City attorney to limit spending abilities, role of recreation councils
Published - 11/03/17 - 12:00 PM | 1581 views | 0 0 comments | 21 21 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Recreation councils, like the La Jolla Recreation Council, will soon see the city completely managing funds. (Above) The La Jolla Recreation Center park on an overcast autumn day. / PHOTO BY BLAKE BUNCH
Recreation councils, like the La Jolla Recreation Council, will soon see the city completely managing funds. (Above) The La Jolla Recreation Center park on an overcast autumn day. / PHOTO BY BLAKE BUNCH
In September, the La Jolla Village News reported that $67,935.86 was missing from the La Jolla Parks and Recreation Committee. Cindy Greatrex, who was president of that nonprofit group between May 2016 and February 2017, resigned and was eventually arrested as a result of the missing funds. She also had publicly promised to repay the money in a series of released emails.

Greatrex posted $70,000 bail on a charge of 487(B)(3) PC, defined in the California Penal Code as grand theft, which includes circumstances, "Where the money, labor, or real or personal property is taken by a servant, agent, or employee from his or her principal or employer and aggregates $950 or more in any 12 consecutive month period."

Her preliminary hearing on Sept. 15 was further delayed until Nov. 14.

This alleged misappropriation of funds may show a direct correlation as to how the city has long done business with recreation councils.

The inception of Council Policy 700-42, adopted in 1981, “controls recreation councils’ collection and expenditure of funds paid by the public and gives recreation councils certain administrative responsibilities at the city’s recreation centers.”

While Council Policy 700-42 essentially created individual recreation councils, over time, the city delegated the majority of administrative functions to these councils (including the collection of funds from participants and park patrons).

Several similar instances of embezzlement, often with little repercussion after perceived apology, have occurred during this time period. City Attorney Mara Elliott is now leading the charge to drastically limit these recreation councils' spending abilities.

According to Voice of San Diego, “The city’s recreation centers began the year with nearly $4.5 million in their accounts, but it’s hardly split evenly from one community to the next. Carmel Valley’s group began the year with more than $400,000 in its account, while Stockton had just $51.” Also, “In 2012, the city auditor’s office confirmed that $100,998 had gone missing from a recreation council.”

So what role, if any, would these recreation councils play if the city attorney has her way?

A document released by the city attorney’s office on Sept. 8 stated, “The Parks and Recreation Department, which is responsible for the recreation councils under Council Policy 700-42, has asked this office whether the funds collected by recreation councils are ‘city funds,’ subject to applicable provisions in the San Diego Charter and San Diego Municipal Code. This memo memorializes our previous advice. We believe that these funds are city funds...”

In the city attorney’s recommendation conclusion, her office found that “Based on the source of funds collected by recreation councils and the city’s delegation of recreational activities in city parks, the fee schedule, and the permit, we conclude that recreation council funds are city funds, subject to charted and municipal code provisions applicable to city funds.”

In short, the city wants to reclaim its own money. Recreation councils would then petition on a necessity-driven basis.

Following the release of the document, Elliott’s office issued the following statement on Oct. 31 regarding her recommendations as to the role of recreation councils:

“What the city council understands, but the public may not, is that recreation councils currently control these funds without city oversight. There are no checks and balances in place to ensure public dollars are spent fairly, appropriately and in compliance with state and local laws. The city has numerous protections in place to ensure proper use of public funds, such as competitive bidding processes, Equal Opportunity Contracting requirements, prevailing wage law, and conflict of interest policies.

“Today (Oct. 31), council is being asked to take actions that will give back to the city control of recreation council funds. The actions will also restrict the use of funds for recreation programs so that they can only be spent in the communities where the funds were generated. If the council adopts these actions, the recreation councils will continue in their advisory role as established by Council Policy 700-42.”

Elliott further elaborated that the only change is that the recreational councils will no longer take physical possession of the funds, which are paid by users of recreation programs. No longer will money be in their private accounts, but a designated city fund.
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