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Following FLCGA investigation, lawmakers take action on Broward special district

Florida Rep. Dan Daley is requesting that the State Auditor General investigate the North Springs Improvement District, a public agency that provides water and sewer service to roughly 40,000 residents in northwest Broward County. 

In calling for an “operational audit” of NSID, which covers parts of his Coral Springs district as well as much of neighboring Parkland, Daley cited reporting contained in an ongoing FLCGA News investigation of the district and its manager, Rod Colon. 

“Our public officials must be held to the highest standards of transparency and accountability,” said Daley in a press release today. “I am deeply concerned about the potential for further unethical practices at the North Springs Improvement District, and that is why I am calling for an investigation by the Joint Legislative Auditing Committee and the State Auditor General into the actions of Rod Colon and others.””

Also today, state Rep. Christine Hunchofsky (D-Parkland) filed a bill to put an end to an exemption in state ethics law that was used as a “loophole” by Colon to start a company in his home that was awarded $16 million in contracts from his own district and to personally pocket a near quarter-million dollar real estate commission on the sale of an NSID-owned piece of land.

“(W)e are adding another level of transparency and protection to the use of public dollars,” said Hunchofsky, who was also spurred to action by the FLCGA News investigation. “This bill will limit abuses, and provide more transparency, and fiscal accountability that will benefit the residents of Florida in special taxing districts.””

Daley said he too is working on passing a bill to end the ethics exemption and to mandate that officials of special districts receive ethics training. 

“In the past several months, local news outlets have shined a light on NSID, and the result has been quite concerning,” Daley wrote in his request for an investigation.

In the letter Daley mentioned the $240,000 real estate commission received by Colon as well as FLCGA News reports detailing alleged nepotism, cronyism and other “unethical practices. As backup for his audit request, Daley included copies of two FLCGA reports.

“Several years ago … I described NSID as a ‘fiefdom’ and Mr. Colon as King,” Daley wrote the committee. “Based on recent revelations, I clearly was not far off, and I am deeply concerned with what else may be happening at NSID — that is why I am asking the Committee and the State Auditor General to pull back the curtain and audit NSID.””

He said he will make a presentation concerning the importance of investigating NSID at a January 19 Joint Legislative Auditing Committee meeting. He said he expects the committee will then authorize the Florida Auditor General to conduct an intensive operational audit. 

“The committee won’t take this lightly,” said Daley. “I expect them to give it the weight it deserves.””

The letter calls for the Auditor General to investigate contracts, procurements, competitive bidding, land purchases and sales, hiring practices, and other matters at the district. 

“I am confident if the Committee chose to undertake such a review, the taxpayers of the State of Florida and the ratepayers of NSID would be much better off,” Daley wrote.

About the Author: Bob Norman is an award-winning investigative reporter who serves as Editor-in-Chief of the Florida Trident and journalism program director for the Florida Center for Government Accountability.

Executive Director’s note: The investigative series on the North Springs Improvement District won Honorable Mention in the 2023 Esserman-Knight Journalism Awards.