Inspector General Says Lauderhill Employees Violated State Ethics Law

WSVN — The Broward Inspector General says a pair of high-level, City of Lauderhill employees violated state ethics law. The stinging report released today follows a 7News investigation that exposed hundreds of thousands of dollars in home loans to directors of the city’s Housing Authority. Carmel is back on the case you saw here, first.

Lauderhill’s Assistant City Manager Kennie Hobbs and City Operations Manager Julie Saunders got big mortgages financed through the Lauderhill Housing Authority. The pair are also the Housing Authority’s top managers.

Broward’s inspector general calls the deals a violation of state ethics laws.

Broward Inspector General John Scott: "They got loans from the agency that they run, and that agency even now administers those loans. Florida law simply doesn’t allow that. It’s a clear conflict of interest."

7News first raised that issue last November. Our investigation revealed Hobbs got a loan from the LHA of $375,000 to buy a second home.

Carmel Cafiero: "You don’t find a conflict of interest in that you borrowed that money?"

Kennie Hobbs: "No. It was approved by the board, which was required."

And we revealed Saunders got a $318,150 loan for this house.

Carmel Cafiero: "Miss Saunders, Carmel Cafiero from Channel 7. I’d like to talk to you about your loan?" (Saunders slams her car door.)

At the time, Saunders had nothing to say. Now the inspector general’s report accuses Saunders and Hobbs of "ethical misconduct" in obtaining the loans.

According to the report, Hobbs also got repair money that was used instead to install travertine tile and an aquarium, and that Saunders got money to replace her roof, but instead remodeled her kitchen.

John Scott: "Those happen to be particular benefits that these two managers got. It’s very unclear whether those benefits were made available to the rank and file employees."

The inspector general’s report questions everything from record keeping by the Housing Authority to the integrity of documents provided during the investigation.

The report points out:

  • The Housing Authority falsely claimed to have provided documentation it did not provide.
  • It provided differing versions of the same documents.
  • It provided versions of documents that differ from those obtained from other parties.

As a result, the inspector general is asking the City of Lauderhill to review and correct issues with the way the Housing Authority is operating.

John Scott: "There’s a bad situation in terms of record keeping by the Housing Authority, and it’s simply a lack of transparency."

The inspector general is sending his report to the State Ethics Commission and asking it to also investigate.

The Housing Authority’s attorney responded with a statement that reads in part: "The Lauderhill Housing Authority, its board of commissioners and its employees affirmatively deny the allegations contained in the OIG’s final report."

Carmel Cafiero: "The findings could have been worse. The Broward State Attorney’s Office also investigated the loans. It determined no criminal laws had been violated. Carmel Cafiero, 7News."

If the State Ethics Commission investigates and finds the Housing Authority managers violated the law, penalties can include fines, suspension or even removal from their positions.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Broward Inspector General Report
www.broward.org/InspectorGeneral/Documents/20151007OIG14023FinalReport.pdf

IF YOU HAVE A STORY FOR CARMEL TO INVESTIGATE:

Miami-Dade: 305-627-CLUE
Broward: 954-921-CLUE
E-mail: clue@wsvn.com
You can also send a tweet to @carmelonthecase