Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Checking The Books

Harrison Square audit inconclusive

"City officials believe a state audit affirms land for Harrison Square was bought appropriately, but the audit offers recommendations for change and no specific conclusions on the issue.

The Indiana State Board of Accounts on Monday released its audit report of the Fort Wayne city controller, including an examination of how land was bought for the $120 million public-private development."

"In the audit, the state outlines the process for how the city, through its redevelopment commission, bought the land and then provides the state statute governing the purchases. It does not say explicitly, however, that the city followed – or broke – the law."

"Controller Pat Roller said the audit affirms the city’s actions were legal because the state didn’t report any faults.

“If we did something wrong, I can assure you they would have indicated that,” she said.

Roller also pointed out that Bruce Hartman, the state board’s examiner, voted for the Harrison Square financing last month as part of a state tax board."

"The audit points out two areas of concern with the land purchases. It said the city ordinance doesn’t specifically exempt redevelopment land purchases from needing council approval. The council did not approve the specific land purchases, which Roller said has been the city’s practice for years because the redevelopment commission is governed by its own state law."

"The audit also found that the city spent $5.1 million of economic development income tax money on land without a specific appropriation for that money.

Roller said the use of the money was approved by the City Council even though a separate appropriation ordinance wasn’t passed. She said the city will ensure that any future expenses have the necessary appropriation ordinance."

State audit interpreted two ways
Those for and those against Harrison Square say it affirms their positions

"Both opponents and proponents of Harrison Square say they see a recently released report from the state as a victory.

In a report filed Thursday, the State Board of Accounts released results of a recent audit of the city controller’s office. The audit included property purchases for the $125-million-to-$160-million downtown revitalization process, specifically the use of TIF funds and City Council approval of the purchases."

"The report outlines actions taken by the city about the property, immediately followed by the state statute that governs those actions. At the end of the report is a letter from Roller responding to each issue.

Based on her discussions with the State Board of Accounts, Roller said the audit was written as an educational tool for the taxpayer, taking him step-by-step through the process. She said that was necessary because of the amount of scrutiny the project has received."


John B. Kalb said...

Pat Roller "the audit was written as an educational tool for the taxpayer, taking him step-by-step through the process"- Where the heck did she come up with this? The State Board of Accounts was establish early in the 20th century (I think in about 1903) to review bookkeeping practices and accuracy because of widespread corruption across the political enties in the state. They are not and never have been an educational tool for taxpayers but rather a watch-dog and educational tool to control fiscal officers - like our own Pat Roller! No wonder we have these type of problems! Check out the repetitive, yearly, comments on Fort Wayne administration shortcomings in the yearly audits over the last 5 or 6 years. John B. Kalb