How to Cook the Books: Eight Ways Larry Tibbs Allegedly Screwed Up Lauderdale Lakes Budget Projections

Page 2 of 2

1. He included other people's money in the totals of the city's general fund.
About $800,000 in collected property taxes has to be reserved every year as "Tax Increment Financing" revenues, which the city doesn't get to keep -- it's turned over to the Community Redevelopment Agency. But in estimates of how much property-tax revenue the city would keep, that money was counted in both 2008 and 2009. That money wasn't included in the general fund numbers for 2010, but that, of course, leads us to:

2. He kept other people's money and used it for city operating expenses.
The 2010 TIF revenues were finally removed from the budget of the general fund, which was a step in the right direction -- except then the city kept the money. It failed to turn over $855,031 in money owed to the CRA, according to the report, in order to pay for city operating expenses because the city's accounts in September 2010 were actually overdrafted. And that's not the only way the CRA got shafted:

3. He took other people's money and used it for city operating expenses.
In addition to failing to turn over that $855,000, the city also went into bank accounts of reserved CRA funds and simply took the money -- $1.7 million of it in just three months in 2010 -- "despite the fact that Florida law does not permit the use of CRA funds for payment of city general operating expenditures."

In addition, Tibbs attempted to actually include CRA money in the 2011 budget, listing an $800,000 CRA reimbursement, about nine times higher than the previous two years. The report makes this situation sound particularly convoluted -- a CRA director changed his story about how the reimbursement was justified -- but ultimately says that "in the absence of any other explanation, the OIG is compelled to conclude that the 2011 allocation represents another mechanism to inflate revenues and fictitiously balance a deficit budget."

4. He said money was coming in from imaginary sources.
The 2010 budget projections included $250,000 in revenue from the "recreation trust fund" -- which doesn't exist and seems to have never existed. Though there was obviously no funding realized from the fund in 2010, Tibbs included the fund again in the 2011 budget he helped wrote before leaving his position -- and this time, he said there was going to be $305,000 coming in.

When asked by investigators about the nonexistent fund, Tibbs said the revenue was actually supposed to be coming from the "impact fee fund," which does exist but had more than a quarter-million-dollar deficit.

KEEP NEW TIMES BROWARD-PALM BEACH FREE... Since we started New Times Broward-Palm Beach, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of South Florida, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Rich Abdill