Audit slams Mayor Brown's travel practices

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- A report released Tuesday by the Council Auditor's Office found "numerous issues" and concerns with Mayor Alvin Brown's travel practices.

The report cites improperly reported gift travel, numerous inaccuracies in filed reports, and "vague" and "insufficient" documentation. It also found travel cancelations that wasted thousands in taxpayer dollars, and that "the mayor did not sign any of this travel forms with his full signature."

"Nobody is above the rules and regulations," Council Auditor Kirk Sherman told First Coast News, calling the audit "not very impressive." Sherman said one of the chief concerns is a lack of transparency -- including the months it took to obtain some documentation. In one case, the city's inability to provide records forced auditors to an airline to obtain the mayor's travel records.

The tab for the administration's travel was more than $78,000 in the 2011/12 budget year. That represented a 250 percent increase over previous years. The mayor had requested a larger budget in order to sell Jacksonville to investors. Councilmember John Crecimbeni, who chaired the Finance Committee at the time, said he agreed to boost the budget on the condition the money would be spent wisely and well.

"I got a commitment from the Mayor's Office. I pushed ahead with the understanding that they wouldn't waste money they wold travel frugally."

Crescembeni called the audit "disappointing," and said he expects the mayor's travel budget could be "reduced significantly" in the upcoming budget process as a result.

Incoming Council Finance Chair Richard Clark could call for a deeper audit as well, one that looks beyond 2012.

Chris Hand, the mayor's chief of staff, said the mayor would welcome such scrutiny. He pointed out that the city, both in conjunction with the Council Auditor, and as an internal matter, has overhauled and improved many city processes. "Those changes have produced a number of improvements," he said.

Click here to read the full audit document.


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