McKinlay urges state audits of Pahokee’s spending

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PAHOKEE — As she vowed to do, Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay formally requested a Florida legislative audit of the City of Pahokee’s expenditures of about $2.3 million in Department of Economic Opportunity funds for work inside the city-leased park complex fronting Lake Okeechobee.

On Aug. 5, she addressed a letter to the alternating chairmen of the Joint Legislative Auditing Committee, Sen. Jeff Brandes and Rep. Jason Fischer, stating:
“As the county commissioner representing the City of Pahokee in Palm Beach County, I have great concern over the city’s handling of state funds used to repair, rehab and renovate the Pahokee Marina complex. I request the Joint Legislative Auditing Committee direct the auditor general to audit Pahokee’s management of these funds. The complex rests upon land owned by the state and leased to the city. Since 2016, the state has appropriated approximately $2.3 million to the city for projects benefiting the marina complex so it may fully reopen to the public. …

“There has been ongoing concern over the delay in the completion of the projects undertaken with state funding. In July 2019, Pahokee City Manager Chandler Williamson updated my office that the grand reopening of the marina restaurant was on schedule for late September/early October of that year. Nearly a year later this still has not happened.”

Commissioner McKinlay referred to the three Palm Beach County Office of the Inspector General (OIG) reports that over the past couple of years have found mismanagement on Williamson’s part of the grant money.

“These investigations have reviewed Pahokee’s procurement and contracting processes and found inadequate oversight, mismanagement, and misconduct, leading Inspector General Carey to make referrals to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (FDEO), State Attorney Dave Aronberg, and the Palm Beach County and Florida Ethics Commissions,” she wrote.

Her letter ends by urging action by her colleagues.

“Furthermore, in the city’s 2018 annual financial report the external auditor found that “the city has not established adequate controls over the completeness of revenues and unearned revenues for the Marina and Campground Fund,” and, according to Section 10.554(1)(f), Rules of the Auditor General, the fund is in a ‘deteriorating financial condition’ which is impairing the city’s ability to generate revenues to meet expenditures. This finding, as well as other significant audit findings, have been uncorrected for multiple years as of the 2018 report.”

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