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Mayor proposes new UEP audit

By Staff | Feb 1, 2011

Pursuing a new forensic audit not only fulfills a campaign promise he made, but will answer questions as to whether the city paid too much for its controversial utilities expansion project, Mayor John Sullivan said Monday.
Sullivan made his case for city council to support another audit during their workshop on Monday.
It was unclear whether he will find necessary votes to move the audit forward.
Councilmember Bill Deile said it is impossible to restart the UEP unless it is clear how, and if, the previous contracts were flawed.
“To ignore the past doesn’t make it easy to do the right thing in the future,” Deile said of the mayor’s proposal. “We have to look below the skin of the onion.”
The city is still seeking a legal opinion on whether MWH records once sought by Michael Kessler are actually available to complete the audit the mayor said could not be finished by Kessler’s firm during an earlier UEP review by the firm.
There’s a question, too, as to whether the contracts have passed the point of being questioned in a court of law should an audit reveal any problems.
City Attorney Dolores Menendez said the statute of limitations on causes of action for breach of written contract is five years, and fraud is four years, although there is no limit on when audits can be conducted.
The projected cost of a new forensic audit is $160,000.
Councilmember Kevin McGrail equated the mayor’s quest to that of Captain Ahab, hunting Moby Dick and eventually consumed by his own need to capture the whale.
McGrail said, too, that inflated construction prices only mirrored all inflated prices in 2006.
“Our job is to move forward and not do a post mortem on the past,” McGrail said.
Recovering money and finding a way to plot future contracts are at the heart of the need to pay for a new audit, Sullivan said. He added that recovered money can also help to pay down debt and help current ratepayers.
Sullivan cited alleged corruption that he maintains MWH wrought on the city of New Orleans to the tune of millions of dollars, adding he wants to make sure Cape Coral did not follow a similar path.
“The city got taken right down the yellow brick road,” Sullivan said. “It’s necessary we do this, if we don’t were not doing our jobs.”
Councilmember Chris Chulakes-Leetz said he wasn’t ready to support or deny a new audit, saying his signature on the Contract for Cape Coral only supported completing the original Kessler audit.
Chulakes-Leetz wasn’t certain the city had the cash to spend on starting a new audit.
“I’m concerned about spending money we don’t have,” he said.