DANIA BEACH – A former Dania Beach city employee “corruptly” used his job to get benefits, including cash and free home repairs, Broward County’s top government watchdog said Thursday.
The Broward Office of the Inspector General concluded in a report that former Public Works and Utilities Manager Jose Urtecho “repeatedly committed misconduct in public ethics” by awarding contracts to vendors who in turn gave him and his girlfriend gifts, using subordinate city employees to make payments to these suppliers with their city purchase cards.
“Mr. Urtecho turned his back on the public he was supposed to serve and instead served himself,” according to the report.
Urtecho started working for the city in 1990. He was fired in May 2019, while the city wrote in a letter that it checked his office computer and found he had violated the rules of conduct and code of ethics.
The letter also said his conduct reflected “abuse of city resources, gross errors in judgment and call[ed] question the level of integrity expected of you as a long-term manager, city employee and public servant.”
He could not be reached for comment Thursday.
The inspector general found that from January 2016 to June 2019, the city paid $429,420.80 to four vendors.
One of the vendors, pest control vendor AAA Assassin Enterprises LLC, was told by Urtecho how to bid and then “submitted its bid with two lower, fabricated quotes to justify its selection.”
In return, Urtecho’s girlfriend was paid $50 to $100 at a time for typing his invoices to the city and gave Urtecho a $500 check, termite treatment at his home with an $850 discount and another $300 worth of free rodent bait and pest control chemicals , according to the report.
Investigators said Urtecho had his foreman, a sewer mechanic, pay AAA Assassin $1,200 with his city card “before AAA Assassin was even awarded the contract” at a meeting at Grampa’s Bakery.
The owner of AAA Assassin has denied wrongdoing, according to the report.
According to the report, Urtecho approached Decota Construction, a city vendor, “and informed him of the problems he was having with the garage door at his home and then accepted a free garage door repair, worth at least $250, by Professional Garage Rolling Doors, which charged Decota Construction.
An attorney for Decota Construction, who said the company was cooperating with an FBI investigation into Urtecho’s actions, told investigators that the company only gave him the name of a garage door repairman and further that “Decota had absolutely no involvement didn’t have.”
“Decota received no benefit whatsoever for providing such contact information,” the attorney said in a letter to investigators, and the repairman’s statement that Decota paid the bill “is self-serving and lacks credibility.”
According to the report, while garage door dealer Professional Garage Rolling Doors was doing work at his home, Urtecho asked the vice president if the company was “interested in doing commercial work for the city.”
Investigators said Urtecho obtained and submitted a winning quote for a garage door to a city fire station, “knowing that the quote would be lower than two previously submitted quotes and knowing that it did not meet specifications.”
The investigators concluded that two other “fraudulent” bids had been submitted.
The maintenance technician the company had to pay questioned this but was told, “If I tell you to do it, you do it,” according to the report. Afraid for his job, he complied.
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Professional Garage Rolling Doors’ vice president confirmed to investigators that he completed the project at Urtecho’s home but “did not recall how he was paid for this project.”
For fence vendor D & R Fencing Corp., Urtecho split the city’s fence procurement payments to expedite payment to the vendor for work valued between $10,000 and $15,000, according to the Inspector General.
In return, the seller provided Urtecho with a free fence at his home valued at $2,500, the inspector general said.
The owner told investigators he charged Urtecho only for labor and materials, which Urtecho paid in cash to the workers who did the work. “He stated that Mr. Urtecho told him that by doing the work at Mr. Urtecho’s residence this way, D & R Fencing would get more work from the city,” according to the report.
In response to the investigation, the city created the position of Procurement Administrator.
“Since 2019, the city has undergone a ‘renaissance’ by hiring highly trained and talented department heads who adhere to the city’s procurement policies,” City Attorney Eve A. Boutsis wrote in a memo. “All the bad actors no longer have a relationship with the city and their employment has been terminated. The city has voluntarily severed ties with all the firms that were investigated.”
Lisa J. Huriash can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @LisaHuriash