North Miami / NMB

North Miami Beach

North Miami Beach council looks into clearing up discretionary fund questions

 

Special to the Miami Herald

North Miami Beach council members called for clearer instructions about how council members use discretionary funds after confusion arose about what is allowable.

Two residents complained to the City Council at Tuesday night’s meeting that Councilman Frantz Pierre had spent money inappropriately after rumors surfaced that Pierre had misused funds. Pierre was not present at the meeting and did not return calls to the Miami Herald.

Councilman Anthony DeFillipo said the council is looking at every penny that goes in and out of the city’s coffers.

“We will not tolerate, in any point of time, any misappropriation of funds or abuse of these discretionary funds, at any time whatsoever,” DeFillipo said.

Councilwoman Marlen Martell said it was a good time to design a uniform process for how the city doles out money for contingency funds, travel for counsel members, fee waivers for conferences and donations.

“There are things we have to talk about now, especially at budget time. Any revenues that we do not take in, is revenue were not going to have to provide services,” Martell said.

Rules have been in place since September 2012, governing how the city donates to charitable causes. The mayor and council members are allotted $7,000 each to spend from their contingency fund for travel, memberships and other related city activities, said City Finance Director Janette Smith.

“It’s never been formalized. As long as they (council members) can account for their spending, the money gets transferred into their account,” Smith said.

Councilwoman Beth Spiegel told council members that she wanted them to donate what remains of their allotment for school programs. She recanted when she realized council members still needed to use those funds for important causes.

“I was going to ask my council members to consider donating what remains of their discretionary funds for computers for Alan Park, Washington Park or after school programs for our kids, but then I realized I shouldn’t have asked until after the League of Cities meeting in August because that’s valuable for us to attend,” she said.

According to a transaction analysis from October 2013 to July 15, the council members spent as follows from their contingency fund which includes fees associated with travel, registration fees, memberships, subscriptions and sponsorships. Not all members attended the same conferences or events.

Mayor George Vallejo, $5,110.10.

Councilman Frantz Pierre, $4,450.33.

Councilman Anthony DeFillipo, $2,638.33.

Councilwoman Marlen Martell, $2,243.28.

Councilwoman Phyllis Smith, $1,824.33.

Councilwoman Barbara Kramer, $1,322.28.

Councilwoman Beth Spiegel, $1,165.00.

In other news, Police Chief J. Scott Dennis said in response to the retirement of 16 officers last year, the department hired six new officers, reorganized senior staff, improved community based patrols, and created a new marine patrol unit, after nearly eight years of inactivity.

Recently, the marine unit completed diving and removing debris from the entire Snake Creek Canal in preparation for hurricane season.

Dennis reported that crime statistics improved overall, but enforcement still remained a challenge.

“We put a lot of resources to that with our street crimes unit and last month we were down to one shooting. One is too much but at one point we had nine in a given month. That was not too far in the distant past,” Dennis said.

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