Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

St. Petersburg mayor: Council intentionally kept in the dark about home purchase

Beverly Gray was paid $80,000 for her home in Childs Park in 2009, though the Pinellas County property appraiser put its value at $24,000. A second appraisal was not done.

LARA CERRI | Times

Beverly Gray was paid $80,000 for her home in Childs Park in 2009, though the Pinellas County property appraiser put its value at $24,000. A second appraisal was not done.

ST. PETERSBURG — 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, an internal audit revealed.

The city paid Beverly Gray $80,000 for a house in Childs Park that was given a market value of $24,000 by the Pinellas County Property Appraiser's Office. The city justified the 2009 purchase by using an outdated appraisal from 2007.

Gray is a distant relative of Goliath Davis, the city's senior administrator of community enrichment. In fact, it was he who identified the house for purchase to make way for a park. He said he did not know then that Gray lived there.

The audit, released Wednesday, found that the city's Real Estate and Property Management Department left out the appraisal data for Gray's green concrete block house when it presented the deal to the City Council in December.

"This is inconsistent with routine information previously submitted to City Council for the other Childs Park Initiative properties reviewed which always included the date of the appraisal and a copy of the appraisal itself," the audit says.

Auditors also said they could not find documentation to validate why city officials didn't get a second appraisal for the Gray property.

Mayor Bill Foster, who ordered an audit after the St. Petersburg Times reported on the purchase in August, said he was surprised by the real estate department's omission of key information to the council.

"I cannot help but conclude that this omission was an intentional act," he wrote in a memo to council members. "It's against the way I do business," he told the Times Wednesday. "You cannot say in the history of this department that what happened … with Gray was just an oops."

Still, Foster, who was not yet in office when the deal took place, said no one in the real estate department is likely to be disciplined. But the episode is prompting Foster to recommend new rules pertaining to property acquisitions and the disclosure of conflicts of interests.

The audit — which was the first ordered by a mayor in at least nine years — also exonerates Davis. He removed himself from the acquisition process when he found out the home was owned by Gray, the audit said.

The audit noted that although Davis and Gray refer to each other as aunt and nephew, they are not related by blood.

Auditors said they didn't find evidence Davis was involved in any of the negotiations related to this acquisition or directly influenced its purchase price.

"We did not find an actual conflict of interest with this transaction, however we do believe that the appearance of a conflict of interest may exist," the audit says.

Davis could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Foster said on Wednesday that he's decided against discipline because the audit revealed there was no written policy requiring that appraisals be within a specific number of months of an acquisition date. The city's law department also concluded that no state ethics laws were broken.

Bruce Grimes, the director of the real estate department, was out of the office Wednesday and could not be reached for comment. But the department did address auditors findings in the report, acknowledging that the omission of the appraisal data was an "anomaly."

"It was a mistake by REPM staff," the department wrote.

Foster and the auditors have recommended new procedures and rules, including a written policy that says future appraisals can't be more than a year old, all appraisal information must be submitted to the council and city employees must document in writing any actual, potential or perceived conflicts of interest to their supervisor.

Council members Bill Dudley and Herb Polson said they support Foster's plans for new procedures.

"I think that putting a policy in place to make sure something like this doesn't happen is obviously needed," said Dudley, who admitting having mixed feelings about the issue. "I think we need to try to move on."

St. Petersburg mayor: Council intentionally kept in the dark about home purchase 11/10/10 [Last modified: Thursday, November 11, 2010 7:33am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Investigators reviewing HHS chief's private charter flights

    Politics

    WASHINGTON — Federal investigators are examining Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price's recent use of costly charter flights on the taxpayers' dime for official business.

  2. FSU gives president John Thrasher a pay bump as its academic standing rises

    College

    TALLAHASSEE — With Florida State University moving closer to becoming a top-25 public university, the school's trustees on Friday bumped up President John Thrasher's salary by 7 percent and awarded him a $200,000 bonus.

    Florida State University President John Thrasher, center, is surrounded by lawmakers in 2016 as he visits the Florida Senate. Thrasher on Friday received a pay increase to go with the university's increased academic standing, including in the latest U.S. News & World Report ranking of public universities. FSU ranks 33rd this year, and is aiming for a top-25 spot. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]

  3. Pasco driver, 66, dies in Friday crash on SR 54

    Accidents

    NEW PORT RICHEY — A 66-year-old man died Friday after he collided with oncoming traffic on State Road 54 in Pasco County, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

  4. Florida reverses decision to shield information from nursing home inspection reports

    Health

    TALLAHASSEE — Florida regulators decided Friday they will abandon the use of software that allowed them to heavily redact key words from nursing home inspection reports posted online, choosing instead to link to the more complete reports available on a federal site.

    Officials for the state Agency for Health Care Administration said Friday they will no longer use software that allowed them to heavily redact key words from nursing home inspection reports posted online. The agency has been under increased scrutiny since Sept. 13, when eight residents of The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills, pictured here, died after power was lost to an air-conditioning system during Hurricane Irma. Two more residents died this week. [South Florida Sun-Sentinel]
  5. Trump's travel ban to be replaced by restrictions tailored to certain countries

    Nation

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump's ban on travelers from six majority-Muslim countries is set to be replaced as soon as this weekend with more targeted restrictions on visits to the United States that would vary by country, officials familiar with the plans told the New York Times on Friday.