Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Rich Lorraine Was First

The other night, a few friends and I were discussing Tom Francis’, who is an excellent investigative reporter, latest post and past posts by Tom and Elgin Jones, about the Deerfield Beach Mango Festival. We were trying to remember when the amount the city donated to the festival and the accounting of the receipts was first questioned. We knew it was Rich Lorraine who first tried to get the city to account for the funds, and we decided it was over 6 years ago, perhaps as long as 9 years ago.

Recently Francis wrote: “I've been stymied in my efforts to get an answer to the question I put at the bottom of this mammoth post from yesterday, about the Deerfield Beach's Mango Festival. Namely, why did the city cut the Mango Festival a check for $36,000 in June 2008?” (http://blogs.browardpalmbeach.com/juice/2009/11/mango_festival_deerfield_finances.php)

Elgin Jones, a bulldog of a reporter who has aired many a scandal wrote in September, 2007: “We are still gathering the facts, but it appears that income the city generated from the popular Mango Festival may have been kept in a separate account, in violation of accepted accounting practices.

City Manager Mike Mahaney acknowledged he had heard of some type of ‘enterprise’ fund in which income from several events was held. Mahany said that may not have been part of the regular budget process, but added that he is not exactly sure what has taken place. The Mango Festival has its own committee, which is separate from the city. However, the proceeds and donations that go to the city have not been accounted for, and there is no indication of exactly how the money has been spent or where it went.

This is yet another example of the lack of oversight of city operations that was commonplace in the administration of former City Manager Larry Deetjen. Some sources are referring to this money as being in a “slush” fund that has been maintained in a secret account connected to the parks and recreation department’s budget, but that has not been confirmed, at least not yet.” http://www.sfltimes.com/index.php?Itemid=98&id=479&option=com_content&task=view

And, here we are in November of 2009 and it has not been “confirmed” by now either. Rich Lorraine was equally as frustrated in his attempts to get an accounting, as Tom Francis, and I assume, Elgin are, but investigating the Mango Festival finances is proving to be a Sisyphean task.

Credit to Bill Ganz for raising the question yet again during budget talks, but he was only able to get a small portion of the records, and, it seems, there are no more to get. So, where do we go from here? No records mean no culpability, no proof that things were straightforward and no proof that they were not.

2 comments:

  1. And the reason why Francis and Jones are looking into it?

    Go ahead Bett. Name the name...

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  2. Hi Bett,
    Thanks for the link. As to your question, there may be no way of looking back and documenting where the city's money went. I think this goes down as a very expensive lesson in the dangers of blind trust. Not that I'm convinced the city was merely naive. Usually, someone at city hall has something to gain from such sloppy record-keeping.

    I guess we'll have more clues in the next several months. If the Mango Festival organizers are really in it for the right reasons -- because, gosh darn it, they love the cultural vibrancy of an event they can share with their fellow residents -- then they will accept much closer scrutiny by the city for the 2010 Mango, and they won't be discouraged by the fact that they *only* stand to get $25,000 from the city.

    But don't hold your breath. My guess is that the only way there's another Mango Festival is if the city gives organizers another blank check and turns its back when it's time to count the gate money.

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