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Questions raised in Pahokee over city manager's contract

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Posted at 6:22 PM, Feb 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-19 19:36:33-05

PAHOKEE, Fla. — Questions are being raised in Pahokee after the city manager was awarded a new contract with a raise, which was voted on days after the city’s finances came under fire.

The handling of contracts and spending practices inside city hall have been scrutinized by the Inspector General.

The IG says City Manager Chandler Williamson violated a state grant agreement, which led to a $125,000 loss for the city.

“I was concerned that we had a problem and that we had not addressed it,” said Regina Bohlen, City Commissioner.

Bohlen says the city commission received the IG report, but days later Williamson was awarded a new contract with a $9,000 pay raise. At the meeting, Bohlen was the only no vote.

“I didn’t feel based on that report and how things are going that he was justified in getting a raise,” Bohlen said. “This is a small town and we don’t have a lot of extra money and we have other things the money could be applied to.”

Former city attorney Gary Brandenburg says he is the one who sent a complaint to the Inspector General with a list of concerns. He was abruptly fired last Spring.

“If I was an elected official in Pahokee and I had a say, Chandler would have been gone long ago,” Brandenburg said.

In the report, the Inspector General says Williamson awarded a $150,000 check to a company for work on the Pahokee Marina, but for work that was not yet completed. The report also says Williamson awarded that contract without commission approval.Once the company went bankrupt, Pahokee was left with a loss.

I just really feel the folks in Pahokee deserve better government than what they’re getting, and better use of the taxpayer dollars,” Brandenburg said.

WPTV reached out to commissioners who voted to give Williamson a raise and the city manager himself, but no one was available for an interview.

The city manager did not dispute the findings in his response to the Inspector General and agreed to a number of recommendations.

“We just need to pull together everybody look in the same direction and start working toward that goal,” Bohlen said.

In the IG report, Williamson also said the city has taken additional steps to eliminate errors in the future.

Regarding his contract, Williamson said, in an email, he has not received a raise since 2017, and he would reach out once he is back in town.