Letter: Inspector General Audits Waste Money

My May 18 letter in the Town-Crier detailed some of the actions of the Inspector General’s Office (IGO) that seemed out of line with what most of us know about the Village of Wellington.

The actions concerned a political decision made by the Wellington Village Council to erect a Patriot Memorial and to expend more money than had been originally anticipated. The IGO found no wrongdoing — at a cost of some $9,000 of village revenue as well as an undisclosed amount of spending by the IGO. Nevertheless the IGO “observation” (one of many terms defined by the IGO that avoids using the word “investigation”) apparently felt it necessary to criticize some of the village actions even though the IGO conceded that “…the award of the contract and associated change order fell within the village’s policies and Florida State Statute 287.055…”

The IGO “audit” (another avoidance of “investigation”) of the use of purchase cards (p-cards) in the village was even more astounding. At the request of Mayor Bob Margolis (no other requesters were identified), the IGO audited the use of p-cards by the village. (In response to my query regarding the reason for the effort, the IGO informed me that it was requested by Margolis. But Bob Margolis was not the mayor of the village at the time, nor even a councilman.)

Beginning in August 2011, the IGO demanded information from the village that cost village taxpayers over $50,000 in village staff time and contractor fees to provide. What was the result of the audit? Some 7,000 transactions were scrutinized — $2 million worth of p-card purchases. In those, the IGO found no wrongdoing. Lacking any findings of fraud, waste or abuse, the IGO criticized some expenditures as not having a “public purpose” or of not meeting criteria established in state statutes for the expenditure of state funds. But the village was spending no state funds. The expenditures were legally and openly used to pay for meals of reasonable cost for staff members who were using their free time during lunch break to discuss village business with council members, for example. The public purpose of such a practice is probably to save money.

Having required the village to expend over $50,000 to meet the IGO demands for information, and having spent an unknown amount of money for its own staff time and overhead, the net result was to find a minuscule amount of even truly questionable expenditures. It is difficult to parse the total amount of questionable spending from the IGO report, but it appears to be much less than $1,000.

In sum, the IGO performed two investigations of village expenditures and found no wrongdoing, fraud, waste or abuse, at a cost of around $60,000 of expenditure of tax money by the village and an unknown amount of tax money spent by the IGO. No savings of money resulted.

Local newspaper editors have criticized the village for joining a lawsuit that questions the method of funding the IGO. That suit has a good chance of being successful. But the larger question has to do with the unbridled power and expenditures associated with the IGO. When 72 percent of the voting citizens in municipalities agreed to have their local government overseen by the IGO, they could not have been aware of the power and cost of such an office.

Phil Sexton, Wellington