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Santa Rosa mayor calls for audit of Parks and Recreation Department

By KEVIN McCALLUM
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

The mayor of Santa Rosa has called for a financial audit of the city’s Parks and Recreation Department in the wake of what he called “disquieting” revelations about the department’s budget.

“I’d like to see the city manager do a complete audit our parks and recreation finances,” Mayor Scott Bartley said during the Tuesday City Council meeting.

He said “prudence dictates” the review given questions that came up during last week’s budget presentation that showed “funding going from place to place.”

Bennett Valley Golf Course.

Bennett Valley Golf Course.

Bartley did not mention the recent revelation that two recently retired department managers are set to be fined Thursday by the state’s Fair Political Practices Commission for failing to report thousands of dollars in free golf, cart usage, lessons and merchandise discounts over several years from the operator of the city-owned Bennett Valley Golf Course.

Marc Richardson, director of the department until his retirement in December, is facing a $6,500 fine, while Rich Hovden, parks development manager until he left in February, is facing a $3,000 fine.

After an independent investigation confirmed the undisclosed gifts, the two men repaid golf course operator Bob Borowicz a total of $9,365 in December. After retiring, each amended several years of financial disclosures, triggering the FPPC investigation and proposed fines.

Richardson’s proposed fine is steeper because he is also accused of having a conflict of interest when he negotiated Borowicz’ contract while receiving gifts from him.

Councilman Gary Wysocky agreed that further investigation needs to be done. But instead of a general department audit, he proposed focusing on operations of the golf course, which already has been the subject of an outside review recently disclosed by Assistant City Manager Jennifer Phillips.

“An audit does not give you absolute assurance that you have found everything, especially when there are cases of collusion,” said Wysocky, a certified public accountant.

Instead, he said the review of the golf course operations, which was completed in March by Sirrius Golf Advisors of Jacksonville, Fla., should be the immediate focus.

“There are some tremendous issues that were raised,” Wysocky said.

The 95-page report said the course is generally well run but is losing money largely because of more than $400,000 in bond payments related to the construction of $9.6 million clubhouse and pro shop, which opened in 2007.

But it also noted what it called several poor accounting practices, such as not having individual cashiers responsible for their own cash drawers and allowing annual pass holders to pay in installments.

One of the issues noted as a “red flag” regarded how rainchecks were granted to golfers.

“The issue is that there were a considerable number of rainchecks issued in months when there was no rain,” the report found.

Another “red flag” item noted that while the city is supposed to receive 15 percent of revenue from golf lessons, it was receiving none.

Phillips has stressed that the accuracy of the report cannot be assumed until she has a chance to meet with Borowicz, which she said she planned to do this week.

But Bartley said he is more concerned about the budget issues that were raised last week when Phillips, who has been the interim director since Richardson’s departure, outlined other financial issues. “I’m more concerned from a budget standpoint with numbers moving around in that department,” Bartley said.

Last week, Bartley expressed concern about the irrigation budget for the department being $200,000 short, requiring the city to increase it by that amount next year.

“Where did that money come from if we were off by a couple hundreds thousands dollars?” Bartley asked Phillips. “We don’t have a printing press in the basement.”

Phillips said the department had previously used “unexpended funds” within the department to pay those costs.

Another issue was the status of the repair of the fish fountain in Prince Memorial Park, which was shut down by state health regulators for failing to have the proper filtration system.

“We budgeted money to fix it. Where is that money?” Bartley asked.

Phillips replied that the water feature needs more than just a filter, and actually needs bathrooms to be constructed nearby. Given the city’s lack of funds to either build or maintain new restrooms there, the department decided to leave the fountain off. It instead spent the money budgeted for the fix on other maintenance priorities in the department, Phillips said last week.

On Tuesday, City Manager Kathy Millison did not exactly commit to a full audit of the department. Instead, she said she would provide the council with “actual expenditures compared to budget” in the hopes of answering council members’ questions.

Regarding the golf course, Millison said it was important to first meet with Borowicz to go over the the operational review.

“If that doesn’t answer our questions adequately, then we can go further into formal auditing,” Millison said.

Council members pressed Millison to return within 30 days with a report, but she couldn’t guarantee much additional detail by then, agreeing to return as quickly as possible.

“We understand the urgency and the importance of having some discussion on the council,” she said.

You can reach Staff Writer Kevin McCallum at 521-5207 or kevin.mccallum@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @citybeater





8 Responses to “Santa Rosa mayor calls for audit of Parks and Recreation Department”

  1. Laura Gonzalez says:

    People on the Measure O Committee have been complaining about Richardson and Parks and Rec for YEARS. Mr. Richardson was using Measure O money to pay for mosquito abatement. That’s all very nice, but that’s NOT what the money is supposed to be used for. Then he wanted a $60,000 raise for friend Ellen Bailey’s Drug Czar job. After he was letting people go due to lack of money.

    So, yeah, this whole thing is shocking. SHOCKING. Yeah.

    Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  2. Snarky says:

    After Santa Rosa finishes re-installing parking meters that it previously removed…..

    May I suggest that the City of Santa Rosa tear out all park trees…. and then re-plant new ones?

    While we’re at it, why not tear out all sidewalks… and just install new ones?

    Then, we can all scream about how “tax revenue” just isn’t keeping up with “necessary infrastructure improvements.”

    Heck, its just a thought. I know they’ve thought of it, too.

    Thumb up 9 Thumb down 1

  3. James Bennett says:

    Yeah, I think we should have Sonoma County Audit Month.

    We can all learn about…’sustainability’.

    We can start with The Sonoma County Water Agency. MTC and Smart.

    Thumb up 16 Thumb down 0

  4. RICHARD says:

    ” On Tuesday, City Manager Kathy Millison did not exactly commit to a full audit of the department. Instead, she said she would provide the council with “actual expenditures compared to budget” in the hopes of answering council members’ questions.”

    B S: bureaucrat stuff.

    Ms Millison, has a suspect record. She has made false statements, including press releases and information to the city council.

    Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  5. Lets be Reasonable says:

    The City is audited regularly – I believe yearly.

    Thumb up 1 Thumb down 11

  6. brown act Jack says:

    Yes, indeed, you must talk to the person who contributed to the problems, must you not. I am fairly sure, that why I involved, I would want my attorney with me while I exposed how I gave special treatment to the city employee.

    And, of course, I would never admit to such a course of action, would you?

    But it might be time to audit , or investigate, all of the departments and getting statements from all of the high level staff as to what gifts they may be accepting!

    Thumb up 7 Thumb down 2

  7. Steveguy says:

    Excuse me, but with the City whining about being broke and cutting services, they don’t audit the Departments ?

    Is there any accountability in any City Department?

    Really, private business knows what and where it spends.

    Tip of the iceberg ? Open the books !

    Thumb up 17 Thumb down 1

  8. About time says:

    I have a strong feeling that there are many many questionable issues within the Santa Rosa Parks and Rec Department.

    About 5 years ago on a sunny summer Sunday, I went to a free concert put on by the Park and Rec Department. I wanted to talk to the person in charge and I was directed to an older woman. As I approached, I witnessed an interaction between her and a man who was involved with the music. She was ranting in a clearly insane manner that had me honestly worried about the man that she was heaping verbal abuse upon. And she was obviously in management at Park and Rec. I left immediately and have never returned to any Santa Rosa free concerts in fear of seeing that frightening woman again.

    Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1

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