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Cape looks to recoup $211,000 in fuel charges

By Staff | Jul 2, 2011

Cape Coral is looking to recoup what city officials maintain were overcharges of more than $211,000 by the city’s former fuel vendor, Streicher Mobile Fueling, between 2008 – 2010.
City Manager Gary King said Friday the move is part of a larger effort started by consultant Bill Towler last fall and seeking to recoup those funds is a continuation of those efforts.
Streicher has until July 13 to respond or meet with him in his office or the matter will be turned over to the city attorney’s office, King said, adding he has not heard from Streicher representatives since sending a certified letter to that effect on Thursday.
King said the city fuel audit recently conducted by the county did not contain the information concerning the billing issue. However, since fuel deliveries weren’t being verified, a continuing city investigation of records found the alleged discrepancies.
“No one appeared to be verifying the charges,” King said.
The city is not alleging criminal intent, officials said Thursday.
Its issue is with how the vendor applied allowable state contract pricing to the deliveries in question.
According to the city’s position, per Florida State Contract pricing, vendors add a markup to “the daily rack average,” as established by the DTN FastRacks averages.
“A review of the fuel invoices found discrepancies between what the city should have been charged in total price (daily price + markup) and what the city actually was charged,” a city position statement reads, in part.
Louise Lungaro, from Streicher Mobile Fueling, did not return requests for comment.
Clerk of Courts Charlie Green, whose office conducted a months-long audit of the city’s procedures at Cape Coral’s request, said he did not know the rationale behind the efforts to recoup funds. He does believe the number came up somewhere in the audit his office performed although he said he could not remember where, specifically.
The bottom line, Green said, is that the city had no control over its fuel processes and procedures.
“I don’t think the city would have made that request if they didn’t think they were right,” Green said.
Cape Councilmember Marty McClain, who has been critical of Towler’s original fuel investigation and report, would have preferred the issue to have been handled quietly with Streicher.
“I wished we would have researched this internally and had a meeting with the vendor behind closed doors before throwing this allegation out there,” he said.
King, though, said it was important to get the information out before the effort was released to the public by unofficial sources.
“These things never remain private for long. I thought we’d get out in front of it and put facts behind it,” King said.
Councilmember Kevin McGrail said his concerns on the issue are based on the city’s admitted and confirmed lax record keeping and how its own lapses may affect the city’s attempt to get money back.
“My big concern is that based on everything I’ve seen on our fuel situation, we’ve had a problem with record keeping,” McGrail said. “So my big concern is if we are making accusations against a company that they owe use money, that we have hard facts so that we can have some measure or hope of success or winning if we are going to move forward with any type of litigation.”
He said he has not seen any specifics related to the matter but assumes the city manager’s office has those hard numbers in hand.
“I haven’t seen any documentation to support that claim but I would assume the city manager’s office has been able to vet those numbers, or validate those numbers, to validate that claim,” McGrail said.
Mayor John Sullivan could not be reached for comment.