By Betty Wells
State auditors were scheduled to arrive in the offices of the Delray Beach Community Redevelopment Agency on April 30 to begin an audit for the Joint Legislative Auditing Committee.
The audit was requested by State Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth, in late March. Joint Legislative Auditing Committee Chairman Joseph Abruzzo, D-Wellington, then ordered the review into how the CRA is spending its funds — specifically, whether it’s legal for the agency to give money to the Arts Garage, a nonprofit music and theater venue.
Marilyn Rosetti, audit manager for the state auditor general’s office, said that the last time the state conducted an operational audit of a CRA was in 2006. Four audits of CRAs have been performed, she said. Rosetti said three auditors were assigned to the Delray Beach review.
“This is an operational audit, not financial, and we don’t want to duplicate a financial audit,” she said. The CRA’s finances are audited yearly by an outside, independent certified public accountant. The CRA budget for the 2012-13 fiscal year includes $310,735 for the Arts Garage. The CRA gave $304,795 to the nonprofit last year, according to a staff analysis by the auditing committee.
Gerry Franciosa, president of Delray Citizens Coalition Board, asked the city to find out if the payments are legal; an opinion issued in 2010 by former Attorney General Bill McCollum said CRA grants to “promote tourism and economic development, as well as to nonprofits providing socially beneficial programs, would appear outside the scope of the community redevelopment act.”
Delray Beach Mayor Cary Glickstein has sparred with Abruzzo, saying that the audit is politically motivated.
On April 24, CRA Executive Director Diane Colonna said that the state auditors “have asked for everything,” and “we’re giving them everything that they are asking for, of course.”
Lisa Bright, the former executive director of the Boynton Beach CRA, said at a city commission public hearing on April 16 that, “I am the person who requested the audit.”
She said she did so because Colonna “willingly interjected herself into the investigation of me” giving a deposition during an investigation of Bright’s conduct at Boynton’s CRA.
Bright said she had a right to request information about the operations of the Delray CRA, as she “attempts to restore my good name” in an upcoming trial. Bright is suing the Boynton Beach CRA for wrongful termination.
Colonna said that Bright’s statement didn’t surprise her. “Anyone can say they asked for an audit, or any other kind of information about the CRA.”
Rosetti said she couldn’t predict how long it would take to complete the audit, or when results would be released. “Every audit is different,” she said. “There are different facets each and every time.”