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Apopka City Council Preview - April 3rd meeting

Nesta unveiling specifics on forensic audit in presentation


For the past year, Apopka Commissioner Nick Nesta has called for a forensic audit of the City's finances, citing concerns over possible financial mismanagement. Nesta believes that a thorough investigation is necessary to ensure transparency and accountability.

Now, his request will get specific.

After months of discussion and debate that made it into the City Commission Election for Seat #4, Nesta will give a presentation to the City Council meeting at its April 3rd meeting to provide the scope of the audit.

Typically, a forensic audit is a detailed examination and analysis of financial records, transactions, and documents to uncover potential fraud, embezzlement, or other financial irregularities. It goes beyond a regular audit in that it involves investigative techniques and specialized skills to gather evidence that can be used in legal proceedings.

However, a forensic audit of a City's finances focuses on examining the financial records, transactions, and processes of municipal government entities such as departments, agencies, or public funds. The objectives may include identifying financial mismanagement, inefficiencies, or compliance issues within the city government. The aim is to ensure transparency, accountability, and effective management of public resources.

It's an issue that has been discussed throughout 2023 but seemed to come to a head in August when Nesta criticized the handling of a presentation made by Finance Director Blanche Sherman.
There were three transfers she addressed: a $29 million wire from Synovus to One Florida Bank in June 2021, a $20 million wire from Synovus to Florida Prime last July, and a $31 million wire from One Florida Bank to Seacoast Bank in June. Because of the concerns and comments about the various transfers, Sherman said city attorney Cliff Shepard provided a legal opinion.

“Upon a detailed review of the policy, supporting documentation provided by staff, and additional information provided by staff, the wire transfer in question appears to comply with the City’s policy,” Shepard wrote in a summary memo regarding the $29 million wire transfer from Synovus to One Florida Bank in June 2021.

Nesta questioned Sherman and Shepard about the reasons for this presentation.

“Did you come up with this yourself, or who asked you to bring this to the council?” Nesta asked Sherman.

“The mayor," said Sherman, referring to Apopka Mayor Bryan Nelson.

“Attorney Shepard, who requested your legal opinion on this?” Nesta asked.
“I don't know in which order, but some combination of the mayor and Sherman," said Shepard.

“How much did it cost us to get this opinion?” Nesta asked.

“That I don't know," said Shepard. "I haven't gotten and run the bills yet. We’re not at that point in the month. I can get them for you. I can get them for you tomorrow.”

“That would be great to know for many reasons, but the biggest one is that you don't exclusively work for the mayor," said Nesta. "I would normally see something like this, and any of your opinions I would think would be under the attorney's report, especially if we had asked for it... but we didn't."

Nesta continued to press the idea that there were significant issues with some City financial documents.

"Additionally, the documents that were provided still show – and I'm not going to take a deep dive into this because I didn't specifically ask for this to be done – they still show inconsistencies," said Nesta. "Even the data that was provided still shows information that is inaccurate, and I think you two (Sherman and Shepard) are being used as pawns in a game that the mayor is trying to play."

Then Nesta turned his focus on Apopka Mayor Bryan Nelson.

"Mr. Mayor... and I'll just say this to put a finer point on the last meeting… you think we’re all trying to get ‘gotcha’ moments on you, and there'd be nothing to get if you wouldn't do sketchy things behind the scenes, so stop trying to hide things, stop trying to be above the residents and the rest of the council, and we wouldn’t have ‘gotcha’ moments. So, with that being said, I still think there needs to be a forensic audit.”

Then, in February, Nesta made a statement to The Apopka Voice in rebuttal to Eric Mock, his opponent in the election, about the forensic audit:

"In the short time I have been Commissioner - Seat 4 we’ve had two different Chief Financial Officers for the City of Apopka. Within the last three years we have had three different Chief Financial Officers for the City of Apopka. During these transitions or employee turn over, the City of Apopka financials have not been in sync with basic norms, there are funds that cannot be accounted for, funds have been moved incorrectly, etc., and funds have simply been lost. We absolutely need a Forensic Audit to create and restore confidence to our residents that their tax dollars are being properly spent as well as ensure no funds have been inappropriately spent/allocated whether through fraud or ineptness. Lastly, what the City of Apopka needs is a City that is restored to the proper integrity status that has been compromised by a select few who have the sole goal of disseminating misinformation throughout the City of Apopka to maintain "control" in the City of Apopka."

Although on the agenda as a presentation, there are no documents associated with Nesta's presentation in the agenda packet. Nesta did not return a text from The Apopka Voice asking for a summary of his presentation.

The meeting is scheduled for 1:30 pm at the Council Chambers of City Hall.

Commissioner Nick Nesta, Finance Director Blanche Sherman, Mayor Bryan Nelson, Apopka City Council, Forensic Audit, What is a forensic audit?


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