FEMA Bombshell: School Board Can't Account For $15 million In Post-Wilma Spending | The Daily Pulp | South Florida | Broward Palm Beach New Times | The Leading Independent News Source in Broward-Palm Beach, Florida

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FEMA Bombshell: School Board Can't Account For $15 million In Post-Wilma Spending

FEMA conducted an audit of Broward School Board spending of federal funds after hurricanes Katrina and Wilma and found the school board may have squandered millions of dollars, according to a report issued by the Department of Homeland Security this week..

"The School Board did not account for FEMA funds on a project-by-project basis, as required by federal regulations, and did not always comply with federal procurement regulations when contracting for disaster activities," wrote government auditors a seven-page report issued Tuesday. "Additionally, we question $14,990,114 of costs as unreasonable, unsupported, unnecessary, or excessive."

Understand that FEMA only looked only at $15.7 million in post-hurricane federal funding to the school board. The board actually received $60 million, meaning that millions more may have misspent. The audit found that $14.7 million spent by the school board simply couldn't be properly accounted for, according to the audit. From the report:

The School Board received $14,672,709 of FEMA funds under several projects for debris removal and emergency protective measures based on estimated project costs. However, we could not validate the eligibility of the $14.7 million because the School Board did not provide source documentation such as cancelled checks, paid bills, payroll, time and attendance records, contracts and subcontracts award documents, etc. to support the costs. ... School Board officials said they had difficulties gathering the source documents from their various departments. During the course of our audit, they requested assistance from the departments and their technical assistance contractor to obtain the documentation. However, at the conclusion of our fieldwork the documentation had not been provided for our review. 

This comes as a little more vindication to the board's own auditors, who found that politically connected AshBritt ripped off the school board of some $765,000 after Hurricane Wilma. You'll remember that board members like Stephanie Kraft (now criminally charged) and Bob Parks rallied not against waste and mismanagement but against the auditors themselves and the way the findings were released to the public (well, to the Pulp, actually).

Officials weren't quite so cavalier with the federal audit, the FEMA report indicates.

"School Board officials agreed with our findings," wrote federal auditors. "They said that they are working with their various departments and technical assistance contractor to obtain the documentation needed to resolve the findings."

The specific spending audited involved portable roofs -- which fell under the Ashbritt audit -- and contracts involving debris removal. The board has until December 20 to respond to the audit.    

More coming on this.

-- We're still waiting for Judge Carol-Lisa Phillips ruling on John Rodstrom's hypocritical effort to undo the peoples' term limits. Just in case you're wondering, the judge's husband, former Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jim Naugle, was on record as being against term limits. From a 1998 Sun-Sentinel article about the move to install term limits in his city:

"Mayor Jim Naugle said removing elected officials would give power to the bureaucrats, including the city manager. 'If you approve this, you limit your right to vote,'' he said."

Naugle was term-limited out of office in 2009.

-- I encourage everyone to read judicial candidate John Fry's response to yesterday's post in the comments section. One thing to clear up. He said that he didn't try to get his job back. I based that statement on the fact that he told newspapers after he was acquitted of battery that he wanted his job in the Margate Police Department. "I'm going to make the city give me my job back," he told the Sun-Sentinel at the time. "I very much enjoyed being a police officer." He also filed an unsuccessful complaint against the cop who testified against him.

Inside see my little rant on the Sink-Scott debate. It's not required reading.  

Last night I had a terrible George W. Bush deja vu moment.

Watching the debate between Alex Sink and Rick Scott, I was more and more bewildered about how any sentient being could possibly vote for this guy, Scott. I felt the same way about George W. Bush and watched in disbelief as the country voted for this spoiled rich kid who was promising to make his rich friends richer. Couldn't they see that he didn't give a shit about them? 

Well, they found out -- after eight long horrible years. With Scott, though, it's even more obvious. For god's sake, his sole claim to fame is a company that defrauded the government -- the public -- out of hundreds of $1.7 billion. He's talking about coddling insurance companies and deregulating them. He's not only against real health care reform, he's a standard-bearer of the outrageous status quo. Take my word on this: If elected, Scott will be a governor of the wealthy, for the wealthy, and by the wealthy. He'll protect corporate raiders and venture capitalists like himself while selling this state out to the highest bidder. He showed when he ran Columbia/HCA what he thinks of people -- dollar signs to be exploited. Think of the world as a cash farm and our wallets as the crops. That is Rick Scott's warped view of life (and it's made him at least a quarter-billionaire).

I'm not crazy about Alex Sink, but at least she comes across as human. So did George W. Bush while we're at it. Scott on the other hand really does look like one of those TV aliens, hairless, google-eyed, strangely humorless and seemingly devoid of normal human emotion. He refuses to talk to newspaper editorial boards, he has no political track record other than the strings he pulled with Republican hotshots while his company was being investigated for Medicare fraud by the U.S. government.

How are so many "ordinary" people so stupid not to see this? Well, they move in cycles and right now they are cycling against the president. That's just the way it is, but Rick Scott is so far from okay, so far from decent, so far from acceptable that I still can't quite believe people are actually going to give him the reins of the great state of Florida. It's a dead heat right now, but it seems to be blowing in that direction.

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Journalist Bob Norman has been raking the muck of South Florida for the past 25 years. His work has led to criminal cases against corrupt politicians, the ouster of bad judges from the bench, and has garnered dozens of state, regional, and national awards.
Contact: Bob Norman

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