Clerk of Court and Comptroller Dwight Brock announced today an important step in resolving outstanding tourism related invoices that lack the necessary details to determine whether they meet legal thresholds for payment. A meeting, set to take place Tuesday between the Clerk’s Finance Director, Crystal Kinzel, the Deputy County Manager and County Internal Control Manager, may produce the detail to support the payment of a number of outstanding invoices currently under review. The meeting comes on the heels of county staff recalling invoices they had previously approved for payment after the Clerk’s office raised concerns. “This is a positive development that could ultimately set a precedent for much needed transparency in the County’s purchasing process,” said Brock. “Collier County taxpayers want to know their dollars are spent legally, and in order to do that, we need invoices and supporting documentation that provide basic details.”
The invoices in question involve Paradise Advertising and Marketing, a long-term county vendor that promotes the Naples area as a tourist destination. Paradise CEO, Cedar Hames, said at the April 25th Tourist Development Council meeting that he already maintains supporting information that provides descriptions and evidence of services performed enabling tying invoices to specific deliverables. Hames indicated county staff had directed him to issue invoices without any detail, precluding the Clerk’s ability to audit.
The lack of transparency results in invoices that the Clerk cannot and will not legally pay because it’s impossible to tell what services were performed, and if left unchecked invites waste, fraud, and abuse in local government. For example, an invoice issued late last year bills the county nearly $185,000.00 for a seasonal “photo video shoot”.
“You can see how this adds up to a lot of money in a short period of time and no rational person pays bills without knowing what they are getting,” said Brock. “I look forward to county staff providing supporting documentation so we can process all invoices of the vendor.”