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Council resumes discussion on fuel audit

By Staff | Jul 18, 2011

City Manager Gary King told the Cape Coral City Council Monday that a meeting has been scheduled between Stryker Fuel, the city’s former fuel vendor, and his office but the details of the meetings are still unknown.
Finance Director Victoria Bateman said the city attorney’s office reached out to the company for the meeting and it has not confirmed, but that Stryker was “communicating” with the city.
The deadline given by King for the company to respond to claims it overcharged the city more than $200,000 as the city’s vendor passed on the July 13.
King added the details of that meeting were being worked out by attorneys on both sides.
Meanwhile, city council spent nearly two hours discussing the fuel audit again on Monday with no action taken or suggested.
The audit findings were presented by Interim Auditor Margaret Krym and Bateman.
Bateman said extensive training of the fuel procedures have taken place in the Fleet Maintenance, with Consultant Bill Towler providing much of that training.
Bateman also said that maintenance and repair of the fleet could one day be in the hands of outside companies and that the city was in a request for information phase to that end.
GPS systems could also be installed in city vehicles to alert management where those vehicles are, Bateman said.
But Bateman felt the audit of the city’s fuel systems was money well spent because it will lead to savings in the long run, especially the confirmation that the city’s fuel was being improperly managed, as discovered by Towler.
“To me, as the finance director, we lacked the controls to manage this properly,” she told council.
Discussion again circled the data that had to be reconstructed by county auditors, data that was either deleted or moved to a different section of the software, depending on who you’re talking to.
A total of 77,000 files were deleted, but Krym maintains that the software functioning was properly even if the fuel management system itself was being improperly managed.
Challenged by Councilmem-ber Marty McClain, Bill Towler told the council that city staff was concealing the fact that information was being deleted from the system and the completed audit was the only thing to reveal that fact.
Towler has said in the past he never accused city staff of any wrong doing, but declined to comment further on his statement Monday, which seemed in direct conflict of his previous statements and reports.
Towler also said the city was paying for fuel it did not receive.
“We had no way to answer the question what we did receive, we only knew what we paid for,” he told council.
King said Towler’s statement that staff was concealing information was a result of frustration by the line of questioning by McClain.
King maintains that both he and Towler were merely trying to fix a problem.
“The system was in shambles … we get accused of creating a problem when all we’re trying to do is solve a problem,” King said.
McClain said Towler never followed through on his investigation, prematurely announcing his finding before seeking answers to discrepancies he discovered.
McClain added that Towler never asked staff any questions.
“You can’t conceal something you never asked about,” McClain said.
Meanwhile, Councilmember Bill Diele wondered if the fuel audit — conducted by Lee County auditors — was even accurate because the city had no way of knowing how much fuel it did receive during the period studied by Towler, and the county auditors.
No bills of lading were received and it was unclear how much fuel the city did receive. Towler even went as far as to follow a tanker truck to Tampa during his investigation.
Deile said there was never a clear idea of how much fuel the city received during the period studied by Towler, and later, county auditors.
“If we have no faith in the number for fuel in … how can we reach a conclusion the missing fuel can be in any quantity. It could be one gallon or a million gallons,” he said.
SCI Systems, which provides the fuel management software and hardware, recently sold a $4,500 upgrade to the city and that the upgrade represents the best software the company has to offer, according to SCI representatives.
The city has been using that new software since May 9, according to Bateman.