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Chamber audit held as scope expands

ENCINITAS — After five months of waiting to receive the results of an audit from the city’s Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Center, the City Council and city manager’s office were told that the document was not yet available. In fact, according to an e-mail sent to the board of directors and at least one reporter by new chamber CEO Marshall Weinreb, the review will be expanded.
“After very carefully reviewing the documents, I feel that this review will not satisfy the city nor does it satisfy me,” Weinreb said in
the e-mail. “We were too restrictive in choosing only 2008 for review, while I now see that the most revealing information can be found end 2007 and early 2009.”
The city has a long history of funding the Visitors Center. Since 1990, the city has provided financial support in varying amounts to the center.
In 2005, the city entered into a three-year agreement with the chamber to operate the Visitors Center with the amount of $91,500 per year. A month-to-month extension was granted in June 2008.
Performance measures are monitored by the city manager’s office. Richard Phillips, assistant city manager, suggested to council during the April 16, 2009, meeting that the chamber be required to hire a qualified person to audit the chamber’s financial records for the previous year as a condition of renewing the contract.
A 3-2 vote — with Mayor Maggie Houlihan and Councilwoman Teresa Barth opposing the one-year contract renewal — came after intense debate.
According to city officials, the chamber violated the contract in several ways without giving notice to the council. The chamber closed the Visitors Center at 859 Second Street on weekends without prior authorization, failed to maintain an updated Web site, did not reveal staff turnover and distributed outdated promotional materials, officials said. Operating hours during the week were also diminished.
Chamber board of directors’ President Ken Gross laid blame for the financial crisis and inadequate operations of the Visitors Center on the previous CEO, Gary Tucker, and his supporters on the board.
The city manager’s office and City Council declined to comment until the review is complete. Several current board members did not return calls as of press time for this story.
“I will be working with the CPA to quickly add vital data, which I know exists, to present a report that will clearly speak to the issues that we were expected to clarify,” Weinreb said in the e-mail. “It would have been easy to accept what I was given, but it just wasn’t enough.”
Weinreb, who has been on the job less than three months, apologized for the delay but said he wanted to ensure that the financial review was complete. “Sorry that I jumped the gun, but I am trying to put the past behind us and that can only happen when the doors can be shut completely and all the facts become crystal clear,” he said.
He did not give an estimated date for completion of the financial review.