Tamarac to cut $75,000 travel budget after watchdog warns of potential fraud and waste – Sun Sentinel

TAMARAC — After Broward’s top watchdog pointedly told Tamarac town officials that his policy “encourages fraud, waste and abuse,” town leaders agreed this week to repeal a rule which allows them to travel $75,000 from city coffers.

It should get final approval as early as June.

In February 2021, a majority of the five City Commission members voted to each give themselves an annual expense account of $15,000 for local travel, without having to show proof of how they spent the money and Obtain staff approval for travel reimbursement within 100 miles of City Hall.

Commissioner Marlon Bolton even attempted to make the benefit retroactive to the previous fall.

Although the $15,000 benefit – for a total of $75,000 – was not spent, it remained on the books, allowing elected officials to use it in the future. This has recently drawn criticism from the Ethics Czar of Broward, whose office is tasked with rooting out public corruption.

Although the commission unanimously agreed Wednesday night to scrap the policy that allows them to spend the money, not everyone agreed it was really necessary.

“I don’t give the OIG much credit [Office of Inspector General] report,” Vice Mayor Mike Gelin said. “This report doesn’t really talk about anything. This is to try to slander the name of the town of Tamarac. I’m quite disappointed with the OIG.

He referenced the report’s conclusion that no one on the commission abused the travel policy, but did not mention that the city commission spent no money amid the attention and from the public outcry last year; Gelin acknowledged that he hadn’t used his share because of the pandemic.

Others said it was time to end the policy immediately and be done with it: “When the OIG makes a suggestion, I don’t think there should be much conversation,” the statement said. curator Debra Placko.

The lavish travel budget was in the spotlight when the South Florida Sun Sentinel unveiled the spending plans last year. A series of news articles about even more benefits followed, causing the commissioners to stop spending city coffers.

The county’s inspector general responded with an investigation, determining last month that the city needed a plan because, going forward, there would be no documentation to show how politicians would use their share of the money, and whether they were using it for the intended purpose. .

However, the removal of the local travel budget does not affect the $55,000 shared annual reimbursement fund for out-of-town travel expenses.

Mayor Michelle Gomez, who called for the travel article to be struck from the books, said she wanted it repealed a long time ago but did not trust her colleagues to act without the Inspector General’s report.

She said she had “a lack of confidence in this commission”.

Gomez said she is also warning her colleagues that on June 16, when budget conversations begin, she will also be asking the city to dump her $25,000 personal initiative.

The $25,000 expense account is another self-proclaimed commission perk. It is a discretionary fund for each commissioner; at least one of them has previously immersed himself in it to decorate his office.

Bolton said he would also ask for a benefit to be taken away. He said he would like to address commission salaries and the monthly car allowance of $700. No receipt or document is required for payment.

Lisa J. Huriash can be reached at [email protected] or 954-572-2008 or Twitter @LisaHuriash.