Investigation finds no taxpayer money misused in St. Lucie County wedding

ST. LUCIE COUNTY, Fla. - On May 28 of this year, more than 200 people attended the wedding of Joe and Heather Smith at the Fenn Center in Ft. Pierce. Soon after, the wedding reception became a hot topic among city officials.

Two weeks ago, a former employee of the County's Parks, Recreation and Facilities Department wrote a letter claiming the county spent $30,000 dollars on the reception.

An audit found the amount was only about half that, but certain items, like $1,500 dollars for trees, were purchased solely for the reception. The trees were later planted at a county park.

County administrator Faye Outlaw says there was no misuse of taxpayer money or illegal activity.

"The investigation pointed out a number of weaknesses in our system in terms of how we book the events at the Fenn Center," said Outlaw.

Joe and Heather Smith have said they claimed the county approached them to use their wedding to showcase the center.

"I just know for $1,800 dollars, which is what we paid, which was a lot of money for us, we rented the center," said Mr. Smith on September 27th.

Through no fault of their own, the Smith's in fact were getting a good deal. According to the report, they should have been charged $3,100 dollars for the Fenn Center rental. They have since paid the $1,300 dollar difference.

Parks, Recreation and Facilities Director Debra Brisson was put on probation and the Assistant County Administrator has been asked to review the departments operations.

In a prepared statement, Brisson said "I take full responsibility for the findings in the report. This was not Mr. and Mrs. Smith's fault. They were presented with a bill and paid it in full."

"Some mistakes were made and we need to take responsibility for those mistakes and do our best to make certain they are not repeated in the future," said Outlaw.

As for the Smiths, Joe said in a statement "we respect the professionals of the independent accounting firm who prepared the report and we accept their findings. We have nothing to add except to say our wedding day was wonderful, we love each other very much and are excited about our future together."


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