Orange County whistleblower uncovers exorbitant costs, concocted paperwork

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ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. —

Orange County has a new process for construction project costs, thanks to a whistleblower who discovered the county was being ripped off.

An audit found it was paying a lot more than it should have when awarding construction contracts.

"We probably would not have known about this had someone not come forward," said Martha Haynie, Orange County comptroller.

But a whistleblower came forward to talk about the contract with Terra Firma Construction Management, which then hired subcontractors to handle hundreds of construction jobs.

There were no competitive bids because the jobs cost less than $100,000 each.

When the comptroller's office investigated, it found Terra Firma proposed a nearly $68,000 contract for a project which the county could get for nearly half the price at $35,000.

Another project proposed for $96,000, could actually be done for $58,000.

The whistleblower discovered documentation that was made up – like a proposal that called for 1,000 tons of gravel when only 100 tons were needed.

The unidentified whistleblower no longer works for the county.

"This person deserves a 'thank you' for saving taxpayers a lot of money,” Haynie said.  

Mayor Teresa Jacobs issued a statement Monday evening crediting her whistleblower initiative for exposing the problem.

The county now has a new process for projects that cost under $100,000 to complete.