Thursday, December 11, 2014

Miami-Dade County grants, audits and double-standards for which no one in authority ever pays a price … by gimleteye

"Homestead woman pleads guilty to stealing public grants" in today's Herald outlines the brazen theft of hundreds of thousands of federal and county dollars for the Carrie P. Meek Center aka Business Development Technology Corp., a fraudulent business incubator.

It is breathtaking to think how county auditors failed to clamp down on this operation since other recipients of county grants -- and especially ones related to environmental education -- have to run a gauntlet of eye-popping audits by county staff.

I know because the organization I represent as volunteer board chair, Friends of the Everglades, has been the recipient of a tiny grant in order to provide education about the Everglades to school age children.

This year, inexplicably, the award of environmental grants has been "held up" by county staff causing a number of organizations, not just Friends, to miss the school year.

For a few thousands, we are not only accustomed to rigorous audits and monitoring, but for scrutiny making sure every single "T" is crossed and "i" is dotted on our application and follow through. For example, our by-laws state that our organization should have at least four board meetings a year. An auditor recently required us to amend the by-laws so that we would have at least one of those board meetings every quarter, as though we might just try to cram four meetings into one quarter.

Fair enough. But the message this sends if you read the news, is that if you want a no-bid airport contract worth $65 million or if you want to "improve business" in Homestead, no one gives a good damn whatever you do.

On the one hand, you might think of environmental education -- OK, these are tax dollars (or in our particular case, the moneys collected from polluters or fines) and so, yes, we want a high level of scrutiny.

On the other hand, the ability of sham organizations to collect far greater sums of money -- or of no-bid contracts totaling tens of millions of dollars -- means something else: it is not just a double-standard that operates where environmental education is concerned, it is a corrosive antipathy to its aim.

Nor can we forget that a few years ago, the Miami-Dade police department commandeered millions in moneys collected through a federal environmental crimes unit and mis-spent the funds without any penalty whatsoever on SUV's and other "quality of life" for its top officials.

If you put a business friendly name together with a politically influential name (Carrie Meek had nothing to do with the Homestead scam according to the Herald), you can sail through the county's audit functions without a whiff of concern. If you want to reach out to kids or minorities on the environment, every single alarm bell in county government goes off.

How this happens is going to be very hard to prove, of course.

Environmental grants management might be "Understaffed" or "disconnected" from other county audit functions. There will be no paper trail saying, "make life difficult for those small organizations involved with the environment." Nonetheless, the comparison is instructive and explains, in part, why public confidence in our own government can't lift itself off the ground.

This isn't just a double-standard, it is a symbol of so much that is wrong in Miami-Dade.


Anonymous said...

This light sentence for her is a joke. Stealing hundreds of thousands of tax dollars, then not paying her employees. That does not even take into account that the program was a sham from the word go. I'll say it: the program was hands off during the Mayor Warren, Bell and Bateman years due to racial considerations. Not one business of the very few who survived stayed in Homestead or deep South Dade. There is no way to justify this sentence.

Anonymous said...

What can you expect in a county ran as a fiefdom by our strong mayor? Did you not notice when he destroyed MDPD's Anti-Corruption Unit to cover up his absentee ballot fraud? The local media in this town has drank the Kool Aid. Take a look at Miriam Marquez, the mayor's public defender during the course of his campaigns, now editor of El Nuevo Herald! How'd you think she got that job? You think they will report any wrongdoing outside Hialeah or Sweetwater? Two weeks ago, Florida Department of Law Enforcement had its biggest shake up in years. Both Special Agent in Charge Addy Villanueva and her Assistant Robert Breeden were demoted under allegations of overtime fraud. No news agency has reported a word on the subject. Where did these so called "journalists" go to school? We are drowning in corruption and no one gives a damn!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this. It does tip the barf meter into the extreme bile scale.

Anonymous said...

That is the problem in the Black community here. All of the programs and people who are funded and suppose to help, do nothing to help. They just find a way to take the little money given to help for themselves. Anyone who tries to help they do their best to kill off. Crooks, crooks, crooks. The message is clear, stay away from these people and these crooked programs, they were not set up to help you.

Anonymous said...

Business incubator? I don't think so, corruption incubator definitely.

Anonymous said...

The mayor takes $5 million a year public money and gives it to the local billionaire NFL franchise owner and calls it economic incentive. Stephen Ross turns around and donates tens of thousands to the mayor's favored PACs And that's only one of a dozen pay to play deals in this year. The Heat, skyrise, soccer stadiums . The list goes on.
Some poor schmuck pockets a couple of grand calling it business incubator. Her mistake was not laundering the money through political action committee.

By the way both these crooks used employee salaries to fund their misdeeds.

By the way both these scams were financed by taking money from their employees.

Anonymous said...

Thanks to the previous anon for the FDLE tip. You are right, The Miami Herald is asleep at the wheel. With little internal saavy we were able to uncover the info about the new FDLE SAC. They are tight lipped about what got the old one in trouble. Here is the internal memo about the newly promoted SAC:

"Commissioner Bailey is pleased to announce the appointment of Troy Walker to Special Agent in Charge of the Miami Regional Operations Center. SAC Walker brings more than 22 years of law enforcement experience to MROC. During his FDLE career, SAC Walker has investigated economic crime, organized crime, public corruption, domestic security, major drugs and pill mills, mortgage fraud, and money laundering cases. He has served as resident agent in charge of the Clearwater Field Office and most recently as assistant special agent in charge in Tampa Bay. Prior to joining FDLE, he worked at the Lake Worth Police Department and as an investigator for the Division of Insurance Fraud. SAC Walker earned his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and master’s degree in public administration from Florida A&M University. He is married to Regina and has two children. Please join Commissioner Bailey in congratulating SAC Walker."

Anonymous said...

The County auditors denounce the problems in an audit issued in 2010 recommending that such a contract be terminated. Please, read the audit. As usual, no decision maker read the audit, and the CRA continued receiving monies. There has been good audits at the County either from Office of the Commission Auditor or Audit and Management Services, but nobody reads these audits, not even the audit findings, and we all know why.

Anonymous said...

Look at the debt load at the airport. Ever wonder why MIA has such high airport fees? Its not because the low level employees are overpaid. They are on strike today, Dec 13th, nope its from all the graft built into the construction contracts, thanks to Sergio Pino. Everything is a cesspool at the County, but if you seem like a threat, you will get an audit. If your organization gets any funding at all. If you are a business and don't pay to play your contract from the county, if you even get one, will be a bad one. And they will audit you. Better not to do business with the County in the first place. Lots of small businesses loose money when they perform work for the county. All so that the MDBCC can award contracts like this to the politically connected.

Bucky said...


This woman stole hundreds of thousands in taxpayer money but will not have any criminal record thanks to a plea agreement arranged by Stet Atty Katherine Fernandez-Rundle.

I have seen a number of these corrupt hacks go through the revolving door. They are still pulling their scams because Fernandez-Rundle and the Florida judges who oversee their cases refuse to hold any political criminals accountable.