For six months, the proceedings of the Arroyo Seco Neighborhood Council were ground to a near stand-still while they operated under the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment's Exhaustive Efforts program.
Put in place in March as a result of the Department's concerns about the board's accounting practices and the frequent bickering among ASNC members, the program was finally lifted on Thursday following months of mediation meetings and the release of an audit that found no major discrepancies in the council's ledger.
The audit report--which reviewed the board's accounting ledgers from July 2010 to June 2011--states that "The results of the ASNC operations and its cash flow for the period of [July, 2010 through June, 2011] conform to accounting principles."
The audit was triggered in December of 2011 after DONE began a review of the finances of the city's 95 neighborhood councils. In a January meeting with the board, DONE Project Coordinator Rita Moreno reported that the Department was prompted to look deeper into ASNC's finances after finding $1,500 in expenditures related to animal welfare projects in the final quarter of Fiscal Year 2011 under former treasurer Mark Legassie.
In December of 2011, and reported that $3,000 had been spent on animal welfare projects when only $1,500 in funding had been approved.
Board member Joseph Riser disputed Knapton's findings at the time, saying that she failed to account for board approvals of animal welfare spending late in 2011.
According to DONE's audit report, the ASNC's spending on animal welfare under Legassie in 2010/2011 did not raise major concerns with the city's auditors.
From the report:
The ASNC incurred a total of $5,419.00 expenditures for animal benefits on the credit card for budget fiscal year 2011. The original budget allocation for animal benefits was $3,597.00. The ASNC moved an additional $1,500.00 for animal benefit. Therefore the new animal benefits budget amount was $5,097.00. Compared to the budget that was approved by the ASNC, the expenses for animal benefits only had a deviation of 6% from the budget line. The difference as acceptable based on past practice in the Funding Program.
Though the audit appears to exonerate Legassie of accusations of vastly overspending the board's animal welfare account, the report did raise concerns about the amount spent on rescuing, trapping, neutering, vaccinating and releasing stray cats.
The report states that $3,306.19 was spent on such projects, a practice DONE recommends against.
"As a best practice to support animal benefits in the community, the Department recommends using the established Neighborhood Purposes Grant Program to limit concerns associated with possible ownership of an animal and the proper way to take care them," the report states.
Unapproved Use of President's Signature
The audit also addressed accusations from Board President Martha Benedict that Legassie attached her electronic signature to board documents without her permission.
Since the accusations were made, Legassie has maintained that the electronic signature was provided to him by Benedict to expedite the filing of reconciliation reports, and that it had not been stolen from her.
The audit report suggests that the board define define a process through which the use electronic signatures can be authorized, however, it also states that the Department would not further pursue Benedict's allegations.
"The department recommends that the Board adopt a process to protect individuals’ signatures to avoid future concerns," the report states. "The President, at her own discretion, may pursue the matter of the misuse of her signature through the appropriate channels. The department does not have jurisdiction over such matters."
The audit report found three transactions that were not accounted for in the board's reconciliation forms, however, not recommendations were attached to those findings.
The unreconciled funds include (from the audit):
- 08/23/2010 Eating places and Restaurants , Choza Mama $358.13
- 10/26/2010 Fun Services Misc Personal Services $500.00
(However, similar transactions were found on 10/4/2011 $600 and 1/6/2012
- $600.00. It could be for the above referenced transactions).
04/21/2011 Domain/hosting Services Computer Nework information $8.67