How Important is the IA Department?

The city of WPB has problems that need to be fixed. In defense of the city they can’t fix problems they don’t know they have and this is where the IA Internal Auditor) comes in. The IA audits a department and the finished report is then presented to administration, City Commissioners and the head of the dept. audited.. There are 4 committee members who donate their time to the city and they work with the IA and approve the findings.  Now the city is aware problems exist. So fix them.

9/8/2020 8:30AM I attended the IA meeting which included the audit performed on the WPB Police Department and below are the findings.

Full disclosure. I admire and respect members of the police department. I will stand with them when they are in the right, and be critical when they are in the wrong. There are many police officers who should never be allowed to wear the uniform as they bring shame upon the good cops, and in today’s atmosphere the good ones are punished alongside the ones who disgrace the uniform.

The audit contained “Payroll and Overtime Audit” and keep in mind Keith James was elected Mayor of the City of West Palm Beach on March 12, 2019. When you read the auditors report keep in mind the police department is understaffed by 30 police officers. The city plans on hiring 15 police leaving the city short 15 officers which will force more overtime.

Effect: “long work hours cause fatigue, impair performance and can create a public safety concern” the IA lists 6 dangers that are possible when police are exhausted and can be read in the enclosed report. Below is part of the audit.

“The Police Dept. had a significant breakdown of controls and lacked adequate oversight surrounding hours worked by police officers. This resulted in excessive overtime that was not strategically managed. In 2019, 20 officers worked an additional 1,362 to 2,120 hours of overtime. In 2019 all top 20 earners of overtime made between $171,000 to $233,000 ea.. In other cases inappropriate payments were made to officers whose hours overlapped, meaning that they logged work hours for multiple locations at the same time.”

“Working substantial hours of overtime is not uncommon. During 2019 , Police Department personnel accumulated nearly 197,000 overtime hours with 115,000,hours paid for by the city, and 81,000 hours paid for by third-party vendors.”

“The following specific control breakdowns were noted. Taken as a whole, these problems create risk of abuse, potential thief of time, and require immediate change.” The IA lists 7 breakdowns which can be read in the entire report.

“Police Department PBC School Board Agreement Concerns.”

Condition “Not setting up policing initiatives with with other entities under a third- party agreement, creates financial disadvantages for the city.

The city and the School Board of Palm Beach County entered into an agreement to provide law enforcement presence for the two-year period ending in September 2020 to fulfill the effort to protect schools within within the City’s jurisdiction in accordance with the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas (MSD) Act and in accordance with the Palm Beach County Law Enforcement Agencies Combined Operational Assistance and Voluntary Cooperation Mutual Aid Agreement. Service is provided at five elementary schools and two high schools and the School Board reimburses the City at a current rate of $100.35 per hour.”
“The School Board agreement was not set up as an independent vendor contract and therefore, the payments received by the officers become pensionable. This increases the City’s long term pension benefit costs because the higher the rank, the higher the earnings, and therefore , the higher the City’s pension contribution.”

9/8/2020 5:00PM I returned to City Hall  to attend the City Commission meeting and as we all have learned the city has major money problems and trying to balance the budget on the backs of city workers. I listened as Commissioners Neering and Shoaf opposed the mayor’s plan on furloughs and eliminated city jobs and both commissioners let their opinions be known along with their request to the Mayor to return public comment from the end of the meeting to the beginning and Commissioner’s comments return to the end of meetings. I stand with them and applaud their action.

When I entered the Commission Chambers I was alone and right before the meeting a group of 7 or 8 people entered and took their seats in the back of the chamber all wearing masks.

I commented on item #9. Under “Background” “On December 10, 2019 WGI Inc; on behalf of HGT Banyon, LLC, submitted an application for an 8-story 94 unit affordable housing residential building at the northeast corner of Banyan Boulevard and Tamarind Avenue. The project is known as “Flagler Station” I assume taxpayers are footing the cost as Banyan Boulevard is under construction with more streets torn up. Getting it ready for the new apartment building?

When I read WGI here come the red flags. As readers may recall Mayor Keith James rented a private home in a gated community off WGI Vice President Jeffrey Brophy, and Commissioner lambert’s husband soon went to work for the company.

Commissioner lambert voted favorably for WGI contracts and stated the WPB Ethics officer told her she did not have a conflict of interest in doing so. I filed a complaint with the IG (Inspector General) and they booted my complaint to the COE (Commission on Ethics) and as expected they found “no probable” cause for a further investigation.

At the start of item #9 Commissioner Lambert stated she was told by “legal” to abstain from voting due to it being a “Conflict of Interest.” Took the wind right out of my sails, and I told her so.. I also asked her what the difference was between this vote and her previous votes. I guess she’ll get back to me.

Public comment started at 7:50 PM and ended at 8:12PM and the group that came to the meeting all made out comment cards and spoke on one subject “police overtime”

I must admit I was tired and couldn’t understand how they quoted the IA report almost verbatim. I was alone in the Commission Chambers during the IA meeting so where did this group come from with so much information? They watched the IA meeting on Zoom and they don’t like the direction the city is moving in. The younger generation had taken a major interest in city politics and are dedicated to bringing change to the city. No mayor has ever grabbed the attention of folks like James has done. Here’s the best part. They don’t live in gated communities and they vote. God Bless the younger generation.

I received a press release from the city concerning the impasse on negotiations between the police and their union over a new contract. I am attempting to gather the unions response to the city and will let readers know what I find. I ask you to consider two more things. How much overtime is credited to Mayor James having WPB Police accompany him when he travels from state to state and lets not forget Hawaii. Can the residents of WPB afford a police strike? No, I don’t think they would ever do that to us, but it’s a scary thought. Commissioners control the city’s purse strings and if they don’t like what they hear at the budget meeting tomorrow, don’t approve it and send them back to the drawing board. What’s the bully going to do-fire you, I don’t think so.

Read the entire IA report here:  Payroll and Overtime Audit Report Draft Report AUD19-04

The end