Behind closed doors

What the council says in secret.

Fielding: Yeah, what Cliff was describing almost sounds that this has happened in a foreign land that you had no control over. If you'll play back what he just said, it doesn't even sound like these people work for the city manager's office--that this was some nebulous group of folks and we disassociated ourselves with [them].

Ware: That was not my intent.
Fielding: Is that a non-opinion that is just with me or do you feel like you heard what I heard--that [it] doesn't really sound like this is something that one of our employees did, this is something that they did and we don't know anything about it?

Ware: It's not a "they," Mr. Fielding. As soon as I found out about it, I directed them to get to the bottom of it and also put together a memo to be sent out to the council. So it's not an 'us vs. them'.

Fielding: Well, you don't have to address it now, but at some point in this session you're going to have to convince me that there is some reason that we need as a body to go forward with this. Because I just had a real serious problem with the still-seeming lack of communication with your council on this issue. I have a problem with the way it was just expressed to us today. I'm going to have very public discussion with the press when we go back into open session, unless you convince me otherwise while we're still in here.

Ware: In all candor, I will not try to convince you to not talk to the press as it relates to this particular issue and in terms of anybody taking it upon themselves to do this. I'm going to jog the issue of intent--the employee could have been a well-intentioned employee--whereas I'm not pointing the gun at that issue. The problem we had was the ability to spend money that was not authorized was number 1, and number 2, the fact that it was able to be done without the information percolating up through the chain of command. That stuff bothers me more than anything else. As it relates to the data, it wasn't that important. They should have come forward. First of all they never should have spent the money in the first place, and No. 1, the other thing is sending out by invoice those who intend more than $10,000. To that extent...

Fielding: ...I assume it was less than $10,000 at a shot so it would not have to be approved by the council.

Keheley: No, these were all done on regular invoices submitted through the existing approved contract. It didn't require separate contracts on them; they don't because they still had funding available in the contract.

Fielding: So, basically the staff used funds that were earmarked for one thing on something else.

Ware: Yes--the funds that were earmarked for the Convention Center funds that were left over [from] the Convention Center expansion.

Fielding: Do you have plans--that is, a trail?
Ware: Yes, I do.
Fielding: Can you tell us what it is you plan to do about that or have you not decided that, or...

Ware: Well, I'm doing two things. One, we asked Jennifer Varley--every year the police department does a vulnerability assessment--first of all. Second of all, I've asked Jennifer Varley to take a look at that and then I've asked for recommendations from the ACM [assistant city manager] over that particular department. The question you have asked me--whether or not I'm going to take any punitive action--the answer is, yes!

Fielding: When do you think you will know that?
Ware: Well, I expect to know about the recommendation from the ACM by the end of this week.

Fielding: All right, thank you!
City Councilman Robert Stimson: Sounds like we have a problem with internal controls from an accounting standpoint. Putting a best face on it, we're a classic case on some pretty poor internal controls as far as who ordered the goods and who authorized them. So it sounds like Ms. Varker or whoever is going to come back and report on those internal controls.

Ware: I have no problem with that, but again because of that particular issue, that's why I'm saying, I'm even ignoring the intent. Could be the best intention in the world, but if you're going to do the process now and we're exposed to that and we get somebody with a vicious intent, it could have done more damage.

Stimson: Sounds like [what] we should probably also do is notify the city auditor and our outside auditing firm of this breach of this kind of internal control so that when they're doing the audit of the city, they can take [it] into account, they can pay special attention.

Ware: I don't have a problem with sharing the work that Varley does with the auditors.

City Councilman Domingo Garcia: I'm curious to find out why did Ms. Elam feel that she had the...who pushed the (unintelligible). I got the impression that there were outside interests working with the staff that said 'put this proposal together.' And our staff went along with it for some reason. That's what it looks like; you sort of get that vibration.

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