The Parks and Recreation Department in Clearwater, Fla., is being taken to task after an audit found that the department had failed to track profits for special events at a local park.
City auditor Yvonne Taylor is conducting a complete audit of the department’s special events division and will look into management of funds, internal controls over cash receipts and disbursements, adherence to best practices and compliance with contracts.
According to the Tampa Bay Times, deputy city manager Jill Silverboard said that she referred the division for an audit last summer when questions arose about compliance with a contract related to a June ZZ Top concert at Coachman Park.
The department manages a special revenue fund of $200,000 to pay for upfront concert and festival expenses, which it then replenishes with revenue from tickets and concessions. The balance of that fund fluctuates throughout the year, but the department is nevertheless tasked with accounting for the money. Another $1 million account is allocated every year to pay for staff and expenses related to events citywide. That account is not reimbursed throughout the year.
The Times in January had asked to see a balance sheet for the special events division, and at that time Parks & Recreation Department director Kevin Dunbar acknowledged that the spreadsheets were not reliable.
In February, the department provided consultant Duncan Webb with updated the events expenditures and revenues that assistant director Art Kader said were not accurate because the "Parks and Recreation Department has never been tasked to produce (profit and losses) for general fund operations.”
Taylor said that rather than analyzing all 11 events over the past two years, she’ll be auditing the “overall management process” at the special events division.
Webb’s accounting assessment was considered as the city looked at proposed plans for reshaping Coachman Park into a garden, where the band shell exists today, and building a new four-acre green with a concert venue where there is now a parking lot.
For his part, Webb concluded that a stage with 2,500 to 3,000 covered seats would be sufficient for the redevelopment. However, despite Webb’s recommendation, for which the city paid $41,000, the City Council on April 4 voted instead for an amphitheater with more than 4,000 seats.