Chris Rosinski didn’t know what he was getting into when Port Everglades hired him in April. In less than two months on the job, he said he uncovered widespread fraud and purchasing abuses by trade workers there, leading to ongoing investigations by Broward County auditors, the Sheriff’s Office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The abuses could go back years, if not decades, said his attorney, Matthew Weissing.
Rosinski, who worked as a skilled trade supervisor at the port for four months, filed a whistleblower suit against the county Feb. 14. He claimed he suffered “workplace retaliation, harassment, threats and other consequences” for his role in bringing illegal practices to light. The reaction made it impossible for him to continue working there, the suit said.
The county fired one employee, plumber David Moore, last summer soon after the investigations started, but later allowed Moore to resign after his union stepped in. Investigators found he made more than $18,000 in questionable charges in over a year. The purchases included 11 faucets, 11 backflow preventer repair kits and 108 feet of red brass pipe that could not be found installed at the port or in stock there.
In his suit, Rosinski says Moore tried to recruit him into the operations, which it says involved a scam with purchasing cards — P-Cards.
“During that attempted recruitment, Moore showed [Rosinski] a hidden room in the port plumbing shop where port records were hidden,” the suit said.
Rosinski later did “dumpster diving” — at the direction of a supervisor — to retrieve records disposed of by Moore, the suit said.
County auditors have not yet finished their report into procurement practices at the port, County Auditor Bob Melton said. The suit said Melton had Rosinski deliver some files directly to his downtown Fort Lauderdale office out of fear the records could be destroyed.
Rosinski’s suit said he has cooperated with law enforcement investigators, including meeting with a task force that included the FBI and members of the sheriff’s financial crimes unit. The Sheriff’s Office and FBI have not responded to requests for comment about the investigation.
Port Everglades and County Administrator Bertha Henry also have not responded to requests for comment. In an interview earlier this month, Port Director Steve Cernak said the port had called in auditors and law enforcement to investigate and that the activities alleged were “not the kind of stuff that I tolerate.”
But Rosinski’s suit said his efforts were met with hostility and that port administrators wanted him to keep information from the auditors and the Sheriff’s Office.
Rosinski, who declined to comment on the suit, said he took a large pay cut and is now working for the city of Fort Lauderdale. He was previously a Belle Glade police officer in the 1990s, he said.
Other allegations in the suit include:
— Some public works employees were allowed to run contracting companies that performed repairs for port vendors, using county employees on county time, in violation of port policy;
— Rosinski found new plumbing fixtures in a scrap pile at the plumbing shop, which were going to be taken from the port to be used elsewhere;
— A business being paid using P-Cards for supplying air-conditioning filters to the port had gone out of business early in 2018, although receipts were still being submitted after that time.
— An employee suspected in the P-Card abuse tried to find Rosinski’s home, leading to personal safety concerns.
This story will be updated. Check back for details.
lbarszewski@SunSentinel.com, 954-356-4556 or Twitter @lbarszewski