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More money needed to pay for Palmetto CRA audit


Invoices from the law firm conducting an audit of Palmetto's Community Redevelopment Agency are driving the cost of the audit over $10,000, and the CRA at its meeting tonight will have to consider approving an increase.


What: Palmetto City Commission and CRA meeting.

When: 7 p.m. tonight.

Where: Palmetto City Hall, 515 Eighth Ave. W., Palmetto, FL 34221. 

The Palmetto City Commission is meeting tonight at 7 p.m., and the CRA board meeting will take place during a recess of the City Commission meeting.

Susan Churuti of the law firm of Bryant, Miller, Olive is conducting a compliance/legal audit of the CRA. At the last CRA meeting, Churuti advised the board to buy out former executive director Tanya Lukowiak, who was on leave with pay, and the board voted 5-0 on a motion to approve the buyout.

Churuti said she had found "troubling" activities during her audit, which will not be completed for several months.

The agreement with Bryant, Miller, Olive for the CRA audit said that the $10,000 figure could not be exceeded without prior written approval, according to documents on the city's Web site. The city has paid two invoices totaling $5,598.10, and additional invoices totaling $6,932.91 have been received for work through June 30.

While the board could approve a payment of $2,531.01 for the difference, staff said it is recommending an increase of at least $5,000 to allow for potential unbilled July invoices. The increase would be funded from existing budget lines in the CRA's 2009 budget.

Palmetto Mayor Shirley Groover Bryant said Monday afternoon that the decision is up to the board as to how far they want to go.

"We've found the major issues, I hope," she said. "I would like to go ahead and have a report on what's been alleged. The proof thereof would have to be by some other entity."

An outside agency that can pay more may be able to go deeper with the audit, Bryant said.

"My concern was to protect the taxpayers' dollars," she said. "I'm very protective of that, and that was my goal."


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