By Tim Pallesen
Money given to nonprofits by the Delray Beach Community Redevelopment Agency will be examined in an audit by the Florida Auditor General’s Office.
The Legislature’s Joint Audit Committee ordered the audit April 1 at the request of Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth, after questions were raised last month.
“It was an issue that was discussed throughout the election season,” committee Chairman Sen. Joseph Abruzzo, D-Wellington, said. “I believe it is in the best interests to at least check.”
Abruzzo said the auditor general will also examine possible conflicts of interests between CRA board members and contractors who do work for the agency.
A city planning and zoning board member, Gerry Franciosa, wrote city officials last month saying it was illegal for the CRA to financially support the Arts Garage, a popular music and arts venue.
“The CRA has run amuck and gotten way out of bounds,” Franciosa said again early this month. “This is the perfect example.”
The CRA spent $304,795 on the Arts Garage last year, a legislative staff report said.
CRA Executive Director Diane Colonna said expenditures to nonprofits that benefit downtown development are proper.
“Our attorneys have looked at it and advised that everything we’re doing is allowed by state statutes,” Colonna said. “I hope the audit confirms what we believe is correct.”
“The Arts Garage has been a huge hit, bringing many families downtown for the first time,” Colonna said.
The CRA also contributes money to Old Square Square, the Spady Museum, the city library and other nonprofits that attract people to the downtown.
Mayor Cary Glickstein defended the CRA and said the state audit is unnecessary.
“I hope this audit is not the result of one person’s letter that was full of innuendo and no factual information,” Glickstein said.
“Our CRA has been a model for the state and the country,” he said. “The CRA has been funding nonprofits since its inception. This is not some sinister plot.”
Franciosa quotes a 2010 written opinion by former Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum that CRA money should not be given to promote socially beneficial programs. “The CRA is operating outside its scope by funding the Arts Garage with tax dollars,” Franciosa said.
The CRA says its purpose in supporting the Arts Garage is to bring Atlantic Avenue traffic into the Pineapple Grove Arts District.
“The CRA should be happy this audit is happening because they can get a definitive answer from the state whether they can do this,” Franciosa said.
By Tim Pallesen