Projects Planned for La Feria Placed On Hold
LA FERIA – Nearly a dozen city projects tied to the millions of dollars unaccounted for in La Feria are put on hold.
The missing funds are connected to a certificate of obligation that was awarded in 2011 and 2015. The city attorney said some of the 2015 money was used to pay for debts in 2011. But the money wasn’t supposed to be used for that.
A new police and fire station, improvements to the public works department warehouse, city parks, streets, upgrades to public safety vehicles and the existing hurricane evacuation shelters are just some of the projects tied to the missing money in La Feria.
“It wasn’t a question that the city didn’t get the money. We got the money; we know the city got the money. So then the issue was how did it get disbursed, where did it go,” La Feria City Attorney Ricardo Navarro said.
He said the money to complete the projects comes from a 2015 certificate of obligation.
“That is a debt instrument that the city commissions are able to raise money for specific projects,” Navarro said.
The projects are now on the back burner as the city works to figure out where the money went. Navarro said an independent auditor has already pinpointed one location.
“Some of that money was used to pay the debt obligations from 2011. That’s what the paperwork seems to indicate,” he said.
Navarro said the auditor found some funds were moved from one account to another. Checks were written for thousands of dollars. But who moved the money and who wrote the checks is still unknown.
“Whatever he’s got, he’s got to make it last through the end of the fiscal year, which would be Sept. 30,” Navarro explained.
Because of the mess the new city administration inherited, Navarro said the city manager may have to rework the budget.
“There is no money available to do anything right now,” he said.
Sylvia Towne is a resident in La Feria. She recalled when the mayor told her she would see improvements to a road in August.
“If they have to put everything on hold, then they have to put everything on hold until they can find out where the finances went,” she said.
Towne said she just hopes the city finds out where that money went and who is responsible.
Navarro said because former city manager Sunny Phillip has a lawsuit pending against the city, they cannot ask him any questions.
The city said they plan to take their own legal action in order to get Phillip to answers their questions.