The Coastal Star

Briny Breezes: Meeting tape at issue in audit proceedings

By Tim O’Meilia

    The Palm Beach County Inspector General has begun an audit of the financial operation of the town of Briny Breezes.
    A representative of the Inspector General’s audit division has met several times with the town staff in April and May. Documents and a recording of one of the meetings were subpoenaed in early May.
    The chief of the Inspector General’s audit division, Dennis Schindel, declined to reveal why the audit is being conducted, or whether it was prompted by a complaint, until the investigation is completed. The audit and subsequent report may take several months.
    Briny Breezes Town Attorney Jerome Skrandel said the investigation was a performance audit — an examination of the internal controls of the operation of the town.
    During a May 13 special meeting, Skrandel was critical of the Inspector General’s office for seeking a subpoena to determine if an April 25 meeting of the audit representative and town personnel was taped illegally.
    Skrandel said the recorder was in plain view and an announcement that the meeting was being taped was made so town employees could refer to it to supply the information that the audit required.
    During the meeting, the auditor asked if the April 25 meeting was being taped and did not object, Skrandel said. Investigators returned April 29 with a subpoena.
    “I think the conduct by the Inspector General’s employee was reprehensible,” he said, referring to the auditor’s apparently seeking a subpoena to investigate the taping as a criminal act.
    The recording and recorder were returned to the town by State Attorney’s Office investigators May 16.
    Detectives Robert Flechaus and Daniel Amero said the taping case would not be pursued, but that town employees had improperly taped the meeting by neglecting to get everyone’s consent on the tape.
    Under the Inspector General’s auditing procedures, the town will have an opportunity to meet with the auditors over the preliminary findings and later be able to include its own response and make comments to the final report.

    In other business:
    • Alderman Nancy Boczon said the town was negotiating with Hi-Byrd Inspections to continue as the town’s building official. The firm planned to resign as of June 2 over a dispute with the management of Briny Breezes, Inc., the corporation that owns the town. If an agreement is not reached or another building official is not found, town residents may be forced to seek permits through Palm Beach County, which would greatly prolong the application period.
    • The town will submit address lists and “living quarters” counts to the U.S. Census Bureau as part of its challenge to the number of housing units reported in the 2010 census. The town insists it has 484 mobile homes and four empty lots. The census counted exactly 800 dwellings. If the number is corrected, the town’s official population of 601 would likely drop as well, since the population figure is derived using a statistical formula based on the number of housing units. The correct numbers are needed for the town’s comprehensive plan and would have little effect on the amount of state revenue-sharing the town receives.                          

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