Balboa Park’s centennial celebration audit reveals no misuse of funds

SAN DIEGO (KUSI) – The committee that promised a spectacular celebration for Balboa Park’s 100th Birthday next year collapsed six months ago with little to show for the $3 million it spent.

There was no detailed accounting of where the money went, so an audit was ordered, and it was finally released.

City Auditor Eduardo Luna did not find any misuse of funds among other things, but he did find the committee did not follow proper procedures in awarding contracts to vendors.

The Jerry Sanders administration had formed and contracted with committee to carry out all aspects of the celebration from planning to execution.

It was to be an event to increase civic pride, boost tourism, and flood the city with new dollars.

Then came Mayor Bob Filner who felt what the committee was doing was too small town.

Filner blew up the planning process. He hired an L.A. Firm to oversee everything, and the committee began to lose sight of its mission.

With nine months left before the celebration was to begin, and lax oversight from the city, the entire process was in disarray.

“We were told it would be a year long spectacular, now we’ve got basically nothing to show for it, so today’s hearing is about where we are, where was the money spent, people want to know exactly what’s going on,” said Alvarez back in March.

The audit found the committee did not fully comply with the agreement, and money was paid for services not received.

$3 million had been spent mostly for salaries and communications. Half a million dollars went towards communications, and $600,000 for salaries.

By May of this year, the city had enough, and the committee was disbanded.

The man in charge, Gerry Braun said the committee was heart broken.

“All of whom I think poured their heart and soul in trying to make this work. I’d like to say on their behalf that they’re heart broken at this outcome, they did everything they could to succeed,” said Braun.

Now, it was up to the new mayor, Kevin Faulconer.

“Where we got off the track is a mayor that wanted, had to be a big international focus, tens of millions of dollars. That’s not what we’re gonna do, I’m gonna insist we have a celebration that works for us, is San diego focused,” said Mayor Faulconer.

The city was forced to come up with a Plan-B.

“I’m confident that we will as a city be able to come together on a celebration that makes sense, one that the city can afford, and something at the end of the day we’re all going to be very, very proud of,” said Faulconer.

The mayor’s office has taken control of the celebration, and in a couple of weeks the city will announce a list of signature events for the Spring 2015.

Categories: KUSI