Sunday, March 18, 2007

The Truth About the TIF Audit

A reader e-mailed me about the Tax Increment Financing audit that I have stated is being held for political reasons. She wrote:

I recently wrote City Council members regarding my concerns over the hold-up of the TIF audit. I basically asked for its immediate release, or an explanation as to why it's being held hostage. My belief has been that the reason is a politically motivated one ... don't let the public see what a mess we've created until after the election.

Chuck Eddy was so kind as to get back to me, but his response seems to want to place the blame for the hold-up on your shoulders. I have attached my correspondence with him for your review, as I am very interested in your thoughts on the matter.

If it is in fact 'standard procedure' for the agency being audited to review their own report card before the public does so, I am interested in knowing what you think of this policy as well, as I feel it is more than a little bit backwards.

Here is Chuck Eddy's e-mail:

The facts that exist on this issue is that the original TIF audit was to be submitted to council last summer by the auditor, Mark Funkhouser. He did not submit this audit and stated that it would be submitted in December but was not presented until January and then was incomplete. The Acting City Auditor did not have this audit reviewed by the TIF commission and EDC who the audit was performed on. This is standard procedure for any audit. It was finally presented to the EDC and they returned it to the Auditor in February and it took more than four weeks for the auditor to send it back to the EDC for final review. As soon as the EDC can respond, this audit will be released.

Here's what I have to say about that:

Acting City Auditor Gary White knows the "standard procedures" for audits. Gary has been an auditor with the city for 20 years, has served with many professional groups, and has conducted numerous reviews of audit operations in other cities. He is a consummate professional. In point of fact, the audit cannot be reviewed by the TIF Commission and the EDC, because having those boards review the report would make it a public document. The standard procedure is to send the report for review to the persons to whom the recommendations are made. In this case that was the city manager.

There were two major reasons that the report was not completed nearer to the time we originally estimated. First, we had numerous issues with information from the TIF Commission. We'd think we had everything only to find another account or issue that they'd neglected to tell us about. It's not that they were uncooperative, but just that things kept coming up. The second issue was that several of the auditors had elderly mothers who had health issues. These resulted in those auditors taking a lot of time off of work, which slowed us a lot. At one time I thought that if one more mother got sick, we'd come to a complete halt in our work. Believe me, I would have preferred to get the audit out before I left the office, and I can assure you that Gary would have, too.

Finally, the powers-that-be at City Hall are throwing every threat and roadblock they can at the Acting City Auditor to keep him from releasing the report. They can do this by demanding that he send it to this or that group for additional review and that he address this or that additional fact or allegation. I've said all along that it won't come out until May 1, and I'm pretty confident that is so. The auditor serves at the pleasure of the Mayor and Council. I tried to get that changed during my tenure and failed. You can see now why it would be better if he had a little more protection from the political forces.

1 comment:

Heidi said...

So if the EDC has already reviewed the audit, it has become a public document, correct? And then citizens could file Sunshine Law requests for it?