Bill Foster: ‘Audit something. Please!’

By on May 19, 2012

St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster offered up a single plea to City Council Thursday, “Audit something. Please.”

This was in response to the outcry that the city authorize an external audit based on a 2004 tax break to the Hilton Carillon Park project that cost the public $219,000.

How did this happen? Truthfully, no one knows or at least no one has ever spoken up. And this is inexcusable to many city residents who are demanding an audit of the situation as someone authorized this unlawful tax break, but we don’t know who, and we don’t know for certain if it has happened since.

Foster said of the situation that he is tired of hearing about it — a problem which occurred during previous leadership, and a problem that Foster described as likely resolved from new policies set by that previous leadership to address such issues.

Foster said that he had an internal audit conducted to test whether the aforementioned policies did in fact address the problem and whether those policies were being followed. He said that the results were ‘yes’ on both accounts.

In response, the City Council did vote for a rigorous audit to determine the way in which city officials assessed such fees and how that has manifested in reality.

Councilmember Steve Kornell wants an audit that will address how the fees have been handled in the past decade. It is estimated that such an audit will cost the city about $50,000.

“I’m fairly confident that any employees who were involved with anything are no longer with the city,” Councilmember Jim Kennedy said. He motioned against the external audit, which Councilmember Jeff Danner seconded it.

Councilmember Bill Dudley agreed that this was too expensive and not worth what ever might be found. Others believed that this was a small price to pay.

Council members Kornell, Leslie Curran, Charlie Gerdes, Wengay Newton and Karl Nurse believed that this was a responsibility they had to the public.

“Losing the public trust is very expensive, too,” said Nurse. “I think if it costs us a little bit more money to get back the public trust, I think that’s money well spent.”

Curran said, “It’s time to do it, be done with it and then we can move on.”

The motion for an external audit was passed by a majority vote.

Via Daphne Taylor Street. Daphne can be reached at dts.streetmedia@gmail.com.

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