Anita Fain-Taylor and Larry Tibbs of Lauderdale Lakes, Florida, along with other city officials, have been accused of mismanaging public funds by Broward County Inspector General John Scott, according to sources. The inspector released a report entitled “Gross Mismanagement of Public Funds by the City of Lauderdale Lakes” on Monday, March 26. Two former officials in particular, city manager Anita Fain-Taylor and finance director Larry Tibbs, have been pinpointed as causes for the city’s financial woes, although they have denied any wrongdoing. Both officials were fired as a result of the scandal, as well as an assistant finance director. It is not clear whether either has retained a private criminal defense attorney.
According to Scott’s scathing report, the city’s mistakes “serve as a primer for how not to manage taxpayer monies, a state of affairs which simply cannot be repeated by either the city or any other Broward municipality.”
According to the report, the city ignored the economic downturn in 2008 completely, choosing not to make any budget cuts. Scott claims that Fain-Taylor and Tibbs created “inflated revenue estimates that ignored the downturn in the economy and multiple red flags” and that Tibbs used “various maneuvers to supply inflated and unsupported estimates for a fictitious revenue budget of over $18.6 million.” Before the economic downturn, the city was $6 million in the black; by the end of it, Scott alleges that the city had a $9 deficit because of a failure to adjust and cut back like other cities did during that time.
The report also alleges that city officials ignored warnings from independent auditors, and that even those who had been told by Tibbs and Fain-Taylor that the budget was higher than it actually was could have easily figured out the situation by asking for regular financial reports from the city. The problem, Scott says, was exacerbated by the fact that four of the City Commissioners were new.
On top of that, Scott alleges that the cash-strapped city attempted to stay afloat by siphoning funds from the Lauderdale Lakes Community Redevelopment Agency, to whom it currently owes $2.5 million. The city allegedly used a fictitious service agreement between itself and the agency to acquire $800,000 in revenues in 2011, which the office of the inspector general says was used to pay the cities’ basic expenses. The city also failed to pay tax revenues to the agency in 2010.
In 2011, the city hired a new city manager, Jonathan Allen, who Scott accuses of breaking Florida laws regarding contracting by public entities. Florida law prohibits making agreements with contractors before holding a competitive bidding process for the position, in which different companies can put forth bids and a group chooses who wins the contract. This process ensures that the city gets the best value for its’ money and gives different vendors a chance to compete for contracts. Scott alleges that Allen bypassed this system and hired a friend for an uncompetitive rate, taking out two contracts, one of which was $40,000. Allen is reportedly authorized to approve expenses of up to $25,000.
“I respectfully disagree with the finding that there was deliberate misconduct on my behalf. I’m just doing my best to try to save the city,” Allen commented when asked about the allegations. It is not clear whether he has already arranged a private criminal defense attorney.