Maybe there really is a new sheriff in town?
Armando Fana has been at the helm of West Palm Beach’s perennially dysfunctional housing department just weeks. That’s been long enough for him to lay out new rules for contractors: Daily fines for missing repair deadlines. Scrutiny of change order requests. And bids that come over 10 percent of the city’s own repair estimates will be tossed. Fana outlined the tightened requirements and penalties in a recent meeting with editorial board member Stacy Singer. From the news side, two Post reporters and an editor sat in on the Q & A. It was the first time reporters had a chance to get any one-on-one time with Fana, who said he had been swamped and uncomfortable talking to reporters so soon into his new job. New or not, Fana had the unenviable task of responding to a Dec. 14 Post story detailing jaw-dropping examples of how HUD housing repair money has been squandered over the years: $101,000 in repairs ploughed into an $18,000 house. A $199 doorbell repair. A $232 wire closet shelf. And everybody’s favorite: $700 to buy and install 23 lightbulbs. Data editor Kavya Sukumar crunched the crazy numbers and came up with one bright house.
Fana wasn’t responsible for any of it. But he gets to clean up the mess. The former HUD field director said he hasn’t seen anything to date that rose past the level of waste to out-and-out fraud. But then, he also acknowledged the city doesn’t have the staff to do forensic exams of dubious deals. And he would need quite a few staffers: Most files examined by The Post topped three inches or more; a couple filled entire banker’s boxes.
Mary McKenny is off the hook. The Palm Beach County State Attorney’s office has cleared Riviera Beach’s top development official of any criminal wrongdoing.
At issue was McKinney’s real estate relationship wth Dilip Barot in 2003, when Barot was seeking a city waiver to build his seven acre Amrit resort on Singer Island.As it happens, Barot was McKinney’s landlord.McKinney purchased the yellow and white Singer Island house at 3101 Park Avenue in 2003. But for the previous two years, McKinney had been renting the house from Barot.
Barot sold it to McKinney for $180,000.
Fane Lozeman, the tech millionaire who has butted heads with Rivera Beach all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court on an unrelated city marina issue, filed the complaint with the state attorney’s office. Lozeman wrote that an adjacent property had gone for more than $400,000, raising the question of whether McKinney got her 1400-square-foot pool home at a suspect discount, and at a time when her landlord was looking for development help from the city.
But McKinney said her department doesn’t grant the type of variances Barot sought.
And comparable property sales at around the same time didn’t set off any alarms with the county’s property appraisal staff, though they told the state attorney’s investigator the McKinney sale price might have been “a little low.”
Not low enough to sustain interest in a criminal case, though.
John Knock won’t be casting any ballots on legalizing medical marijuana in Florida, but you might guess how he would vote all the same: The 67-year-old is 16 years into two life terms for conspiracy to distribute pot, sentences handed down by a federal judge in North Florida.
He is among five elderly convicts serving hard time for what New York attorney Michael Kennedy believes are small potatoes charges: nonviolent pot crimes.
Of the five, two were sentenced in Florida.
Kennedy is seeking a presidential pardon.Knock was a first-time offender. His conviction includes 20 years tacked on to the dual life sentences. it’s believed to be the harshest ever levied against a nonviolent offender in a pot case.
Among the other five men: two ex- marines, including a decorated Viet Nam vet who did multiple tours of duty in Nam- when multiple tours in a war were an option.
Read Kennedy’s statement here.