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Oh the webs we weave, when we try to deceive!

BY ARMANDO GRUNDY-GOMES, AUGUST 27, 2019

A shorter version of this article previously appeared in the Gainesville Sun.

Over the past few months, local media and local government have brought some good old-fashioned Florida Sunshine to issues of accountability, oversight, and transparency.  The Reichert House has been one of the focal points of that sunshine, and much of the news has been eye-opening, to say the least. For the sake of transparency, it is important to know that I have personally volunteered at and I am highly supportive of the existence, mission, and work of the Reichert House, as an organization. The Reichert House does phenomenal work with young men, setting them up for success and instilling lifelong values that will serve them well as they become adults.

While I am very supportive of the organization, I also support having accountability, oversight, and transparency over ALL areas of local government and programs, and Reichert House is no exception. What occurred on April 18, 2019 at the Gainesville City Commission meeting, during which a partial audit of the Reichert House with some very glaring concerns was made public, was very disconcerting. The concerns were not only about what was produced by the subsequently-fired City Auditor, Carlos Holt, but moreover the reaction and attempt by some members in leadership to make the issue of the audit one about race. Let’s be clear: the audit has ZERO to due with race, and it’s not smart for anyone to make that audit about race. The claims were being made because the organization serves and is operated by African-Americans. It is shameful that anyone would turn the matter of having a city program that receives nearly $1 million dollars from taxpayers into a Black and White issue! Both the City of Gainesville and, more importantly, taxpayers have a right to know where and how our tax dollars are being spent, regardless of race and/or ethnicity.

The local audit found some very concerning issues of financial controls but also areas of possible malfeasance and misfeasance. As of right now, nothing is set in stone with regards to the findings, but the fact that the Reichert House has not been audited in over 10 years is equally appalling and unacceptable. It is very disturbing that there are three to four different entities operating out of the Reichert House and our city program is receiving Federal and State monies and somehow transferring those funds to another organization that the city has no contract with.  [Editor’s note: Since Part A of the audit was released, the Interim City Manager has held training sessions with Reichert House staff to educate them about financial processes. Part B of the audit is still ongoing.]

Some folks in local government have also attempted to attack, besmirch, and malign the character of Carlos Holt (former City Auditor); however, he is a professional and the information he put out about the Reichert House has been in question for years. Some city leaders proposed starting over with an independent audit, supposedly because Holt’s alleged conflict of interest invalidated the entire audit. Having an independent audit is a fair request and one I support if it is both a forensic audit and also independent of the City Manager, the Gainesville Police Department (GPD), and the City Auditor’s office. The Chief of the GPD should not be the overall administrator of the Reichert House. With crime on the rise, we need our Police Chief to be focused on keeping us safe and overseeing the operations and morale of GPD.

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The solutions to addressing this matter are the following: 

  1. A Forensic Audit of the Reichert House for the period 2006–2019 should commence, and it should be independent of the City Manager, GPD, and the City Auditor.  
  2. The program should be completely removed from GPD and GPD’s budget.  
  3. A new administrator, independent from Chief Tony Jones and GPD, should oversee the Reichert House.
  4. The Reichert House should be moved into Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs or an independent department.
  5. All entities of the Reichert House (Reichert House, Inc.; Reichert House Youth Academy; and other organizations) that were created in the past should be immediately dissolved into one name and entity: The Reichert House.
  6. Any outside organizations working with the Reichert House, such as but not limited to Palm Breeze, should have a contract with the City of Gainesville and have that relationship evaluated for accountability, ethics, and transparency, to make sure it is a good fit.
  7. Review, update, and put in place policies and procedures for Purchase Cards, Vehicle Use, Accident and Incident Reporting, and any other areas that need to be addressed for the Reichert House.
  8. Finally, it would be important for the Reichert House to have a contract and more involvement with the Alachua County School Board.

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