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Broward auditor: Poor port management led to public health issues and let workers use county gear to profit

Port Everglades

By Dan Christensen, FloridaBulldog.org

Broward’s independent auditor has slammed Port Everglades for poor management that resulted in public health and safety issues and let current and former employees repeatedly use expensive county equipment for personal financial gain.

County Auditor Bob Melton has been conducting a procurement audit at Port Everglades since last June. In a letter to county commissioners on Thursday, Melton said he was releasing a 34-page interim audit report of early findings “because of the immediate need for corrective action.”

About a dozen auditors from Melton’s office are spotlighting the port. In his letter, Melton said his team had substantiated allegations regarding the ‘unauthorized use county-owned backflow testing kits” and the “inadequate certification of backflow assembly devices.”

Backflow assembly devices are installed in residences and businesses to prevent the incorrect flow of contaminants from faulty toilets, industry or other sources of pollutants into the public drinking water supply.

Backflow assembly device

Florida Bulldog first reported the existence of the audit and a concurrent Broward Sheriff’s investigation on Jan. 17. The FBI is also involved. The criminal probe has focused on apparent out-of-control spending by port public works employees using county credit cards, or purchasing cards. Sources have said the spending went on for at least a decade and is believed to have cost the county millions of dollars.

P-Card abuse

Last August, plumber David Dean Moore was fired after investigators determined he had abused his assigned purchasing card, or P-Card, to buy faucets, backflow preventer repair kits and brass pipe that were never received by the port. County purchasing records obtained by Florida Bulldog using the state’s public records law show that between April 2016 and May 2018 Moore rang up more than $117,000 purchases on his P-Card. Without explanation, county officials later allowed Moore to resign “in lieu of termination.”

The auditor’s report includes a half-dozen specific findings.

  • The backflow inspection process at the port is inadequate and has not been managed.
  • The devices are not certified annually to ensure compliance with regulations and standards to safeguard public health and safety. Likewise, backflow preventer test kits were not calibrated annually to ensure accurate readings.
  • Former employees used county-owned backflow test kits at least 156 times for personal financial gain.
  • Port Everglades’ backflow prevention policy manual has not been updated for 30 years.
  • The number of backflow preventer test kits purchased by the port is excessive.

The recommended fixes ranged from outsourcing the annual inspection and certification of backflow devices and the calibration of test kits to the establishment of procedures to ensure that test kits are used only for authorized purposes at the port. It was also recommended that the port reduce the number of backflow preventer test kits it owns from seven to two. The kits cost $1,730 each.

“Employees interviewed at the port could not explain why so many kits were needed for port business,” the report says. “Port staff spent approximately $6,920 unnecessarily.”

In her response to the interim audit, County Administrator Bertha Henry wrote that she concurred with all of the auditor’s findings and recommendations.

The report identifies two former employees as having used county-owned backflow test kits for personal business: plumber William Woessner and David Dean Moore, the port plumber who was terminated last summer. Moore worked for Woessner.

Woessner owned All County Plumbing, with a listed address as a post office box at the port. According to the auditor’s report, Woessner – identified as Former Employee 1 – used the county-owned backflow test kits to do business at dozens of restaurants and businesses from as far north as Vero Beach to South Miami-Dade,  including Burger King, Wendy’s and condominiums.

Woessner used those test kits “for personal business from at least 2009…until his retirement in May 2016, and for almost two years after retirement, until March 2018,” the report says.

Here’s a copy of the interim report…

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