Taxpayer-Funded Job Facility Empty Since 2011

By: William Patrick FloridaWatchdog.org | Posted: July 3, 2014 3:55 AM

A taxpayer-funded educational facility in Miami-Dade County intended to teach at-risk teens job skills is sitting vacant and unused, which has been the case since 2011.

The building, in Cutler Bay, fails to benefit the public despite ample initial funding, according to a county inspector general’s audit. It’s also doubtful a single student has benefited from the project as designed.

As part of a community grant agreement between the county and Bay Point Schools Inc, a nonprofit alternative school for minors with criminal pasts, $1 million in taxpayer money went toward the construction of a 13,400-square-foot building for the purpose of vocational training programs. The Lennar Foundation, a charitable arm of a nationwide housing corporation, pledged an additional $1 million.

Bay Point Schools is no longer a legal entity, and auditors have determined at least 80 percent of money was lost because of poor decisions.

If there’s a saving grace, it’s the option for the local government and other stakeholders to find a tenant, but nothing has been secured.

Approved in May 2008, the building was meant to be part of the larger campus that sits on land owned by the Ethel and W. George Kennedy Family Foundation, a Miami-Dade charitable group focusing on children’s issues.

But by December 2008, the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice, Bay Point Schools’ primary funding source, announced it was withdrawing its financial support from the Cutler Bay complex. Three months later DJJ pulled out, and students were either relocated or released. State budget cuts resulting from the economic recession were one reason, a reported “history of noncompliance” another.

Watchdog.org contacted DJJ for examples of noncompliance but did not immediately receive a response. News reports at the time cited escapes, allegations of abuse and neglect and problems meeting basic state standards.

Despite the impending state funding collapse that effectively closed the school’s doors, Bay Point Schools continued building the facility, and the county’s Office of Capital Improvements continued to fund it.

“These red flags and related issues that occurred almost since the inception of this project, which OCI was aware of, should have prompted it to consider that there was a strong possibility that Bay Point Schools would not be able to provide services for public benefit for 25 years, (the term of the agreement),” reads the report.

Had construction stopped when DJJ pulled its funding in March 2009, only 17 percent of the $1 million in taxpayer support would have been lost. But construction continued, and a building that housed no one was finally completed in July 2011, two years behind schedule.

The county closed the project four months later, and the full $1 million grant was gone.

Attempts to verify expenses proved difficult, according to the audit.

About $831,000 of the public funding was spent after Bay Point Schools, Miami-Dade County and the town of Cutler Bay were told the project was likely doomed because of the lack of state support.

The final $121,680 was distributed at the end of the project, when it was clear that Bay Point Schools was no longer operational. The inspector general determined the money should not have been distributed due to important missing documentation. But examining additional records proved impossible.

“We were informed that during the time that Bay Point Schools was being evicted from the premises, records related to its handling of the $1 million of (grant) funds that it received were inadvertently destroyed. This action deprived the Office of the Inspector General (the county or any other oversight agency) of the ability to audit critical aspects of how the grantee administered and expended (grant) funds,” the report states.

Without the records, officials could not verify Bay Point Schools’ use of the $1 million Lennar Foundation pledge.

Watchdog.org tried to contact Bay Point Schools, but several listed numbers were disconnected. The Florida Division of Corporations lists the nonprofit as inactive.

Contact William Patrick at wpatrick@watchdog.org.

Tags: News, Politics

Comments (4)

Sue Johnson
7:33AM JUL 5TH 2014
Follow the money. Then Governor John Ellis Bush's former business partner's widow, Dr. Mary Louise Cole-Wood, was granted Federal Funds under then President George W Bush's administration to build a monument to herself. This woman had grandiose plans to build a school. She hired thugs to manage the kids and inexperienced staff to run the education department. Any time someone called her out on waste of funds, she would call her buddy Jeb. Sniff Sniff - smells like Republican's fault.
Rebecca Sharp
7:53PM JUL 3RD 2014
Well someone isn't "poor." "at least 80 percent of money was lost because of poor decisions." Someone FOUND that 80% and spent it somewhere! No accountability for the unaccountability is what's wrong with the STATE handing out OUR taxpayer money to begin with! One thing I plan to put a stop to once I am in office. What a sad joke!
C Breeze
7:07AM JUL 3RD 2014
This is just one more failed example of "The Progressive Way" of "social engineering" at work.
6:55AM JUL 3RD 2014
Jobs? Jobs? What Jobs? We don't need no stinken Jobs!" Promising jobs to Democrats has become a joke.

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