Letter: Julington Creek rejects anti-corruption contract
Julington Creek, FL
If Juan Ponce De Leon had only discovered La Florida 501 years later, he would have found all the gold he was looking for at the Julington Creek CDD.
The CDD recently solicited bids for a painting project. The winning bid was about $70,000, but a review of the bid documents caused some questions. At the March 2014, CDD Board of Supervisors meeting, Chairperson (and practicing attorney) Kannatt-Gapinski assured the residents, and other Supervisors, more than once that the CDD process for soliciting bids and letting of that contract was performed completely fairly, transparently and legally. Additionally, the CDD attorney, CDD District Manager and certain CDD staff agreed the process was legal. Well, all those people certainly have a right to their opinion as to whether all the elements of that transaction were properly performed, but some others believe they were not.
As a result of my concerns of that particular project and whether we might need to change some of our policies and procedures related to such things, I made a proposal to engage an external party to perform an audit of cash transactions, current inventory controls, contract services and project bidding processes, expense reports, and related areas to obtain a third party opinion of whether the CDD in fact is performing those functions in a proper manner. Supervisors Kannatt-Gapinski, Klein and Jacobs opposed such an audit, but even more astonishing was their vehement opposition of my proposal to add an anti-bribery, anti-lobbying and anti-collusion clause in all future CDD contracts.
Maybe an internal audit wouldn’t be suggested if the most recent painting bids weren’t riddled with what some would consider inconsistencies, strange events and possible fraud. Some of the many inconsistencies relating to the past three CDD painting proposals totaling over $125,000 include: two of the three bidders had the same registered agent and same mailing address; 12 of the 19 expense line items for two of the three bidders were the same exact dollar amount; the same work proposed in a new contract was paid for in a previous contract just a few months earlier; strikethroughs of some line items; white-out applied on the bid totals; and at least two of the three bidders had the same incremental difference in dollar amounts for 40 of 63 line items in their bids. Additionally, some of the file correspondence appeared to indicate that official bids for certain contracts were received by CDD staff after the CDD voted to approve and award the contract to a winning bidder.
At that same meeting it was noted that the CDD allowed the “winner” of the most recent painting contract to proceed with the contracted work before ensuring that contractor held a valid St. Johns County license, which is a violation of SJC Ordinance 2002-48, and Florida state statutes 489.115 and 838.22. When the GM was initially questioned in March as to why the CDD allowed an unlicensed contractor to start work at the CDD, the GM denied that occurred and said he spoke to unnamed SJC staff who advised they allow contractors to work with pending and inactive licenses. However, by the April meeting and upon further questioning, the GM advised the Supervisors the painting contractor only became properly licensed four months after he was hired and started work.
At the April meeting, the GM suggested the CDD contract out tennis court maintenance. The GM was asked to explain his analysis of why it was better for the CDD to contract out that work. In response, the GM said if it weren’t a good business decision he wouldn’t be proposing it. When pressed to better explain the numbers behind how he came to this conclusion, the GM only said it was a good deal because, “I have a brain.” I believe reasonable people would demand data on how best to spend tax-payer money, rather than blindly trusting the GM has some sort of sixth sense.
What bothers me about the Julington Creek Plantation CDD Board of Supervisors is the apparent reluctance of certain Supervisors to ask obvious questions about actions related to CDD operations – actions for which they hold ultimate responsibility. For example, how the noted painting projects were handled; why we compensate certain staff about 50% higher than the highest paid professional in their field on a national level; the expenditure of over a $1,000 of tax-payer money on a staff party including alcoholic beverages; or the GM calling the police on residents who ask him questions about his background and past work experience.
But maybe the strangest event as my time as a Supervisor is the noted refusal of three of your elected Supervisors to consider anti-bribery, anti-lobbying and anti-collusion language in all future CDD contracts. Your guess is as good as mine as to why those Supervisors find that objectionable.