Who Misappropriated Our Stormwater Drainage Funds | *UPDATE*


3/12/2015 at  1:10 pm
Thanks for the effort, but I was not making a public records request. The accounting I was asking for from Manager Harden was much more generic and would probably not be evident from financial records alone. For example, a drainage crew mowing medians would still show as a drainage expense unless someone changed the way the expense was entered.
Money that was collected for drainage was used for other things and this fact has implications beyond whether the books balance at years end. How will the City’s NPDES M4S permit be affected? Were any state or federal laws broken? How does the City explain to some of the big commercial payers into the drainage fund that they weren’t buying what was advertised?

On 3/11/2015 10:31 AM, Fenwick, Robin wrote:
Tracey said she can run reports from the system of the multiple funds but they are typically not intuitive so they may not answer your question directly. We do not have any records that will answer it directly.
If you’d like copies of the reports, let me know and I’ll have her pull them.
1000 City Center Circle
Port Orange, FL 32129
TEL: 386-506-5563
FAX: 386-756-5290
Description: Description: PO email

Dictionary definition of Misappropriation =   In criminal law, misappropriation is the intentional, illegal use of funds of another person for unauthorized purpose, particularly by a public official,  by any person with a responsibility to care for and protect another’s assets (a fiduciary duty).  It is a felony, a crime punishable by a prison sentence   [editors note].

Dear Manager Harden,
My wife and I, like most owners of improved residential property in the City of Port Orange, pay a yearly stormwater drainage utility fee.  That fee is $99.00 per year and consists of a $36.00 capital facilities charge with the balance of the fee earmarked for operations.  If I understand the current rate structure correctly, commercial property owners pay amounts based on equivalent residential units with 3050 square feet of impervious area equal to one residential unit.
The last two Stormwater Maintenance Workshops have made it clear that over the last three to five years, or longer, the City’s ditch and culvert maintenance has fallen far behind schedule.  This has reportedly been due to a reduction in personnel brought on by the Great Recession and/or the necessity of using personnel normally involved in ditch maintenance for routine lawn mowing.  Also clear from the Workshops is that the Stormwater Fund does not have enough money to mount an intensive catch-up campaign and more revenue will be required to get us back on schedule.  One of the suggestions for additional revenue was to increase the yearly stormwater utility fee.
As you are no doubt aware, Port Orange’s Code of Ordinances states that “all stormwater drainage utility fees collected by the city shall be paid into an enterprise fund which is hereby created, to be known as the stormwater management fund. Such fund shall be used for the purpose of paying the cost of stormwater drainage facilities to be constructed in the various storm drainage basins and paying the costs of operation, administration and maintenance of the stormwater drainage facilities of the city,” and that “the fees and charges paid shall not be used for general or other governmental or proprietary purposes of the city, except to pay for the equitable share of the cost of accounting, management and government thereof.”  Drainage fees have certainly not decreased over the past several years and since those fees can’t be used for other purposes, such as routine lawn mowing, the obvious question is what happened to the money that we saved by personnel reductions?  If drainage fees were used for other purposes, who authorized the expenditures?  It seems that even City Council would have to change the ordinance quoted above to authorize such expenditures.
Can you please provide us with an accounting of income and expenditures during the years that maintenance declined, paying special attention to those expenditures not related to stormwater management and to who authorized those expenditures?
Mike Gardner
618 Ruth St
Port Orange, FL  32127

19 thoughts on “Who Misappropriated Our Stormwater Drainage Funds | *UPDATE*

  • March 11, 2015 at 12:11 pm

    I have had the same question but have not had time to dig into it yet.
    I hope to do so soon.
    David Harden

  • March 11, 2015 at 12:54 pm

    Thank You Mike,
    I cannot understand why council did not tell Harden to go ahead and start work, but to bring back a contract that is going to cost more money and most importantly time. We have all been ripped off in that the work has not been done and we have paid for it Council needs to make it right, and fast I hope they understand the next flood damaged home and dislocated family may be their responsibility.
    One of the push backs is some are saying only 80 homes out of 25,000+ flooded. That number is only the reported structure damage and does not count neighborhoods that become impassable, peoples yards and landscape that are destroyed devaluing property, damage to paved roads due to saturation. Does council realize the math of buying 80 homes? Eighty homes at an average of only $165,000 will cost $13,200,000 plus legal fees and you still have flooded roads. Sadly that money will not pay owners the value of their homes or the relocation costs which the city should bear.
    Drainage and storm water management ain’t cheap, but not taking care of it costs more.
    Newton White

    • March 12, 2015 at 9:52 pm

      Harden has proven himself to be the biggest mistake we have made to date. Fortunately he is out of here in August. Unfortunately he has left his demented signature on this organization that will ultimately be the next chapter of malfeasance and retrobration in the future annals of the City of Port Orange. dysfunctional by choice and not by change, growing in ugliness and disfunctionality thanks to our past elected officials and present senior management team. The current interim city manager, the administrative services director, and our existing sitting city council appear to be committed to a continuation of this dysfunctional retrogrative legacy and senior management team.

  • March 13, 2015 at 11:09 am

    As ugly as this is and the certainty that wrongdoing as taken place, we must not get stuck on trying to find policy that was not followed or even the money trail. If the policy existed and the records are clear which seems doubtful, what would the gain be the principals in this mess are all fired or resigned already, and their will not likely be a criminal prosecution with the incomplete and inaccurate records that we have found to be the case in other areas.
    WHAT we must do as citizens is push to see policy in place records being kept and most importantly the work being done. The neglect and apparent diversion of drainage work has put the city years behind and our city at risk, we cannot afford to let it take so long to catch up.

    • March 13, 2015 at 4:18 pm

      I have been told on pretty good authority that the law regarding the expenditure of these earmarked storm-water assessments was not followed – which is to say it was broken.
      I believe property owners deserve a complete accounting by year of the storm-water funds funds they paid that were misspent, along with the names and positions of those responsible.
      Many of those with responsibility to have seen these assessments handled properly are still on the job including Margaret Roberts, David Harden, Tracey Riehm, and Mike Silvey to name but four.
      The immediate desire on the part of some to promote any excuse they can think of for not holding anyone accountable for anything in Port Orange government is the main reason taxpayers have been hosed for millions by a parade of over-paid incompetent place holders.
      The law mandating the permissible purposes on which these storm-water assessments must be expended was not followed, AND I for one would prefer answers to excuses.

      • March 14, 2015 at 1:47 pm

        Ted, I suppose they have taken their example from the Federal government. It sounds a lot like the misappropriation of Social Security funds over the years. When Social Security was first formed it was supposed to be a Federally mandated retirement fund for American workers to pay into so that they would have retirement income in their golden years and would not become a burden on society. In course of time, elected politicians and lawmakers changed the laws and restrictions on these Social Security funds and borrowed/robbed them from the working American citizens that were mandated to fund the account under the pretense that the funds would be invested for their future retirement. Since that time these funds have been used from everything from off setting the overspending and screw-ups of our elected officials which have used these funds for all manner of unrelated activities to the virtual creation of a welfare State to support legal & illegal immigrants, young unwed family breeders, and a plethora of welfare recipients that have paid little or nothing into the fund. The end results have been a steady reduction of anticipated retirement pensions and a steady raise in the age at which a person who has paid into Social Security can retire. Soon they will reduce benefits so much and raise the retirement age so high it will only be a few years less than the average life expectancy. Not to mention many of the hard working people that have paid into it all their lives will continue to have to pay taxes on the retirement benefits that they received so that some young freeloader who has never paid a cent into the fund can receive free money under one of our many liberal give away programs. I suppose the mayor, the city council, and the FCCMA hack team they have ordered up for us citizens feel if it is ok to do things this way for the Federal government and president Obama then it is ok with the City of Port Orange to misappropriate the drainage funds that the citizens have been assessed for and simply come back to the citizens and ask them to pay up for the screw-ups of the city manager, their elected officials, and their incompetent management without one iota of accountability. When will this shit stop and accountability start?

    • March 13, 2015 at 7:21 pm

      hank to newton: If we do not start holding people accountable, by name, name, name, means accountability. Justice demands that a criminal prosecution or whatever be attempted, and if it fails, it fails, If we do not name the wrong doers in this city, we are sending the wrong message to anyone who works or wants to work in the city government of Port Orange. Newt, i am not sure if you understand what accountablity means and demands. If you don’t want accountability, then you are all for what we have been subjected to in the past. What are you saying Newt? Are you saying,let’s start now, and you people better stop violating the trust of Port Orange Citizens. This time we mean it, you city administrators. A word to the wise is sufficient. Come on Newt, if you are reluctant at this late date to hold people responsible for the misuse of our money, don’t ever let me hear you say that you are all for accountability.
      Do you remember Sonya and her two sided stand on accountability? Newt, sometimes you amaze me. — Who exactly or what exactly do you want “pushed”?
      — hank

    • March 13, 2015 at 7:35 pm

      Newton you make me laugh. You want someone to “see that the work is being done”. You have to be kidding. Just how do you think we can force anyone to see that the work is being done? Are you saying we need control of what is going on in city government?This is all so funny but pathetic. newton are you saying someone should be inspecting the work of city administrators and city workers? What a novel idea. Who? city manager? city council people? inspector general? Just who exactly is in charge of this mess? Surely not the city council, they are only part time workers, practically volunteers and we should be grateful that they are there? The city manager who only takes directions from the city council, which council seems to be inept at giving directions and following up to see that their directions are followed.
      Is it not true that the city council can not go over into the field and see what exactly is going on with the work of city employees? Not even the mayor is allowed to do that.
      I wonder if even the city manager can get off his ass, go out of his office, and inspect the books and the work out in never never land. Perhaps some city union would call that a hostile environment?
      City workers were out triming grass on a sunday and expected that they were being paid overtime pay, and the outcome of that? Nothing seems as it seems in this La La land of Port Orange. No one here seems to know how to see that the work is being done. It was contrived that way by generational evolution of politicians sometimes called the Old Boy Network.
      Oh, wouldn’t it be nice if someday, someone with authority could walk into a city department, and demand to see the attendance record for the week prior, and to have an on the spot accounting of where everyone hired by the city is working, say at 905 am on a Monday morning. Oh my god, I am standing here besides myself laughing.
      Are we talking about some kind of “inspection” which leads to control? if so, forget about, it aint going to happen.
      sincerely — hank

  • March 13, 2015 at 8:43 pm

    The way this town has been operating never ceases to amaze me.
    I have watched city council meetings on several occasions over the past year wherein all the councilmen including the Mayor have taken turns telling the City Manager and his staff that they wanted to get Public Works & Parks Dept. completely out of the lawn mowing business. The in-house mowing endeavor being the major reason we have chaos; neglect and fraud in our storm-water drainage program.
    Yet, as of this date only a portion of that landscape work has been contracted out.
    It appears that the Manager’s & City’s senior staff has been giving the council & Mayor the finger. And they just sit there and take it.
    What do you think it will take to get them motivated ?

  • March 14, 2015 at 12:02 am

    Don’t blame the lower ranks. We’re just doing as we’re told. The upper ranks are getting the weekly ‘teambuilding’ meetings according to the weekly report but as usual nothing trickles down to middle mgmt or workers in the trenches it’s icma training . We know how well that has worked in the past.

    • March 14, 2015 at 8:39 am

      Rest assured ‘jenemple’ that this issue has zero ability to reflect disparagingly on middle management and below.
      The responsibility to determine proper expense allocation, AND subsequently APPROVE those allocations rests with the ICMA protected class including the Manager, Finance Director, Comptroller, Public Works Director, and because of the duplicative manner in which payroll is prepared in Port Orange the Administrative Services Director.

      • March 14, 2015 at 10:44 am

        Of all of them the Administrative Services Director has to be the worse. She has mentored the interim city manager and all incoming administrators and groomed them in the way of Allen Green discipleship and obfuscation of open and transparent governance. She is the manipulator of this farce of a salary survey from Cody and Associates and is largely responsible for the flawed inputs and skewed results. She has been the technical support of all the blacklisting, scapegoating, and whitewashing that has occurred with regularity throughout the history of Port Orange that has fallen in her tenure. Not to mention she is orchestrating the procurement of the next city manager and has had great success in assistinf the manager in resurrecting a new FCCMA hack management team of dysfunctional administrators with spurious backgrounds for the mayor.

      • March 14, 2015 at 3:46 pm

        In many cases middle management is the only thing holding this turd of an organization together and the city manager and his team shamelessly use them and take the credit for the jobs they perform.. We have administrators that could not even do an operating or capital budget and are walked through the most basic budgeting, purchasing, and administrative functions. Remember Tiny Yarborough from public utilities? He was a classic example. And don’t think he was an exception to the rule! They keep on bringing in hacks that have to have everything scripted on cue cards for them by the very middle management that is shit all over by the organization on a daily basis. Soon we will have another FCCMA permanent city manager with a hack management team in place ready to continue this debacle for another decade of decadence.

  • March 14, 2015 at 8:25 am

    Be practical, do you really think that an investigation into records that do not exist or will not be found over policy that was not written or implemented will result in anything but more wasted money and time?
    Getting government to serve the citizens and provide what we pay taxes and fees for is my goal. I expected that government was protecting me from danger when I built my home to the elevation they required, I expected that the landscape in the city intended to increase value would be maintained, I expected drainage to be maintained when I paid my fee with taxes, the $2 surcharge on golf was expected to pay renovation. Need I go on listing issues? Safe sports fields, streets repaved, reclaim lake storage system working, lake dug on time, dirt paid for, properly working water meters…
    If you think that a full out investigation, that has little to no chance of finding anything useful that will fix a problem or put anyone in handcuffs then lets go with it. What will it cost to hire an investigator 20 or 30K ? That money would be better spent replacing drainage pipes or hiring a Gradeall and operator to catch up ditch cleaning.
    That’s my take on it, sorry if you disagree.

    • March 14, 2015 at 9:22 am

      Newtune–Just when I almost decieded that Id vote for you rather than Cheerleader Boy Stiltner if you ever ran again, you start on this toe the party line junk.

      • March 14, 2015 at 10:10 am

        Well said PO OLDTIMER. Newton is an indecisive party line lush for sure, Stiltner is defiantly king of the boy scout cheerleaders and the other idiot Mckinney did not even live in Port Orange. What a horrible choice voters had.

    • March 14, 2015 at 10:13 am

      The thing to remember is that as a Nation, State , County and City we are meant to operate under the ‘rule of law’ meaning that in this instance the property owners whose earmarked Storm-water abatement fees that were mis-appropriated need to be made whole, either through direct refunds, OR BY a direct transfer from the General fund to the Storm-water Utility fund, depending on the Attorney’s advice, OR on the decision rendered by a Court if Council fails to take appropriate action.
      Ideally the catalyst for restoring these mis-appropriated funds would be the elected representatives of the people, AND I am calling on the representative I worked hardest to re-elect Councilman Bob Ford to ensure this happens in this instance even if it means taking this matter to the CFO for the State of Florida, or to a private class action attorney for resolution.
      I am sick of a do nothing Council failing to take action on a plethora of problems by hiding behind that worm out refrain ‘ I am only one vote, I don’t know where the rest of Council stands, I can’t be seen as a cranky old man ‘
      For heaven’s sake Council start discussing and announcing your positions with your constituents in public, serve notice of your intention to make motions and then carry through on those intentions.
      Council needs begin by assigning itself specific responsibilities, against which their performance is to be measured — like ensuring this Storm-water assessment boondoggle is resolved in 30 days unlike the embarrassing berm investigation that has yet to even start months after it was ordered.
      Council likewise need to assign specific responsibilities to the Manager and likewise hold him accountable for his performance because any responsibilities that were assigned to our current and past Managers have at best been fuzzy, or waived or explained away in the face of unacceptable results. In recent years we have had little more than repeated side show of allowing the Manager to shoot an performance arrow of and then paint a target around where ever it lands.
      Council has not even bothered to even shoot such an arrow.
      The government for Port Orange, whose residents are justifiably proud and who have chosen to make Port Orange their home, is drowning in a lethargy of mis-direction and incompetent status-quo.
      That lethargy is in full bloom on Council and until it rooted out on Council it will not be rooted out elsewhere in the organization, BECAUSE make no mistake, the slow slide beginning about a dozen years ago to the sorry state in which our government finds itself today occurred under Councils no more lethargic that the one we have today.

  • March 14, 2015 at 12:32 pm

    This council is following the last one ,ask more meetings and vote on nothing. They need to just do the job they were elected to do, remember they asked for this job now do it!

  • March 14, 2015 at 1:32 pm

    First, I am not a party line lush for anyone.
    Second, if you think the state attorney or other agency will investigate go with it! But back to the lack of records, lack of accounting and lack of enforceable policy that has been found in every other investigation/audit FOI request do you really think anything will come of it??? I wonder is their a statue of limitations, can they go back to former associates?
    Third, None of the above horse and pony show is going to get anything done that will benefit the community. It will take the time and focus from staff and council from organizing the repair and construction of drainage, and every thing else anybody wants.
    Last, Yes in deed their is a lack of public outcry and without more concern you and I will get little for the common man. Council voted for an increase in water rates, when it ain’t going broke and we know we have problems with the accuracy of the meters, without also knowing a true assessment of the underground pipes. But only the same few showed up in protest. Council voted $20,000 for the chamber on top of the sweetheart land lease and grounds maintenance. We need more public concern and people willing to speak up and come to a meeting. Got any ideas how to get as many people to show up for a budget hearing as a traffic light decision or golf course renovation?
    good cartoon wherever did you find it


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