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Bringing Kessler back a decision driven by politics

March 13, 2010
Cape Coral Daily Breeze

To the editor:

On Monday March 1, "Chicago style" politics reared its ugly head in Cape Coral. With the removal of Councilmember Grill, an opponent to bringing back Michael Kessler, council (while Grill's seat was still warm) voted 4-3 to bring back Kessler. Mr. "I can't stay for questions", Michael Kessler is returning to "complete" his UEP audit at additional expense to the ratepayers.

We heard no motion for an RFP or to seek other qualified auditors. There was no discussion on where the suggested $60,000 will come from. The original Kessler audit was paid from utility funds. Now the mayor and his three roadies want to steamroller a sweetheart, sole source, deal to Mr. "I can't stay to answer questions" Kessler.

In an e-mail, City Auditor Dona Newman confirmed that the ratepayers paid $130,000 for that audit. According to Ms. Newman; "Our RFP specifically requested a contract compliance audit. Kessler chose to respond to the RFP stating he would do a forensic audit and report on contract compliance. His report stated that he did a forensic audit." Ms. Newman also stated that she; "requested his work papers as was covered by the contract and notified him that the City did not pay final payments for service until the full service was received. He provided his work papers and claimed his engagement was complete so I authorized his final payment." It seems pretty conclusive that Kessler's audit was completed, since he received his final payment.

It's also disturbing that during council's "deliberation" no one questioned the city manager or city auditor who, unlike the mayor and current council members, were intimately involved with the 2006 Kessler audit. These employees are direct reports to the city council yet neither was asked substantive questions about the audit and or its completeness. Apparently, the mayor of the city of Cape Coral is simply not interested in what city administration may have to say about the Kessler audit. Sullivan's damn-the-torpedoes mentality and actions question the credibility of the City's professional staff. One must question why.

On July 24, 2006, at public hearing, Kessler provided the city with the results of his forensic audit. Kessler made claims and allegations of possible wrong doing but provided no proof. When it came time for administration to ask Kessler questions he said he had a flight to catch and left much to the dismay of many. If this mayor, three council members and others want to believe the Kessler report was "unfinished" then perhaps Kessler needs to provide proof of his allegations, innuendos and conjecture as part of the money that was paid to him in 2006. In my opinion Kessler audit "outcomes" are provided contained on his Web page in his Newsletter Volume X. He seems predisposed in believing the existence of construction fraud and bid rigging. It's now been more than three and a half years since Kessler "blew the whistle" to the DOJ on Cape Coral. Where are the indictments?

The city's response from various sources to the 2006 Kessler Audit is provided on the city's Web page for all to see. The city provided this information as a result of; "the Kessler report is quite troubling because it paints an inaccurate and unfair picture of the project and its participants (including City staff). However, the troubling part is not with the many suspicions, claims and violations, but rather the lack of documentation to support them. We have provided the Kessler report and all the documentation that was submitted with this report. We also have provided an audit conducted by Price Waterhouse Coopers (PwC), one of the "Big Four" auditing firms in the country. Because the Kessler Report made accusations about the City's contractor, PwC was hired by MWH Constructors to review all of the documentation given to Kessler and provide an audit report as well. PwC professional auditors came to conclusions that are diametrically opposite from Kessler."

When it comes to the petition the mayor touts as reason for bringing Kessler back, I question the validity and certification of those signatures. I also question whether those signatures are from sewer and water utility ratepayers, the stakeholders who are responsible for paying for the audit or if those people still live here. As I recall, many of the signatures were from the north Cape where there are no utility rate payers.

It's time this city moved forward and stopped looking, as some believe, for the smoking gun of corruption and wrong doing that has never been proven perhaps, because it simply does not exist.

Have you had enough yet?

Ralph LePera

Cape Coral



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