County officials calls for forensic audit of art program
By Ted Carter
The head of Miami-Dade County's Art in Public Places program says he can account for the whereabouts of the program's art down to the last piece. But County Commissioner Sally Heyman says she wants a forensic audit of the program just to be sure.
Ivan Rodriguez, director of Art in Public Places, said no work of art has disappeared during his seven-year tenure. But he said he would welcome an audit of the nearly four-decade-old program funded by a 1.5% set-aside on the cost of building county facilities.
"There are no new pieces since 2000 that have gone unlocated," he told the commission's Recreation and Cultural Affairs Committee this month. About 20 works are missing from the period preceding his tenure, he said.
"They are very old pieces from the '70s and '80s," Mr. Rodriguez said. "They've been unlocated for the past 20 years. We are aware of them."
Most of the absent pieces have slight monetary value, according to Mr. Rodriguez, who said police reports have been made on some of them. "They are small pieces that for the most part are under $400," he added, estimating the total value of lost items at $20,000.
Ms. Heyman gained a consensus from the committee on an audit but failed to persuade members to endorse a forensic probe by the Miami-Dade Inspector General's office. The commission panel instead wants the job done by the county's audit office and is to vote on the measure at a May 14 committee meeting.
The majority of commissioners said there's no hint of criminal activity, so the inspector general's is not the right office for the job. "If you send it to the inspector general, you create a cloud over it," said Commissioner Dennis Moss, the committee's chairman.
Ms. Heyman said she's willing to give the job to the county auditor's office. She said she made her initial request "because we have an inspector general that answers to this body."
No matter what office performs it, a forensic audit would entail fraud detection and prevention.
Ms. Heyman said a precise accounting of the art collection will become more important as the county begins stocking new Miami International Airport terminals with artworks.
Committee member Javier Souto agreed. "Maybe we need more modern methods" to monitor and preserve the collection, he said.
Mr. Rodriguez said he thinks sufficient inventory and monitoring controls are in place. He said he has made a priority of initiating the controls since taking over leadership of the program in late 2000.
"These days," Mr. Rodriguez said, "I think we have a 100% ironclad system for knowing where everything is."