Broward News

Deerfield City Worker Used Tax Dollars to Paint and Repair Father's House

A forensic auditor told the Deerfield Beach Commission last night that he found fault with nearly every transaction he analyzed between the city and the recipients of public housing dollars. But for the purposes of this post, I'll highlight the one case that has a little bit of everything: the 2003 improvement of a home owned by Henry Hall II.

In 2001, Hall applied to have improvements to his SW Second Street home paid for through the State Housing Initiatives Program (SHIP). Having listed a household income of just $21,000, Hall met the low-income standard for inclusion in the program, as a Deerfield Beach official told him by letter in February 2002. But for reasons that are unclear, his application didn't move until August 2002, which just happened to be the month that his daughter Stephanie McMillian began working in the city's Community Development Division.

McMillian's first day of work was August 12, 2002. On August 15, a contractor estimated the cost of improvements to the Hall home to be $10,000. As such, that amount was budgeted from the city's SHIP funds.

But this being public money, the city had the obligation of putting the project out to bid in hopes of finding a contractor who could perform the work at a rate less than the estimate. Indeed, the city found one such deal: East Coast Contractors of Sunrise claimed it could do the job for just $6,750.

In her official capacity as a Deerfield Beach employee, McMillian had the happy errand of telling her father the good news, that a contractor had been selected to make the tax-funded improvements to the family home. It does not appear, however, that McMillian disclosed to the city that she was a member of the Hall family. She would be assigned the role of overseeing the project on the city's behalf.

So when in March 2003 the contractor came forward with a "change order," it was McMillian's job to be skeptical.

This was a very funny-looking change order. According to the audit report, the change order sought to upgrade the hurricane shutters from aluminum to accordian style, which would add $1,250 to the bill. It demanded $45 for patching and caulking, which had already been included at the same rate in the original bid. Same with the extra $125 in pressure-cleaning charges. The original bid estimated that painting the house would cost $1,300, but the change order asked for another $1,300 in painting costs.

At a glance, it appeared that East Coast Contractors was charging the city twice for some aspects of the improvement project. And the most suspicious coincidence of all: By factoring in the new charges that came with the change order, the total bill for the project came to exactly $10,000, which is precisely the amount of SHIP dollars the city had permission to spend.

So in September 2003, East Coast Contractors, which was supposed to have received $6,750 for the project, instead received $10,000, according to the audit report.

Obviously, a city official shouldn't be allowed to supervise a contract for making improvements to her father's home. Nor is it appropriate to accept change orders that dramatically increase the costs of a project, as that defeats the purpose of an open bid.

But in leafing through the audit report, these are recurring themes, suggesting that for much of the past decade, this was business as usual in Deerfield Beach.

McMillian is also said to be related to the Poitier family, whose Westside Deerfield Businessmen Association administered many thousands of dollars in public housing programs and which has also been implicated in mismanaging those funds.

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Thomas Francis