FORT LAUDERDALE, Florida. – Fort Lauderdale commissioners are expected to discuss a motion Tuesday night to reach an overall agreement with One Stop Shop FTL, LLC.
The matter comes before the commissioners after a one-stop-shop meeting on February 15 that resulted in a sudden decision to abruptly fire the city’s longtime independent auditor, John Herbst.
Mayor Dean Trantalis said he thought the city auditor had “gone out of his way” when he decided to investigate what Herbst described at the meeting as a “credible” complaint that his office received regarding the city’s police chief who misused taxpayer funds by working a second job on city time.
But in an interview with Local 10 News after the dismissal vote, the mayor described the ongoing main inquiry as the “tipping point”, adding that it was an “accumulation of things” which include One Stop Shop and related financial report from Ernst & Young. .
One Stop Shop FTL, LLC is the name of an unsolicited mixed-use development proposal to turn just over three acres of city-owned land at 301 Andrews Avenue into a music venue with restaurants and a park community.
On February 15, a study produced by the renowned accounting firm Ernst & Young was discussed at a workshop of the municipal commission. Key findings from the business plan included that construction costs are lower than one would expect for a project of this type; and that although the city can bring in between 3 and 6 million dollars a year in rent, this project makes the plaintiff work up to a million dollars a year and that is only after the fifth year of operation
The report also states: “Some of the key entry assumptions are not clear or optimistic…the project does not appear to be profitable until year 5 of operations, even before rent payment”
Commissioner Steve Glassman, whose district is in the project, challenged the study from the cover photo used by Ernst & Young to most of the information in their study, calling it “inadequate”. He criticized Ernst & Young’s decision not to present the findings of their “unbranded” report to the commissioners at the February workshop meeting. He then took aim at the city auditor who explained that he was not Ernst & Young.
“It’s not my report,” Herbst said during the Feb. 15 workshop. “Let me be clear to everyone in the room, I’m not here to defend Ernst & Young. They ask me questions to which I have no answers. »
Hours later, shortly before 11 p.m., Glassman, Trantalis and Commissioner Ben Sorenson voted to fire the longtime auditor.
During that discussion, Glassman said he had lost faith in the city auditor, adding that he did not believe the commission’s priorities were being met, adding “items on who we’ve worked for for years and who don’t seem to be getting the attention they need to cross the finish line and yet I hear now that we’re spending time investigating the chief of police.
Last week, Local 10 News asked Glassman to clarify whether his comment was referring to One Stop Shop and what, in the context of his remarks, did he mean by making it “cross the finish line.” He never responded to this request.
On Tuesday night’s committee agenda is a motion to approve a global agreement with One Stop FTL, LLC.
State records indicate that the registered manager of One Stop Shop FTL, LLC is Jeffrey J. John. According to the Ernst & Young study, which a city spokesperson said was to be paid for by the plaintiff, the operating partner is Damn Good Hospitality Group which “has a history of operating Revolution Live in Fort Lauderdale and an existing exclusivity deal with LiveNation for events that could help boost project activation.”
City records show the registered lobbyist for Damn Good Hospitality Group is Stephanie Toothaker.
The property development partner, explains the document prepared by Ernst & Young, is Banyan Development, which says it has experience developing properties of a similar scale, but that this proposal “did not include examples of experience with “infill” developments and/or entertainment facilities.”
A city auditor since 2006, not a single disciplinary record could be found in the 16 years Herbst conducted a series of independent investigations and audits. The auditor’s office was created following a 2004 referendum when voters approved amending the city charter to appoint a city auditor who would report directly to the city commission “and be responsible for the conduct of financial and compliance audits of municipal government and municipal officials”.
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