by Leslee Kulba
Wild West blogger
The City of Ashevilleâ€™s Parks and Recreation Department recently underwent an internal controls review. This was prompted by a number of project overruns prompting requests for budget amendments. It also followed the cityâ€™s acquisition of a number of recreational facilities from Buncombe County and the hiring of a new director for the department.
Assessments of former Parks and Recreation Director Irby Brinson run the gamut. At least he is to be commended for converting the golf course, acquired from the county, into an enterprise that is now practically self-supporting.
But there wereÂ problems with other recreational facilities the city acquired at the same time. The Nature Center was recently scandalized for carelessness at the turnstiles. The city promptly performed an audit and implemented better controls.
The recentÂ review of the Parks and Recreation Department identified causes for the overruns and other practices that did not exactly follow GAAP. They included intradepartmental cominglings of funds, cavalier use of procurement cards, deficiencies in standardized methods of communicating financial information among stakeholders, and reliance on verbal agreements for grant moneys.
The finance departmentâ€™s recommendation, to hire a bureaucrat to oversee the bureaucracy, however, is probably the best thing that can be done short of privatizing the whole department. The cityâ€™s CFO, Ben Durant, instills confidence with the directness and precision with which he discusses the cityâ€™s budget. That the recent audit was even conducted shows he has an interest in making sure things are square.
DurantÂ successfully navigated the city through the budget crisis introduced by the Sullivan acts, and last year heÂ kept the budget revenue-neutral without sacrificing city services,Â in spite of astronomical county revals.Â UndoubtedlyÂ heÂ will continue to hold the cityâ€™s departments accountable to the taxpayers.