Palm Bay city cellphone bills scrutinized in audit

Details from a state audit of Palm Bay keep coming to light, and with each development, the frustration grows among critics of the city's fiscal practices.  This time, cellphones and international calls are the things raising eyebrows.

The City of Palm Bay continues to deal with the results of the scorching audit from Florida’s Auditor General. Questions are swirling about how local taxpayer dollars are being spent. FOX 35 News told you about the "ramp to nowhere" last month. State Rep. Randy Fine, who has an office in Palm Bay, was one of the most outspoken critics. Now, Fine is sounding the alarm on his social media pages about more than 700 cellphones the city gives to its employees.

The audit reveals $300,000 went to cellphone bills over a 17-month period. The audit found one employee was frequently calling Jamaica and taking the phone to the island, but city officials didn't seem to mind or didn't notice it. The cellphone issue is only Item 9 of 31. There are allegedly tens of millions of dollars that have been misspent.  

"The state is going to make sure the next steps happen. So first, the city has to report back to the state how it’s going to fix all 31 of those issues, then they’re going to have to come to Tallahassee and answer to us for what they’ve done, and then we will go back to them and make sure they have followed up and fixed those things." Fine said.

First-term Palm Bay City Councilman Kenny Johnson says he is just as mad as Rep. Fine and says the cellphone debacle and the rest of the mess found in the 64-page audit should be a call to action for the citizens of Palm Bay to get involved and start holding their elected leaders accountable.

"Since I took public office, my life has been under a microscope and that’s how I feel it should be for all of us because we are held to a higher standard. That’s how it should be for local governments," Johnson said.

The mayor of Palm Bay did not respond to our request for an interview.