Wednesday, February 16, 2022

The Commission Is Hearing the Velken Issue Tomorrow Night

The issue at hand is an invoice from the Florida Retirement System for $472,546 that arose from the way Lewis Velken, who was presented to North Bay Villagers as police chief and then village manager in 2018, failed to comply with the FRS rules regarding retirement.  For a detailed view, click here.  

The Commission has this item on its agenda for tomorrow February 17, 2022 and while it won't be resolved tomorrow night, they will have to give direction to the legal staff, law enforcement and accounting.  The responsibility weighs on the five elected representatives, not the state and not the staff.  They need questions answered.  

Questions to resolve:

Was Velken ever an employee or a contractor?  

Velken was never a North Bay Village employee. No one is disputing that.

Indications are that he may not have been a valid contractor either.  There was never a written contract, there is a dispute on whether there was an oral agreement, the Commission certainly never approved a contract and nobody seems to know how much money was proposed.  

In the case testimony, former Village Manager Marlen Martell, Lewis Velken and the payee of record, Stephanie Leon, all gave different figures.  That doesn’t look like a contract.  

Did the Florida Retirement System accept that Velken was a contractor after the Administrative Law Judge June McKinney ruled he was?  

Definitely no or they would not have settled with Velken.   

Was Velken even authorized to approve invoices and disbursements for his own pay?  

Since Velken was not an employee of the Village and Velken did not have a written contract approved by the commission, this is a key point that must be answered.

Should North Bay Village accept that Velken was a contractor?  

Probably not.  Without a signed, commission approved contract, one way to look at it is that Velken was basically just a guy that showed up at the office.   I'm surprised that the North Bay Village continues to refer to Velken as a contractor.

Isn’t this criminal fraud?   

It could be.  I understand that the State Attorney General’s office is looking at the matter and I hope there are other criminal investigations.  

In my opinion, the Commission should formally request (by resolution) that the Florida Attorney General assign an investigator to assist other Law Enforcement to analyze and investigate the situation. The state may not be needed but it's better to be prepared.

What are the odds that North Bay Village will have to pay the $472,000 fine to the FRS?  

In my opinion, very high if North Bay Village continues to insist that Velken was a contractor and continues to take an argumentative position with the FRS. 

The odds might improve greatly if North Bay Village considers the possibility that the Village itself was a victim and works with the FRS to investigate the situation.

Wasn’t Velken also police chief?  

Yes, well, he was presented as such but never had a contract or was an employee.  The Village did submit an affidavit to the FDLE stating Velken was a full time employee, but that was wrong.  Since law enforcement authority comes from the employer, there could be issues around this.   

Was this the only non compliant payment or contract? 

There is no definitive answer for this. 

I have proposed to the Financial Advisory Board that they request a full accounting and legal review of all contracts and third party payments from November 2017 through February of 2019, the time frame that this issue was happening.  The Commission should absolutely instruct the staff to do that now. NBV does not need another surprise bill.

In my experience, when there is misallocated money, it is never just once.  It's time to put it all out there.

Kevin Vericker

February 16, 2022

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