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Renner and Hutson Call For State Audit of Free-Spending Flagler Mosquito Control District

| August 25, 2017

Rep. Paul Renner, left, and Sen. Travis Hutson, want an audit of East Flagler Mosquito Control District that the district itself is so far not wanting to conduct. (© FlaglerLive)

Sen. Travis Hutson and Rep. Paul Renner, Flagler County’s two state legislators, have asked a L egislative oversight committee to audit the troubled East Mosquito Control District, where a $1.1 million deficit was uncovered last month. It is the first indication that the tax-supported district, which has itself so far refused to conduct an audit in the wake of the crisis, will be examined independently, and by an legislative arm with presumably considerable resources to do so.


In other words, the legislators don’t want the district’s financial crisis so quickly swept under the rug.

“Flagler County’s Mosquito Control District recently reported a budget deficit of $1,100,000.00,” the legislators wrote the Joint Legislative Auditing Committee. “The district’s total budget is $1,800,000.00, making this deficit very substantial and the subject of significant concern to county taxpayers. The district incurred this deficit while spending $2,100,000.00 to construct a new facility for its fourteen employees, a facility that includes an adjacent helipad.” They added: “The district’s dramatic budget deficit in relation to its overall budget requires investigation and justifies an independent audit.”

The Legislature created the Joint Legislative Auditing Committee. It is a panel of six senators and five House members responsible for oversight of financial operations of “all areas of government in Florida.” The panel itself does not necessarily conduct audits, but does so through the office of the state Auditor General or the powerful Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability, Florida’s non-partisan equivalent of federal agencies like the Government Accountability Office or the Congressional Budget Office.

It was notably involved in reviewing overspending at Flagler County’s new courthouse in the middle of the last decade, where $5 million was misspent.

“Their role,” Renner said in an interview this afternoon, “is going to be to look at the facts and hear from people on this issue or any other of a similar type around the state and make a request, I hope, at the end of that process, for the Auditor General to conduct an audit of the Mosquito Control District and see how we can prevent this type of thing from happening in the future.” He added:
“This is a first place to start in conducting an audit to try to discover what went wrong and what internal controls are missing that would ahve alerted the commissioners and the employees to the emerging shortfall.”

An audit through the Joint Legislative Auditing Committee is designed to have teeth, compelling some state agencies under review by law to submit a report responding to the audit and indicating what measures that agency will take, or has taken, to address any issues uncovered. A local government district does not appear to fall under that category–but it does fall under the committee’s jurisdiction if it is determined that a financial emergency has developed. A financial emergency is defined in law. Whether it applies at the district or not will be a matter of interpretation. If that determination is reached, a series of measures are possible, including the establishment of an independent “financial emergency board” to oversee the activities of the local government entity.

Based on the mosquito board’s conclusions at a meeting earlier this week, those conditions either have been staved off or never existed, since, according to district and county officials–the county administration lent its financial director to analyze the books–no bills have gone unpaid, and no deficit is anticipated next year, assuming a budget with expected revenue from asset sales and budget cuts is enacted. The $1.1 million deficit was largely at the expense of the district’s reserves, which had swelled to $2 million and have since been almost wiped out. That still does not explain where the money actually went: the district attributes the loss to its new, $2.1 million building. But that has not been independently verified.

And the district’s three elected commissioners, meeting Monday–Florence Fruehan, Commission Chairman Julius Kwiatkowski and Barbara Sgroi–showed no inclination to order an audit of their books even as they spoke harshly of their current independent auditor, suggesting it would be fired, and as Fruehan suggested without naming her that Rachel Knapp, the district’s finance director, should also be fired. Joe Cash, the district’s long-time director–he was hired in 1978–resigned a week ago.

On the whole, however, commissioners acted as if the crisis had passed (layoffs affected four part-time employees), that they were interested in changing the way they were to be informed about district finances in the future, but that a look back at the books was not necessary. They appointed Mark Positano, Cash’s second in command, who’s been at the agency since 2015, its new director.

Positano could not be reached by phone late Friday afternoon but he then emailed: “I have not been contacted by any state officials. We are required to have an independent audit conducted annually. That’s what brought the carry forward amount issue to light to begin with. As an additional step, we invited the County’s budget and finance person in to get their independent opinion as well. Anyone who wants to take a look at our finances is welcome to do so.”

“Flagler residents pay additional taxes to support an independent mosquito control district and reasonably expect the district to achieve greater efficiency and cost savings,” Renner was quoted as saying in a release jointly issued by his and Hutson’s office this afternoon. “The lack of internal controls and safeguards that caused this deficit certainly call that efficiency into question. An independent audit will help determine what happened, who is responsible, and allow for appropriate corrective action.”

“It is important that we know how the Flagler Mosquito Control District uses its budget year to year,” Hutson said in the release. “An
audit will give us an opportunity to see where taxpayer dollars are spent.”

Once the findings of the audit are produced, “we can take a look and see what the appropriate next step might be,” Renner said.

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24 Responses for “Renner and Hutson Call For State Audit of Free-Spending Flagler Mosquito Control District”

  1. palmcoaster says:

    Thank you to Renner and Hutson…because we are being fleeced by the East Mos
    quito Control administrators and oblivious Board. Pleased let us know if we are going to get the mosquito control spraying that we are paying for…maybe you forgot to say that they also bought a helicopter..? and for such a small district to spray?

  2. Vinny Reeves says:

    Thank you very much Senator Hutson and Representative Renner for initiating an independent audit regarding the $1.1 million accounting error recently announced by our Mosquito Control Board. The hard working taxpayers of Flagler County applaud your diligent attention to this important matter.

  3. PC Outlaw says:

    Fucking bugs.

  4. Mark101 says:

    You mean it took this long for someone to say the word audit ? it should have been the first thing that occurred when they found the $1 million dollar deficit. Somebody is accountable for this deficit.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Don’t stop there, the whole flagler County government needs to be audited from top to bottom, every department.

  6. r&r says:

    Good!!!! Someone is stuffing their pockets with taxpayer money.

  7. Constantly amazed says:

    And then what ? It another Flagler County “MYSTERY” and like everything else we won’t hear about this again. On to the next mystery.

  8. Anonymous says:

    What good did a state audit do when Clerk of Court Wadsworth was audited and 10 findings were revealed over 5.5 million dollars because nothing was done about it? The county commissioners turned their heads and no representatives got involved because of her political ties. In both of these instances the BOCC is to blame-Coffey needs to go and a forensic audit on the county needs to take place to find all the hidden corruption. We may even learn more about Revels and how she or her associates benefited more than what has been revealed. She should have not only been fined but removed from office when her wrong doing was complained about. Renner and Hutson need to fix the broken state agencies of ethics and elections commissions so people like this dont stay in office 2 years pending an investigation. If probable cause is determined, the wrong doer at a minimum should be suspended without pay. Come on Renner and Hutson, if you’re going to do something do it right.

  9. HonkeyDude says:

    Its not hard to see that a man who started his profession with nothing… Worked for decades with nothing…. Lost friends to death because of junk equipment for nothing….. Till now. Now they have a stated of art building and Equipment. A retiring man left a legacy for the community to be better served as han when he started out. Audit= waste of money. Mr Cash thank you for your forsite and your unwavering service. Personally i think mosquito contr should stop spraying to show these whining sniveling *$$holes how much they NEED yalls service and how much difference Mosquito Control makes. Hell maybe alot of people will leave when they see how bad it is here in the beautiful SWAMP.

  10. Anonymous says:

    This guy name cash is leaving quickly and they want to consult with him when he was part of all of the money being in a deficit I won’t have that guy run a Christmas club savings account making $120,000 a year now all of a sudden he’s retiring get the feds in here and do a complete investigation of his assets and the whole operation these are taxpayer dollars and they need to be investigated thoroughly by the state or the feds

  11. Anonymous says:

    It will be another mystery like the mystery with Tony Capella superintendent of Public Works who left very quickly and quietly there’s probably more going on with Public Works than we know of

  12. Fredrick says:

    Why is something like this not sent out to bid to outside contractors?

  13. tulip says:

    Perhaps someone from Mosquito control could write an easily understood explanation of how this all came about. There are always two sides to a story.

  14. John dolan says:

    Tip of the iceburg. Audit Flager County,Palm Coast,Bunnell,Flagler Beach, Marineland and all governing entities that exist because of taxpayers.

  15. palmcoaster says:

    DudeHonkey oh yeah he, Cash worked for nothing $115,000 a year? Good all boys like you need to be done away in this county, simply because our hard earned taxes are to be spent in the services we pay for , not wasted in what is not intended and special interest. The hatred fuming in your words remind me the white hooded dudes! After proper audit and investigation maybe finally we will get some culprit in jail and the services we pay for and out with despicable individuals in control of our funds that resemble you. Crass, as crass can be!

  16. TeddyBallGame says:

    Another example of codified (read: legal) corruption. That is what is is. And it is ruining not only our county, but our state and nation as well.

  17. Mark101 says:

    A question, is not the County Administrator ultimately responsible for monies spent ? .

  18. Anonymous says:

    A forensic audit will be the only kind of audit that’ll look for criminal activity—much more detailed and efficient. These public figures need to step up to the plate and see that the county as a whole is audited. Coffey himself is said to for years his expenses. Without a forensic audit there is no oversite. Annual auditors are friendly to the county administrator and BOCC members in an effort to keep their jobs, therefore they often turn their heads the other way. Where there is smoke their is fire.

  19. woody says:

    Flagler county -spending money like drunken rock stars.

  20. Jack Howell says:

    I concur with the need to audit. I also want to see this become a forensic audit that will uncover all aspects of how the Flagler Mosquito Control District used its funds. Those guilty of malfeasance should be held accountable! If indictments are necessary, let the chips fall where they may. Elected officials of the Flagler Mosquito Control District should also be replaced by the governor as they failed to provide proper oversight and this expenditure happened on their watch.

  21. Anonymous says:

    Where’s Renner and Hutson been over the past several years, asleep??? Flagler County issues have been publicized and they should have been involved several years ago. You’re half way there boys, the city of Palm Coast should be audited as well, and yes both the county and city should be forensic audited. What has occurred is a misuse (misfeasance/malfeasance) of public office and criminal charges should be applied.

  22. Jitters says:

    FIRE ALL THE BASTARDS
    STILL HAVEN’T SEEN 1 TRUCK
    GO BY THE HOUSE.
    THANKS COUNSIL FOR JACKING
    PROPERTY TAXES FOR CRAP
    LIKE THAT . LET US RUN THE
    CITY THE WORKING PEOPLE
    WILL SHOW U HOW IT’S DONE.

  23. Anonymous says:

    @palmcoaster

    The mosquito control has had a helicopter for quite some time. How would one expect it/them to get into the swamps where they need to get them.

  24. Tax payer says:

    All the upper staff need to be audited, It’s public record why are these employees being paid such Big salaries
    Rachel Knapp around 70K a year, still has her job after making the huge financial mistake.
    Mark Positano around 80 K a year and will be getting a big raise for taking over Mr Cash’s position
    Bill Hockla is going to be raised to 60 K a year, after all these mistakes and problems he gets a raise?
    Kevin Card around 80 K a year. Weather he’s flying or not?
    Why are these people getting paid so much. If Flagler wants to cut back on waistline money, these salaries need to be cut in half or fire all of them and start over with honest people.

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