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Deerfield May Sue Charity Group for Withholding Information

For three months, the City of Deerfield Beach has tried to give Arlington Park Family the benefit of the doubt. The local charity was paid $30,000 for "outreach" in 2007. The city attorney, Andy Maurodis, wrote a letter in late December asking for information about how that money was used.

When he didn't get a response, he wrote another letter on February 15. Then another on February 23. So late last week, Maurodis wrote a letter to the commissioners. "Based on my conclusion that the (Arlington Park) records are public, we could file an action against Arlington Park for their records."

Since the concerns about Arlington Park started a year ago, when the newly elected commissioner Bill Ganz questioned payments being made to nonprofits, I thought I'd ask him for his opinion about the city's next move.

"My opinion is that we do whatever we need to do to get full cooperation from this group," says Ganz. "They received public funding. So they have a legal and moral obligation to provide us the records we need."

The city's efforts have been complicated by a spate of personal setbacks for the charity's president, Mae Frances Feagin, who has experienced two deaths in her family, according to what she told me when I spoke with her briefly last month.

"I hope the city wouldn't ignore someone's personal tragedy," says Ganz. "But there has to be someone who can give us some kind of information. We're being essentially ignored."

Juice has tried to go around Feagin too. Last month, I reached Arlington Park's former treasurer. But Archie McKeithen told me he abandoned his post after feeling that "something ain't right" with the way the charity was handling its money from the city.

I asked Ganz whether the city should file suit against Arlington Park. "If that's what we have to do to provide transparency for what happened with this money, then I'm happy to do that," says Ganz.

Arlington Park family got its $30,000 in 2007, two years before Ganz joined the commission, but the charity's lack of cooperation leads to questions about whether the city did a thorough vetting job.

And when it comes to questionable activity by a nonprofit that receives funding through the city, Arlington Park Family is hardly an isolated case. It's just one of several charities with city dealings being investigated by a forensic auditor. There's also the Westside Deerfield Businessmen Association, which has family ties to Vice Mayor Sylvia Poitier. Another favored charity of Poitier's, the Mango Festival, should figure in the inquiry. The Haitian American Consortium received a vote from a commissioner who had previously received money from it -- a serious legal no-no.

There are also questions about the Deerfield Beach Housing Authority that seem to warrant investigation.

The forensic auditing firm, Kessler International, is expected to announce its conclusions some time this month. Activist Chaz Stevens has done his own investigation and has made no secret of his belief that Poitier has committed criminal corruption. Today he filed an ethics complaint against former City Manager Mike Mahaney, whose responsibility it was to ensure that the city was dealing with ethical nonprofit organizations.

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Thomas Francis

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