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N. Miami Beach looks at increased transparency on use of contingency funds

 

Special to the Miami Herald

There may be more transparency into how North Miami Beach council members spend their contingency funds for work-related travel, if recommendations by the new city attorney are enacted.

At a recent council hearing, confusion surfaced regarding how council members used their $7,000 in contingency funds slotted for travel and related fees. Two residents complained that Councilman Frantz Pierre went to Haiti for a leadership conference earlier this year, which they deemed not relevant to city business.

“We already had a policy in place. There was no illegality that happened,” Councilwoman Marlen Martel said. Martell initiated the discussion last week after she received more charitable requests for help from needy residents.

“At a time the county is asking for 10 percent cuts across the board, those are real cuts for residents. In the past, we’ve had demons regarding our past situation with budget, but now (City Attorney) Mr. (Jose) Smith is doing his due diligence ...” to help ensure money will be well spent, Martell said.

On July 18, Smith delivered recommendations for the council to establish a new resolution that would give each council member a say in who and where their colleagues go for city related events. The memo outlined the following:

The resolution should delineate specific functions and identify reasonable and necessary refundable expenses while counsel members are performing official duties.

Update the current city “Travel Policy” to comply with Florida laws that makes false claims a second-degree misdemeanor, punishable by 60 days or less in prison with a $500 fine.

Require any other exceptions only permissible by a majority vote of the City Council.

Require all travel reimbursements and supporting documents be posted on the city’s website.

The next meeting will be in the council chambers on the second floor of City Hall, 17011 NE 19th Ave.

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