with the city were required to perform audits and show them to the city.

WDBA had until the end of 2009 to perform its audit, but according to Ganz, the agency hired its own auditor, in defiance of getting the city attorney's clearance. Then WDBA got an audit that wasn't nearly as extensive as the city required. Because the agency failed to meet the standards for disclosure, the city has refused to release funds it's holding for WDBA in an escrow account.

Felecia Poitier says that the audit wasn't complete because WDBA didn't have enough money -- it wanted to use part of the money being held in escrow. Ganz says that it has nothing to do with paying an auditor; it's that WDBA has resisted a full audit.

So too has WDBA resisted the requests of a forensic auditor hired by the city to look at state and federal housing dollars. Originally, WDBA released account information for only one of two checking accounts. Two weeks ago, the city forwarded to WDBA a request by the auditor for information on that second checking account. The WDBA responded by again sending information for the first -- but not the second -- checking account.

Felecia Poitier insists this isn't a lack of cooperation. "You have all these implications and innuendos when the truth is that we're doing what we're supposed to do," she says. "It takes time to do this, and we're not sitting in that [WDBA] office eight hours a day."

But the more time that passes, the more likely that City Attorney Andy Maurodis will file suit against WDBA. Last week, the commission authorized him to do so the moment he decides he's exhausted every other diplomatic effort.

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Thomas Francis

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