A half a million dollars gone, disappeared, just like in a magic trick...POOF. City of Margate, General Fund tax dollars evaporated. An additional $312,000 is being thrown at the problem in hopes of mitigating the damage done and no one - not one single person - is being held accountable. This is real money, folks, and no one is being held responsible.
Let's start with a few basic facts:
1- At a City Commission Meeting in March of this yaer it was announced by City Manager, Doug Smith, that the Cities Accounting Department in the role of bookkeeper for the Alzheimer Family Center had fronted the Center over $500,000.00 for expenses.
2- In 2007, an agreement written by City Attorney Eugene Steinfield and approved by then City Commissioner's codified a previous handshake agreement with the Center for bookkeeping services based on a $75,000.00 annual cap.
3- Retired City Manager Jerry Blough, shared with the current City Manager about this problem when the amount fronted was around $300,000.00. The retired City Manager did not bring this information of the overpayments to the Commissioners nor did his successor until the amount hit a half a million dollars.
4- No other business or charity has had this type of 'relationship' with the City,
Since the April 1st City Commission meeting, I have publicly asked for answers to a few key questions and have received nothing:
1- Why did a sitting Commissioner, vote for this agreement?
2- Did the City Attorney argue for or against this agreement?
3- What sway did this group have to get this "once in a City lifetime" deal?
4- Who was authorized to write the checks and who supervised that person?
5- Who authorized the payments to continue after exceeding $75,000.00 and why were the City Commisioners never informed that the $75,000.00 cap was breached?
6- Why did the City Managers remain silent?
There are those that roll their eyes and make low derisive comments whenever I get up to speak on this topic. Those comments don’t discourage me, they fuel me. Don’t they understand that this mindset is a cancer on our society? Is it wrong to be at the podium speaking about accountability, the need for it, and demanding it? A half a million dollars went missing and no one, not one single person, is being held accountable. And we wonder why people lack faith in their leaders.
An economic ramification of this agreement is that the Margate Community Redevelopment Agency (MCRA) is buying the Alzheimer Family Center Building. The cost to the MCRA is: a mortgage buyout ($312,000) plus closing costs, appraisal, inspection and survey fees. As an added slap to the face we are only collecting $200 per month rent, until December 31st, from the Alzheimer Family Center. The MCRA’s rational for buying the building is that they are getting it for below market price. For those that don’t know, the City Commissioners are also the MCRA Board members and the person who is Chairman of the MCRA is also the person who voted for the original agreement that’s costing us so much in the first place.
This is a backdoor arrangement where Margate City Commissioners, acting as MCRA directors, will buy the Center and hope that when the CRA is disbanded and all real property reverts back to the city in 10 years, that the property increases in value enough to offset the half million dollars lost. This is a “Hail Mary” pass by the MRCA to a City Commission receiver that will sail for ten years before we find out if it’s a completion or a drop.
The MCRA has no plans to rent the space to private business or to sell it to create a positive cash flow, but rather are renting the space to the City. This means that every dollar spent in and for this building will be tax dollars. This is a game of “Ring Around the Rosie” and us, the taxpayers, "all fall down."
Remember: A half million dollars is already gone, an additional $312,000+ is being thrown at the problem in hopes of mitigating the damage done and no one, not one single person, is being held accountable. This is real money, folks, and no one is being held responsible.
I am tired of hearing that “Pointing fingers doesn’t do any good and that we just need to move on.” Move on to what? There is a famous quote: "Those who do no not learn from history are doomed to repeat it." Pointing fingers lets the actors know that this is serious business and that when they mess up they will be held accountable and there will be repercussions. How else will our residents trust that their representatives are working for them and watching their back?
To those that believe we should move on as things stand now and just turn the page, I disagree. “We the People” deserve answers.
- Anthony Caggiano*
*In the name of full disclosure I want to share that I am running for City Commissioner Seat 1 in the November 2016 election cycle. The seat is currently held by a person who has sat on the dais for 20 years, but has yet to say at the time of this writing if he’s running again.