Belle Glade Sun

South Bay off financial watch list

SOUTH BAY — The City of South Bay got some good news this month from the office of Florida Gov. Rick Scott: No longer are the municipality’s finances the subject of special attention from state authorities.

According to a July 5 letter on the governor’s official stationery from Florida Chief Inspector General Eric W. Miller, addressed to City Manager Leondrae Camel, “the City of South Bay is no longer considered to be in a state of financial emergency.”

Mr. Camel explained in a phone interview that what this means to the city basically is that as an institution, it’s now more credit-worthy to lenders and more credible to businesses.

Alicia Butts Wilson, legislative aide to Palm Beach County Mayor Melissa McKinlay, posted public kudos for the city manager and staff last week on the Lake Okeechobee Business Alliance’s Facebook page after the notice became public, citing the “hard work, dedication and commitment” by them and the city commissioners to the task. “City Manager Camel, thanks for your outstanding leadership!” Ms. Wilson said in her post.

Mr. Miller stated in the letter that he’d received a written recommendation from the CIG Office’s director of auditing, Ronald Atkins, that the financial emergency status should be lifted. That decision, Mr. Miller wrote, was “supported by the two most recent annual independent financial audits of the City of South Bay,” which “confirmed that the city … has established and is operating an effective financial accounting and reporting system.”

Mr. Camel explained: “The city went on there (the state list) in the 1998-99 fiscal year. I can’t say any specific reason, but there were just effective financial accounting and reporting systems … outlined in Florida Statue 218.503 that they (city officials at the time) did not meet.”

He said that because “there’s a laundry list of things within that statute,” he was unable to itemize any specific reasons that South Bay was under closer oversight during the nearly two decades since the city had been on the list.

“But I’m able to say that under this administration, we’ve worked tirelessly over the past five years to ensure that our fiscal and financial affairs are in order here in the City of South Bay.” Mr. Camel joined the city staff in March 2013.

He quoted South Bay Mayor Joe Kyles as saying: “Twenty years encompasses a lot of hard work and dedication to change of the financial dynamic of the city. Being released from the financial emergency status list is evidence of us moving South Bay in the right direction.”

So, City Manager Camel said, “It’s like your credit has improved; we’re more credit-worthy.”