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Council OKs audits for utility expansion project

By Staff | Mar 28, 2011

Cape Coral City Council approved a not to exceed amount of $200,000 for construction and forensic audits of SE 1, SW 4 and SW 5 of the city’s utilities expansion project.
The price tag of the two audits is expected to be funded by the city’s utility rate payers, and will break down to roughly $4 per rate payer, according to Mayor John Sullivan.
The two audits will be performed by Rich Townsend and Michael Kessler, who previously performed the same duties for the city. Sullivan said their familiarity with the city will be helpful in moving forward with the work.
Sullivan said the audits were crucial in order to keep Cape Coral from “falling into traps” in the future and to possibly recover monies for the city’s taxpayers.
Sullivan cited work done by MWH — the city’s utilities contractor — in New Orleans and California as reasons that Cape Coral’s contracts should be examined. Sullivan said work done in those two areas “screams of oversight.”
“It’s almost the exact same thing that happened in Cape Coral,” Sullivan said.
Townsend will conduct the construction audit under the guise of Kessler, Sullivan said, and will be somewhat tentatively at the onset to discover if the auditors can get the necessary paper work from MWH.
Sullivan said it is necessary to discover the scope of work before “running up the bill” with the selected auditors.
MWH officials responded to the mayor recently saying that records request would have to be paid for by the city, per the terms of the original contract.
MWH President Joseph Adams defended his company and its reputation directly to Sullivan in a recent letter, which also listed some of the company’s awards and accomplishments over recent years.
Councilmember Chris Chulakes-Leetz said the awards did not not mean much to him, but he would give MWH an award if the audit resulted in no wrong doing.
If MWH did nothing wrong then they should have nothing to hide, he said.
“Why would any responsible body … any responsible contractor, object to having their work and their contract audited?” Chulakes-Leetz asked.
Councilmember Marty McClain suggested a different approach. Instead of paying the two auditors to perform the work as it proceeds, McClain suggested splitting the findings — if there are any — 50/50 with Michael Kessler.
“If there’s millions out there, we get half of what he gets,” McClain said of Kessler. “If we’re going to do it, let’s make it worth his while and make it worth our’s too. That way were being fiscally responsible.”
The audits were approved 5 – 3, with McClain, Kevin McGrail and Derrick Donnell dissenting.
Councilmember Bill Deile said his recently dropped assessment methodology lawsuit against the city frees up $80,000 toward paying the audit.
Deile said not moving forward with he audit is “irresponsible.”
“Here we have a situation where we’ve done half of a job,” Deile said.