Bartlett Park resident has beef with city audit of land buy
ST. PETERSBURG -- Scott Swift, a Bartlett Park resident, isn't happy with a city audit that found no one should be disciplined for the purchase last year of a house owned by Beverly Gray, an aunt by marriage to Goliath Davis, a top city administrator.
The audit of the purchase exonerated Davis of any involvement, and even questioned to what extent Gray was related to Davis. Mayor Bill Foster said there wouldn't be any discipline of anyone, even though he believes city employees intentionally from City Council the fact that a an outdated appraisal was being used to justify the cost of the house.
Upon reading the audit, Swift, who was vice president of the Bartlett Park Neighborhood Association in 2006 and 2007, fired off this email to City Council:
Life is full of teachable moments. Parents often get new opportunities each day to discipline their children when they disobey, or when the new puppy chews up a favorite pair of shoes or leaves a “gift” on the living room carpet. Government leaders are also provided teachable moments when public officials make a “mistake” that costs the taxpayer's money. Yesterday in St. Petersburg we had one of those moments and so far missed the opportunity to teach a lesson and send two powerful positive messages to taxpayers
- Protection and proper management of tax dollars is our #1 priority.
- “Principles” are more important than Personalities.
A city audit released yesterday found that City officials deviated from their normal practices when they purchased a Childs Park home owned by a relative of a top city administrator last year. The city overpaid the relative an amount of $56,000 in taxpayer money because an outdated appraisal from 2007 was used when calculating the purchase in 2009.
Even though Mayor Foster determined "I cannot help but to conclude that this ...was an intentional act" and the audit reported it believed "the appearance of a conflict of interest may exist" in Goliath Davis' role in the purchases, no discipline has yet been ordered.
So basically thousands of St. Petersburg homeowners who've lost up to 60% of our home values since 2007 just paid for the relative of a City Official to walk away with a nice profit of $56,000 of our tax dollars. How many of you would like to have the opportunity to turn back the clock and sell or refinance your home today using a 2007 home appraisal? I bet most would jump at the chance to regain the lost equity you planned to use for repairs, improvements, your child’s college education or retirement. Equity that is gone and most likely not coming back.
What has occurred is something called "theft". Or, as we used to say when I was a kid, "stealing". But since most City officials have college educations and often wear suits in public we're not allowed to call it what it is. "Misappropriation" is probably most the common synonym used in audit reports when public officials misuse our tax dollars. This administration called it a "mistake".
If I reached into your wallet to “misappropriate” $20 dollars from the leather, or if I made a "mistake” and breached your savings account of $1000, it would be called "theft". Most likely my "mistake" would earn some jail time and cause me to lose my job. Society’s punitive method of discipline is designed to teach lessons hoping that when the measure is completed we will not repeat the “mistake” and chose to become a positive contributor to an orderly society.
Parents painfully learn that when they miss the opportunities to discipline their children at a young age, they are more likely to disobey authority figures and commit acts more serious than not taking out the garbage. When we fail to discipline the new puppy, it’s much more difficult to stop the adult dog from chewing up the living room couch or leaving now much larger “gifts” around the house.
So how do we prevent or discourage future $56,000 “mistakes” with taxpayer money if we do not discipline those involved now? If we fail to take advantage of these teachable moments, what kind of message are we sending to children and homeowners who’ve lost all of their hard-earned equity?
If you find these kinds of “mistakes” with our tax money unacceptable, I encourage you to contact City Council and Mayor and let them know “enough is enough” and it’s their responsibility to discipline officials who misuse our tax dollars. Please forward this to your friends and contacts as well and encourage them to register their complaint.
City Council: firstname.lastname@example.org (727) 893-7117
Mayor Bill Foster: email@example.com (727) 893-7201
Bartlett Park Neighborhood - Resident