North Miami may conduct a forensic audit of the city’s finances.
The City Council voted 3-1 to allow City Manager Aleem Ghany to seek cost estimates and gather information for the audit. The council suggested that the audit should go back as far as 2004 or 2006.
“Bring us a package and then everybody’s going to know how much it costs,” Acting Mayor Philippe Bien-Aime said. “If we’re not ready, or we don’t have enough information, we bring it back.”
The move was sponsored by Councilwoman Carol Keys, who said that she when she first ran for office, she consistently stressed the need for the audit.
“I feel in the past several years, our city has a severe lack of transparency,” Keys said. “Before we move forward we have to know where we came from.”
In an email to supporters, Councilman Scott Galvin alleged that over a 10-month period, between 2012 and 2013, the city did not issue utility bills to residents. The message also expresses concerns over multiple departments exceeding their budget due to retirement payments and staff turnover.
Some residents added that the audit would help improve the perception of the city or reveal any illicit behavior or practices from current and former city leadership.
“We are not guilty of anything; we want to preempt anybody thinking that we are guilty of behaviors,” said resident Alita Rosenfeld. “We’re going to check and double check what has been done by, perhaps, predecessors and not repeat any mistakes.”
Others, like former Mayor Joe Celestin and former councilman Jean Marcellus, questioned the necessity of the audit, noting that the city already goes through a regular annual audit of its budget.
Councilwoman Marie Steril recorded the no vote, stating that she did not feel informed enough about the discussion of the audit.
Galvin said it’s one of the most important things the council has voted on in years.
“We owe it to ourselves, we owe it to the city. to know exactly where we stand without doubt,” Galvin said. “We’ve got to do this to put our city’s good name back in a good spot.”