The Office of Inspector General’s two-year audit of Loxahatchee Groves town operations published Sept. 23 (21 pages) was critical of using the all-in-one Underwood Management Services Group (UMSG) to staff and operate the town. This exposes the town to a lack of internal checks and balances, possible fraud or waste, and disruption if UMSG abruptly leaves for any reason.
The town manager’s Sept. 20 letter response (12 pages, included with the OIG report) to an earlier OIG draft audit report was an unfortunate blaming of others — the Incorporation Committee’s charter, the town council, the Finance Advisory & Audit Committee (FAAC), the special magistrate, the town attorney — but not Underwood Management Services Group. Also, the town manager asserts that the OIG is biased and does not really understand Underwood Management Services Group.
The town council — especially Mayor Dave Browning — did not respond to earlier FAAC and resident concerns and provide meaningful oversight of the town manager’s contract requirements and responsibilities, payment approval practices and other actions that did not always comply with the town’s purchasing and finance/accounting procedures. Such town council oversight should not be interference with UMSG, but should be sufficient to provide the basis for meaningful annual performance reviews, which have never been done.
The recent watered-down UMSG contract and FAAC changes, and a recently approved referendum’s permission for the council to consider further reduction of the town manager’s full-time work requirement and responsibilities, are not the answer. If the town should continue, it is time for significant structural and operational improvements as recommended by the OIG, together with constructive oversight by the council members.
John Ryan, Loxahatchee Groves