City of Lincoln: Vote to request independent audits of Logan County Alliance and Tourism Bureau passes 5-2
Part four: Tibbs and Hoefle move for a vote to request the audit of the LCA and Tourism Bureau

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[March 28, 2016]  LINCOLN - As the city council’s Monday night voting session neared the two-hour mark, the motion for an independent audit came up on the agenda. Alderwoman Jonie Tibbs made the motion to move forward with requesting an independent audit of the LCA and the Logan County Tourism Bureau. The motion was seconded by Rick Hoefle. The floor was then opened for discussion of the topic.

Todd Mourning spoke first saying that he was behind the audit if there is an indication of impropriety. He also said that he would approve having a committee including City Administrator Clay Johnson and Treasurer Chuck Conzo sitting in review of the audit.

Conzo spoke saying that it was time to do the audit, and he would encourage the council to approve the motion. He commented, “When you all voted to essentially create this organization, it didn’t work out very well, and it created a big mess that has got to be undone. I think this is the first step toward undoing that. I would also say I find it curious that the former mayor was real concerned about the city spending money on the audit, but he wasn’t concerned about giving them (LCA) $60,000. Just weigh that for what it is worth.”

Mourning commented again saying that he too was concerned about spending the extra money. He noted, “If they are willing to open their books and be forthcoming on all levels with that audit, can we justify spending potentially thousands of dollars. Can we justify re-inventing the wheel.”

Michelle Bauer commented that she wondered if they were requesting an audit for problems the city doesn’t know exists. She said the city may request the records of the Alliance, and that they should. Then upon review, if they feel there are unanswered questions, then yes by all means request another audit.

Rick Hoefle said that what he hears from his constituents is that everything about the LCA is baffling and confusing. He said, “The city, on the whole, is not going to care if we spend the money, they are going to be enraged if we don’t.”

Tracy Welch said that it was a concern that the same person was doing all the bookwork for all three organizations. He wasn’t sure how the city could separate the entities in question from the whole, when the books are all being done by one person.

Kathy Horn noted that she is hearing from many people that the constituents want the audit. She noted that the council had asked for information and did not get it. She said that the LCA had “put the cloud over this.”

Mourning said he wasn’t in agreement with that statement because he recalled seeing financial reports. Tibbs said that was not so; they never brought the information, and she noted they didn’t even show up when they were asked to report.

Bauer noted that the LCA and Tourism are required to provide information by April 1st. She said April 1st wasn’t here yet, so they were still within their contracts. Horn suggested that the council vote to request the audit but hold off until April 1st to see what the LCA and Tourism bring to them, before moving on with the audit.

Tibbs said no. She said she had no problem with spending city dollars to audit these organizations and that the taxpayers expect the council to find out what is going on. She added, “We’re not saying anyone is guilty, in a way.”

Neitzel asked if the council felt the LCA and Tourism should be given until April 1st to produce records before moving forward with the audit. Mourning said he felt that the audit was a lot of money to spend if it isn’t needed.

Bauer said on the agenda was the authorization for the city to request that the LCA and Tourism Bureau to submit to an audit. She said that she had no problem moving forward if that April 1st report raises questions, but at the moment, she cannot justify ordering an audit that may not be needed.

Alderman Hoefle said that the information the LCA will provide may not give a detailed accounting of how money was spent, and that is why the audit is needed. Bauer said the council didn’t know that yet because they haven’t seen what the LCA and Tourism will present in April.

Welch said the council could move forward with the question to the LCA. He said, “We have to ask the question and give them the opportunity to respond.” He indicated that if the LCA then says ‘no,' the city will need to determine how to move forward.

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Conzo agreed with Welch saying that the council needed to vote to formally ask the question, even though O’Donohue had indicated they would say ‘yes’ to some and ‘no’ to other portions of the audit. Conzo indicated it needed to be a matter of record that the council had “asked” for the third party audits.

The question also came as to how the city would pay for the audit. Conzo said there was still $5,000 to $6,000 remaining in the economic development line of the budget. The money was tagged to go to the LCA, but since the LCA has broken the contract, that money will not be issued. That line item could partially cover the audit. He also noted that it is budget building time for the city, and the additional cost of the audit could be built into the new budget year.

Mourning moved on saying that he thought the LCA had made a smart decision in offering Leslie Hoefle a place on the board. He commented that she did have a genuine concern for the community. But, he wondered what position her membership on the board would put her husband Rick Hoefle in as Ward 4 Alderman; would it be a conflict of interest for the latter?

Hoefle said that at the moment Leslie Hoefle has not accepted any position, and he didn’t know that she would.

Tibbs said that the offer should not preclude Hoefle from voting on this night. Mourning agreed, but said he was wondering about the future, if Leslie Hoefle did join the board, and a vote came before the city regarding the LCA, would there be a conflict of interest if Rick Hoefle voted?

Welch said the same question could be posed to Bauer, and though he doesn’t vote, also to Johnson, because both are members of the Chamber’s Young Professionals Network. Bauer also noted that the question comes up with Steve Parrott as well, because he is a member of the Tourism Council. Bauer also noted that the city is no longer involved in an agreement with the LCA, so maybe this wasn’t an issue at all.

Hoefle also commented that O’Donohue and Snyder had already said the LCA would agree to an audit of the Economic Development program, so that really didn’t need a vote; so there was no conflict.

At the end of this exchange, the consensus was that the aldermen at hand didn’t have the answer to the conflict of interest questions. It was suggested that the full scenario should be discussed with city attorney Blinn Bates, to determine if the conflict exists for any of these people, and if so how it should be addressed when voting.

Neitzel brought the discussion to a close and called for the vote. Roll call was taken by city clerk Susan Gehlbach. Seven members of the council were present, with Steve Parrott being absent for the evening.

In the roll call, five voted in favor of the audit. They were Hoefle, Welch, Horn, Tibbs, and Jeff Hoinacki. Bauer and Mourning voted in opposition of the audit. The motion, therefore, passed 5-2.

[Nila Smith]

City of Lincoln: Vote to request independent audits of Logan County Alliance and Tourism Bureau passes 5-2

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