COLLIER COUNTY, Fla. - New details about a Collier program run with tax dollars, now being investigated for possible misuse of your money.
Friday, we told you about the Neighborhood Stabilization Program. The county uses stimulus money to buy, fix, and sell foreclosures. Commissioners discussed concerns over work the county was billed for, but wasn't done. Today, WINK News sat down with the Clerk of Courts to talk about the house the prompted the audit, and we heard what one contractor has to say about the program.
"If in fact, I made payment knowing those deficiencies I would be committing a crime. So yeah, obviously it's of importance to me we make sure we're paying for what we got," Clerk of Court Dwight Brock explains.
The initial house that brought about these concerns is on Seminole Avenue in East Naples. The county was invoiced for stucco, but when Brock visited the house, there was no stucco completed.
That may have triggered the audit, but it's what Brock found out next that left him questioning not only contractors; but also county employees who run the program.
"The vendor was submitting invoices that didn't have a date on them. So we asked why he was submitting invoices without a date. We were told by the contractor, it was because they were told not to put a date on them. We found that very interesting."
The contractor also told Brock the Housing Department instructed him to submit payment for work not done.
Another contractor, Vince Raymer, who worked on six houses in the program, says his issue with it is waiting to be paid.
"Ninety days," is the longest Raymer says he's waited for payment. The invoice is for $4,200, but that's a drop in the bucket compared to the $25,000 he says he's owed that's now 60 days over due.
Raymer says he and other contractors have had to walk away from projects for weeks at a time because the county is months late on payments.
The Clerk's office only shows receiving Raymer's invoice in mid June, but they have no way of telling when the Housing Department received it, or who dated it. Brock says Raymer hasn't received payment because he hasn't fulfilled his contract and work still remains to be completed.
Preliminary audit findings of the dozens of houses in the program should be available in a few weeks. In the end, it should show if the two houses in question are isolated incidents, or a bigger problem exists in the program. Once completed, Brock says anything done with tax payer money that could incite criminal charges will be handed to the Sheriff's office to examine.