Council requesting state controller’s help; Letter being drafted that asks for audit

KNOW AND GO What: Special Meeting of the City Council When: 2 p.m. on March 11 Where: City Manager Conference Room, 600 Sixth Street The City Council will discuss the contents of a letter that to be sent to the State Controller's Office, requesting a re
By: Stephanie Dumm News Messenger Reporter
-A +A
The city of Lincoln responded to state government legislation that would eliminate redevelopment agencies by holding a special meeting half an hour prior to Tuesday’s City Council meeting. “Back in January, the governor made a proposal to eliminate redevelopment agencies,” Assistant City Manager/Chief Financial Officer Anna Jatczak said during the meeting. “Subsequently, late last week, we found out that state legislature is proposing legislature in their budget extremely similar to what the governor is proposing.” Gov. Jerry Brown could sign the bill eliminating redevelopment agencies as early as today, according to Jatczak, which means “assets of the redevelopment agency would no longer be under the control of the city of Lincoln or its redevelopment agency” and could be seized by the state. “What we’ve done here, in short, is to try to protect the assets of the city of Lincoln redevelopment agency,” Jatczak said. Those assets include properties “of high community value,” according to Jatczak, and include several parking lots and the Lincoln Youth Center, located at 391 H St. Both the City Council and Redevelopment Agency, which consists of all five members of the City Council, voted to adopt four resolutions that transfer ownership of those properties from the redevelopment agency to the city of Lincoln. Councilmen Spencer Short and Tom Cosgrove expressed their concerns about the possible financial obligation of transferring those properties to the city. “I understand the intent and understand the frustration with legislature. What I’m concerned about is making sure any action we take tonight, if it looks like it’s going to be a financial burden,” Cosgrove said. “We already know what our finances look like. We don’t need any additional impact to the budget. If it’s reversible, I’m fine with it.” Anastasia Efstathin, the city’s redevelopment agency consultant, told council that “the documents don’t indicate that the city is obligated to pay for these properties at this time.” “The document is not saying you are purchasing the properties but taking responsibility so the city can continue to control what properties do to benefit the city rather than letting the successor (state) take them,” Efstathin said. Cosgrove to send letter to State Controller In other meeting news, City Councilman Tom Cosgrove announced Tuesday night that he drafted a letter to the State Controller’s office, asking for an audit of the city’s finances. The drafted letter was related to a suggestion made by Councilman Stan Nader during the Feb. 22 council meeting to do the same. “The state controller understands finances. That would be appropriate to have the controller look at the books,” Nader said Feb. 22. Cosgrove’s letter, which would be from all City Council members if sent, requests that the state controller’s office audit the city’s financial information back to the year 2005. Cosgrove noted that “over two years ago it was determined that required financial audits of city finances had not been completed for the previous three years,” and that the audits for those incomplete years have since been completed. “The completed audits have identified additional concerns and have raised a number of other questions in the community,” Cosgrove wrote. “The council members of the city of Lincoln would like to ask the assistance of your office in addressing these concerns.” Cosgrove said those concerns include appropriate use of fund balances/inter-fund loans, debt write off and unfunded liabilities and disclosure of financial information prior to an election. The City Council was supportive of asking the controller’s office to audit the city’s finances although Councilman Spencer Short repeatedly asked to see the list of concerns that would be attached. “I want to make sure that (residents) understand we have been transparent and have put the facts out. I will support moving this thing forward because I believe it will prove everything we’ve said,” Short said. “I do have a problem voting on something I haven’t seen. I would like to see the entire list.” City attorney Tim Hayes said it would be a violation of the Brown Act if all council members were to see the list outside of a City Council meeting setting. Council members then called for a special City Council meeting this Friday so they could review the list before it is sent. Short sent a similar letter in January to the Fair Political Practices Commission, the attorney general’s office and the governor’s office asking that the three agencies “weigh in on the (city’s) management issues and determine whether or not criminal or civil wrongdoing has taken place.” The Fair Political Practices Commission’s executive director Roman Porter said Feb. 4 that Short’s allegations don’t fall in the commission’s jurisdiction. Lincoln resident Terrie Robinson expressed support Tuesday night for Cosgrove’s decision to send the letter. “Wow, I am impressed, amazed and in awe that you have taken this tremendous step toward transparency. You’ve listed about everything I’ve wanted to see,” Robinson said. “I am just blown away, in awe, I’d like to give praise where praise is due. Council member Cosgrove, you’ve got me rethinking a lot about you.” Both Councilmen Gabriel Hydrick and Stan Nader said they were in support of the letter and Nader said “it is very important to build our credibility with the citizens.” “If this begins the process of healing, if it helps us to put this behind us, to begin to look forward, I am absolutely in favor of drafting this letter,” Mayor Paul Joiner said. As of press time, city clerk Pat Avila said a special meeting will be Friday regarding the letter but the time has not been confirmed nor has it been decided if the meeting will be a closed session or a public meeting. The News Messenger will post the status of that meeting on as soon as it is known.