review

IG Review finds management practices, not fraud, at root of conflict

By William Kelly, Daily News Staff Writer
 
| Palm Beach Daily News

A Palm Beach County Inspector General’s Office investigation found no evidence that a contractor fraudulently billed the town for the installation and maintenance of crime surveillance cameras. 

The town asked the office in August 2019 to investigate its concerns that it paid Johnson Controls Inc. for work that was not completed. 

The inspector general’s office, in its Sept. 22 report, concluded that the town’s project management practices were largely responsible for confusion over billing issues.

“Although we did not find clear evidence of fraud, it does appear that the parties disagree on their interpretation and understanding of the terms of their agreement related to performance and billing,” the report states.

 But the IG’s office said, the investigation revealed “issues that we believe should be addressed: one concerns the town’s project management procedures, and the other concerns the town and JCI’s contract procedures in general.”

The town hired JCI in 2012 and agreed to a payment schedule for it to install and maintain a security camera and surveillance system in different areas of town. Johnson Controls was permitted to submit bills for its progress on multiple work sites.

Finance Director Jane Le Clainche said Friday that the town paid Johnson Controls more than $2.1 million since 2013 for the infrastructure and annual maintenance and repairs. 

The work still wasn’t complete when the town terminated its relationship with the company more than a year ago, Town Manager Kirk Blouin said.

Blouin said the camera surveillance system is a large, technologically sophisticated infrastructure. The work was complicated, and the installation and maintenance has involved many different people, working for Johnson Controls and the town, over the last decade, he said.

“There was a lack of progress,” said Blouin, former public safety

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Home equity rates 2020 review and forecast

The year 2020 has been packed full of health and financial challenges for many Americans. Yet for home equity borrowers, there’s been some good news too. Interest rates are low, and the Federal Reserve has indicated that they’re likely to stay that way for the foreseeable future.



a living room filled with furniture and a large window: Home equity rates forecast for 2020


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Home equity rates forecast for 2020

In many situations, leveraging the equity in your home can be a smart strategy. Home equity loans can help you accomplish big-ticket goals like paying for a child’s education, making major home improvements and consolidating higher-interest debt. Better yet, when you borrow against your home equity, you may be able to reach these goals at a low interest cost and without pulling money out of savings.

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Home equity rates in 2020: Initial predictions vs. reality

At the beginning of 2020, no one could have accurately predicted all of the events that would unfold this year. In January, Federal Reserve officials decided to keep rates as they were after cutting rates three times in 2019. The Fed also indicated that further rate cuts were unlikely in the near future.

Yet despite early predictions, further rate reductions took place. On March 15, the Fed lowered benchmark rates to 0 to 0.25 percent, marking the biggest emergency rate reduction in its 100-plus year history.

When the Federal Reserve adjusts its rates, it can affect the interest rates lenders offer borrowers as well. Mortgages, HELOCs and home equity loans are just a few examples of the types of financial products that may undergo rate fluctuations based on the actions of the Federal Reserve.

Bankrate’s weekly rates survey in late March found the average rate for a $30,000 HELOC to be 5.43 percent. By September 2020, that same average rate dropped to 4.55 percent. The same

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