NORTH MIAMI BEACH, Fla. – An investigative report released about the alleged misuse of taxpayer funds by the former administration of North Miami Beach cited massive misspending of funds, some as high as personal spending on Amazon to the tune of almost $300,000, and even a child support payment for $300.
The North Miami Beach City Commission appointed Michael A. Pizzi, Jr., as special counsel in May of 2023 to investigate the misspending and misuse of city funds during the past several years.
The report was released on July 18, 2023 with Pizzi stating in his executive summary that he found that it was not a case of “isolated errors or an occasional rogue employee or negligent oversight and incompetence. This is a case of intentional ignoring well-known rules governing expenditure of public funds.”
Pizzi’s report also states that interviews with staffers may show evidence city resources and funds were used to assist political candidates.
North Miami Beach has had its share of upheaval including city employees arrested for stealing Publix gift cards meant for a resident giveaway and some of the gift cards just missing, the arrest of the city’s mayor, and absentee commissioners who failed to show up at city meetings and stalling business.
But this investigation focused squarely on the abuse of the city’s P-card program which, the report identifies as $1,382,062.27 in spending that violated the policy.
On March 22, 2023, commissioners voted to fire City Manager Arthur “Duke” Sorey III, who was hired for a four-year term on April 20, 2021. He is cited numerous times in the investigative report for his involvement in the alleged P-card spending spree.
The city of North Miami Beach P-card, or procurement card, was instituted, according to a policies and procedures document, was instituted to streamline “small-dollar” purchases.
• To provide an efficient method of purchasing and paying for goods and services not exceeding $1000 per purchase unless otherwise approved.
• To reduce the use of petty cash and blanket purchase orders.
• To reduce the time spent by the Accounts Payable clerk processing low dollar transactions
In the report, Pizzi lists what he refers to as the “most egregious expenditures so far.”
- Food purchases totaling $70,906.62.
- Charitable contributions totaling $86,519.75
- Retail stores totaling $185,683.85
- Amazon Purchases totaling $296,211.14 (Books, Music, personal items etc.)
- Random number of hardware purchases totaling $358,339.04
- Amusement and entertainment purchases totaling $29,401.20, including a $1,200 purchase for a Miami Marlins game.
- Unclassified purchases that appear personal in nature $68,600.09
- Donations to civic organizations totaling $21,805.42
Some smaller abuses include but are not limited to:
- Child support/ alimony fees of $339
- Bicycle purchase for $500
The findings also revealed that a database received from the city of North Miami Beach showed less than the actual number of purchases on the P cards issued. For example, it stated, according to the database, that Sorey used his P card a total of 73 times, but prior spreadsheets showed that the card was used a total of 218 times.
Pizzi refers to Sorey in the investigation documents by saying:
“After the Former City Manager was hired, there was an explosion of P Card assignment and expenditures. Also problematic was the increased and sometimes excessive usage of City issued Cards by the City Manager, Senior Staff and City Commissioners, including but not limited to making donations, paying Bar association memberships and using food trucks for quasi political events.”
(See the spreadsheet of spending below)