FORT LAUDERDALE CRA COMPLIANCE REPORT RIFE WITH FALSE CLAIMS

On Tuesday March 15, 2016, the Fort Lauderdale CRA Board approved their fiscal year 2014/2015 CRA Annual Report. This report is required by law to be filed by March 30 with the City, Children’s Services Council, North Broward Hospital District, Broward County, and the State. This report details the agency activities from October 1, 2014 to September 30, 2015.

 

A few minutes later, on the next item, they voted to amend their 14 year old Redevelopment Plan for the Northwest CRA.   

The Staff memo about the amendment to the CRA Redevelopment Plan states:

“Over the past three months, Staff oversaw the process of significantly amending the redevelopment plan for the NPF CRA for the first time in 14 years.”

The memo says:

“As outlined by Sections 163.360, 163.362(5) and 163.370, Florida Statutes, the redevelopment plan for a community redevelopment area is the governing document for all redevelopment activities that occur within the community redevelopment area.” 

 

And it also says:

“If a project or program is not outlined in the redevelopment plan, it cannot be undertaken by the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA).

It sounds like a pretty big deal. A project or program has to be outlined in the plan to be legal.

We decided to take a look at what was in the old CRA Plans for both the Beach and the Northwest and we also took a look at what is in the new CRA plan that was approved yesterday by the CRA Board.

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Secret Formula for Government BS (Compliance)

Next we read The CRA’s 2014/2015 Annual Report and it’s all good news – the CRA spent a lot of money has blessed itself as squeaky clean – 100% in compliance with Chapter 163.

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Every project in the report has a “Compliance Analysis” and according to the report, every dime spent by the CRA was for projects and/or programs that are part of the plan and therefore in compliance. We did some research and came to a differenct conclusion.

We matched up the Annual Report against the CRA Redevelopment Plans that were in effect during the period covered by the report. We found at least $9 million in CRA expenditures for projects and programs that we can’t find anywhere in these CRA Redevelopment plans.

It would appear that in 2015 the CRA misappropriated a lot of money on stuff that is “not in the plan”.

 

Here’s a short list of the items we could not find reference to in the Redevelopment Plans for these two CRA areas.

 

Beach CRA
Holiday Lights 130,000
“Great American Beach Party” 36,450
Fireworks 82,500
Sun Trolley 220,000
468,950
Northwest CRA
Flagler Village Civic Assoc. 142,500
Christmas Lights 87,498
“Light Up Sistrunk” 50,000
Sun Trolley 196,709
Wave Loop 7,800,000
WAVE Feasability Study 300,000
“Urban Intervention” 59,999
Marketing and Branding 241,312
8,878,018

We’re pretty sure these items are not projects or programs outlined in the plan…… 

We’re going to reach out to those folks the report is supposed to assure – The State, Broward County, the Hospital District (they need money real bad), and Children’s Services Council. It was originally their money.  We’re going to point out to them how much CRA 2014/2015 Report is pure, unadulterated BS. 

Btw – notice the majority of the illegal spending is in the Northwest CRA?

That’s how it is done in the third most racially segregated city in Florida.

 

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School Board Chair Flies to Chili??

It looks like Broward School Board Chairwoman Dr. Rosalind Osgood has just returned from a tasty, mouth-watering vacation trip to Chili!!!????

 

 

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“We are on our way to Chili…”

It sounds like Dr. Osgood had a spicy and delicious adventure.

Now that she’s back, we suggest that she share her tasty experience with Broward’s third-grade geography students. We think the third-graders will be fascinated to hear about her adventures and her first hand experience with

the heat in Chili.

Rosalind Osgood

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For Sale or Lease: DDA’s Riverfront Park – More on the Cash Crisis at Fort Lauderdale’s Downtown Development Authority

We previously reported that the Fort Lauderdale DDA is teetering on the brink of insolvency. A recent memo we obtained shows a newly revised budget that relies upon a major cash infusion from the City of Fort Lauderdale’s coffers to keep the DDA’s lights on through the remainder of this fiscal year.

 

It took a lot of imagination to concoct the original budget. The 2016 revenue budget was balanced on an assumption that the City of Fort Lauderdale would “swap” $425,000 in cash to the DDA in exchange for $865,000 in Federal Transit Grant funds. Generally speaking, it is illegal to “swap” a Federal grant for cash. In addition, the DDA anticipated using these funds to lobby for more Federal grants. That too, is generally illegal. Fort Lauderdale Free Press broke this story which triggered an ongoing Federal investigation of the deal. It also caused City Manager Lee Feldman and Mayor Jack Seiler to publicly deny the existence of the deal. 

https://fortlauderdalefreepress.wordpress.com/2015/12/17/feldman-seiler-were-not-engaged-in-this-transaction/

It will take more than a vivid imagination for the agency to not run into the red and out of the green. The revised budget being presented later this week is balanced based upon a new assumption: that the City of Fort Lauderdale will commit to renting and operating the DDA’s Huizenga Plaza Park site at Las Olas and Andrews for at least the next five years.

 

This “balanced” budget assumes the DDA will receive their first $100,000 rent payment by June and continue paying $100 K per year for five years. The DDA has also assumed that the City will absorb all park operating costs by June. Over five years, the rental, maintenance and programming is estimated to cost the City over $1mm. The DDA has threatened to sell the park to developers if the City does not meet their cash demands.

 

The DDA also sees some solvency salvation from another source of City funds – they have their eyes on the City’s Northwest CRA Redevelopment Trust Fund. Both the DDA and the CRA are special taxing districts whose boundaries overlap in a portion of Flagler Village. The DDA taxes commercial property only. This year they are assessing the highest millage rate allowable under State law.

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The DDA ‘s ever-lurking lobbyist John Milledge is working on legislation that would allow the DDA to levy property taxes in Downtown and Flagler Village on both commercial and residential property. In the meanwhile, they hope to tap into more of the City’s CRA Redevelopment Trust funds to balance their ailing budget. A recent City audit found the CRA has been spending funds illegally.

While the DDA wants to divest their park on the Riverwalk, they seem interested in using CRA funds to build a different park on City property across the street from developments built by Ellis, DDA Board Member Alan Hooper, and CRA Board Member Dev Motwani. One DDA Board Member Jim Ellis told the DDA Board that he already has CRA funds in-hand . This park would be a sexy complement to the  $7.5mm CRA funded streetcar loop that parades the WAVE in front of some DDA Board Members’ properties. 

From DDA minutes:

“Mr. Ellis said years ago, he presented a package to the City where he would tear down the building and do landscaping, irrigation and trees but the City was not in favor of that. He explained how he has CRA funds available. Mr.Ellis said he could get an estimate and present a package to the Board using CRA monies. The Board was in favor of having another workshop to discuss.”

 

According to Board minutes, the DDA also hopes before June to collect $250,000 from the Northwest CRA Redevelopment Trust Fund to expand their no-bid Downtown Ambassador contract with Lois Frankel’s friend Willy Perez.

https://fortlauderdalefreepress.wordpress.com/2016/01/18/congresswoman-frankels-cronies-overcharging-fort-lauderdale-dda-for-1-2million-no-bid-contract/

DDA Board Member Ellis has publicly stated that he is adamant that these funds stay “East of the tracks”.

From all appearances, the Ambassadors will be employed to provide private security for the Board Members projects using money that is supposed to be used to eradicate slum and blight and provide affordable housing for low and middle-income families.