A coalition of civic groups in Hollywood is coming to the defense of the beleaguered Broward County School Board auditors, who essentially are being pilloried by board members for doing a good job trying to protect taxpayers' dollars.
You may know that some board members, led by Stephanie Kraft and backed up by Neil Sterling crony Robin Bartleman (at left), harangued Auditor Pat Reilly at a recent board meeting. The reason: Reilly's auditing department, specifically Dave Rhodes, had the audacity to report the truth about a screwy post-Wilma AshBritt contract in which he found that the company overcharged the county $765,000.
AshBritt, meanwhile, is threatening litigation against the School Board via its politically connected lawyer Mike Moskowitz (a Russ Klenet chum). AshBritt's auditor, Melamed & Karp, has been at the School Board copying all the documents involved in the investigation (and rumor has it the firm is trying to charge the School Board for the cost of reproducing the documents). The "Karp" in the company is Steve Karp, who is also VP of finance for the Gold Coast Builders Association, which is heavily involved in local politics. Don't take my word for it; read this from the trade group's website:
LOCAL ELECTIONS: As you now know, local politics is key to the economy. GCBA is extremely active in local elections striving to make sure that pro-business, pro-economic development candidates are elected to our councils, commissions, and boards. In the most recent election, nine of the twelve candidates supported by GCBA were successful and now hold office. Your voice just got a little stronger, thanks to GCBA!
You have to wonder if the board members might be influenced by that little connection. What is clear is that more and more people are starting to realize that this board is delinquent and has driven the district into financial destitution. After the jump, read the letter sent to the board by the Hollywood group, which represents 13 civic associations.
Chairperson Dinnen, Vice-Chairperson Gottlieb and Members, School Board of Broward County:
The Hollywood Council of Civic Associations, representing 13 associations in the City of Hollywood, is taking this opportunity to voice our dissatisfaction with the reactions from some Board members to the findings in the Audit of Ashbritt, Inc. and C&B Services discussed and voted unanimously to be transmitted to the Board at the July 23 special Audit Committee meeting.
We also object to the withdrawal of this audit from the August 18 agenda without any prior notice to or discussion with the Chief Auditor, as well as the comments and questions, bordering on interrogation, that some members of the Board subjected the Chief Auditor to at the Board meeting of August 4, even though the audit was not on that agenda.
The citizens of Hollywood, whom we represent, deeply appreciate the work of Chief Auditor Pat Reilly, his entire staff and the Audit Committee. Their dedication and commitment to ethics and professional system management have produced millions of dollars in savings and have exposed practices that need to be reformed. The latest audit obviously shows the need to get back almost $800,000 for the district, and any delay in this effort is unacceptable.
The Chief Auditor explained that his office has a professional responsibility to point out suspected instances of fraud, collusion or falsification of documents that they find in the course of any audit, and report those suspicions to the proper authorities. Neither the Chief Auditor, his staff nor the Audit Committee have attempted to ignore these unpleasant findings, but have been intent on bringing about system improvement, which produces accountability for the taxpayers. In times such as these, we need all the help we can get.
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The accounting firm of one of the subjects of the audit spent a week scanning all materials related to the audit, again without any prior notice given to the Chief Auditor, who=2 0received the bill for the cost of the public records with instructions to charge it to his office. Expecting that taxpayers' money should be used to pay for these materials is outrageous.
We congratulate the auditors and the committee members, and urge you to receive this audit and urge the Superintendent to direct and follow up to see that all concerned follow the recommendations.
Hollywood Council of Civic Associations