Sunday, February 08, 2009

More about The Ice Tower and That "Anonymous $63,000 Donation"

An examination of the Godfrey Administration's own ledger timeline

By Dan Schroeder

Getting back to the ice tower and that mysterious "anonymous donation"...

Friday afternoon, in response to a GRAMA request submitted January 15, I obtained from the city a printout of a ledger of all tower-related receipts and expenditures. An electronic copy is available for viewing here.

The most interesting entry is for a receipt of $62,949.82 from Ogden Climbing Park LLC, dated January 15, 2009. The ledger indicates that this revenue has been applied toward a long list of expenses incurred between June 6, 2007, and June 10, 2008.

So assuming that all the dates are accurate, here's a chronology of the most important developments over the last two years:

May 31, 2007: Ogden receives $200,000 RAMP grant for the ice tower.

June 6, 2007: Ogden begins spending money on appraisal, design, engineering, and related work.

December 6, 2007: Ogden submits a progress report to the RAMP administrator, reporting that over $24,000 has been spent so far on preliminary work for the ice tower.

Sometime shortly thereafter: Ogden is informed by the RAMP administrator that RAMP funds may be spent only on constructing the ice tower, not on development expenses. John Patterson sends an undated letter to RAMP apologizing for this "error", saying it "has been corrected" and will not happen again. However, the city continues to pay engineering and design expenses even though there is no other source of revenue to cover these expenses.

June 10, 2008: Ogden's expenses since the previous June now total $62,949.82.

June 24, 2008: After a great deal of controversy, the City Council approves a budget of $100,000 of city funds for the ice tower, but stipulates that this money may not be spent until all other needed funding is in place.

June 30, 2008: End of the the city's fiscal year 2008. The audited financial report will not be released to the public for another six months. However, at this point it would appear to the auditors that there is still plenty of cash in the ice tower account, thanks to the RAMP grant. The auditors presumably are unaware of the stipulation that the RAMP money cannot be used to cover the development expenses that have been incurred over the last year.

January 14, 2009: Weber County Forum breaks the news that the RAMP grant has expired and the city must return the $200,000, plus interest, to the county.

January 15, 2009: The Standard-Examiner reports on the expiration of the RAMP grant. This is also the date of the ledger entry for the city's receipt of $62,949.82 from Ogden Climbing Parks.

January 23, 2009: The RAMP money (and interest) is refunded to the county.

The ledger also shows some smaller and earlier receipts and expenses: a $9,000 contribution from an unnamed source that went toward transporting the ice tower (among other things) in 2004, and a $15,000 small business loan made to Ogden's Hollographic Ice Tower (aka Ogden Climbing Parks) in March 2006, funded by a Community Development Block Grant. Finally, there are three expenses that were charged to the city's general fund in 2007 and 2008, totaling $1,533.20.

Ed. Note: Our gentle readers are invited to digest Dan's newly-revealed information, and to speculate on the true meaning of all this.

14 comments:

drewmeister said...

Wow, Dan, thank you for your stupendous work.. I'm shocked the city actually got the damned information back to you this year. Good job! We're lucky to have folks like you who do the work that the rest of us won't or can't do ourselves. Thank you!

dan s. said...

Drew,

Thanks!

How long they take to respond depends on what you ask for. I knew these records would be easy for the city to locate, and that no GRAMA exemption would be applicable. But they still took the maximum 15 business days to respond, including an extra 5 days for (bogus) legal review.

Someday I'll hold a little workshop on how to use GRAMA, for other interested citizen activists. It's not hard once you get the hang of it.

Curious 1 said...

Remember the current legislature is trying to make GRAMMA requests harder to access for the general public. We need to keep an eye on this and write/call your represenatives to let them know we need more open government not a secret government. How about all the blackberries that the city employees use, since they are paid for with tax funds can we access their records and e-mail? Especially the business development clowns.

Thanks Dan for being a good active citizen...

Curmudgeon said...

While others more on top of city ordinances and financial procedures than I am wrangle with questions of unauthorized expenditures, etc., there's one thing Dan's list highlights that seems beyond dispute: the continuing fiscal incompetence of the Godfrey administration. It accepted a $200K ramp grant, and began spending the money without bothering to find out what the provisions of the grant involved. They've done this before. The UTA has had long experience with the Godfrey Administration not understanding [or ignoring] disbursement provisions of federal grant money coming to the city via UTA administered programs. And of course the same highly paid economic and development geniuses at city hall themselves offered up as the explanation for why a much ballyhooed and triumphantly announced five star hotel and indoor wading pool complex downtown was being halted this: the city had misplaced 200 or so parking places in a public lot it had promised to the hotel and indoor wading pool developers.

We can wrangle about the legalities involved in the ice tower expenditures, the timing, etc., but the rank incompetence involved in spending grant money without bothering to examine the terms of the grant cannot be doubted. It's beginning to look more and more like Ogden has installed Inspector Cleuseau in the Mayor's office.

disgusted said...

what seems to be missing in these numbers is the cost of the office that is maintained by the ogden climbing park organization. knowing that the city is funding this endevor i find it interesting that no where in these numbers is there any reference to the expense of the office that is maintained on two bit street. no mention of furnature office equipment rent or salaries. considering this gig has been ongoing from march of 06 until today i know there have been costs that are being hidden somewhere else within the city budget. that dollar amount could exceed the indicated numbers on this spread sheet.
also the 15 grand grant by the cdbg though not a direct general fund expense is another example of the administration using city money to jump start this project. money that came out of the residents pockets for a high risk business proposal. not what the money we provide to the bic program was meant to be used for.

RJ Svengali said...

This reminds us of one long hot summer afternoon, not too long ago.

We bought the kids an ice cream, and asked them to not eat it until we were out of the car.
We turned around a minute later, and they both had their heads hanging out of the car window. Eating ice cream cones.

We demanded, politely:
We thought we asked you both not to eat the ice cream until...

And our 7 year old responded:
"nuhuh daddy, I am not IN the car daddy"

Oh, you mean THESE ramp tax funds?!? Sorry!

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
ozboy said...

Great stuff Dan, thanks! Too bad nobody in authority has the balls to do anything about it.

Mr. Curmudgeon - I agree with your opinion of incompetence residing in the heart of the Godfreyite movement. However, may I be so bold as to suggest that there is another huge player in the Lil Lord's makeup. It is called Hubris. Brimming over with hubris and incompetence is the way I have seen this gang at city hall from the first time I became aware of them four years ago.

Somebody ought to write a book. This story, although lacking the scope, certainly has the style, hubris and incompetence of the Boss Tweet era.

retired municipality auditor said...

The audited financial statements as of June 30, 2008 were verification of the City's figures as represented by the City's own figures of operating income and expense.

The auditors were not verifying Grant income and disbursements. That would have had to be a separate audit of the Grant itself.

This same hocus pocus by Ogden City is being done in their Federal housing grants from HUD. The Feds have their own auditors who are supposed to determine that the funds are spent properly but their auditors aren't asking the right questions of Ogden City either.

It is hard for lay persons to understand that certified audits such as the City is required to have at the end of their fiscal year are not audits to find malfeasance or theft of funds or misapplication of grants.

The City fiscal year audit is to certify that the figures presented by the City Comptroller are correct as taken from the City's own books. The audit is not for the purpose of discovering fraud. It is to determine that State and Municipal Codes have been followed in accounting for the revenues are posted.

Kind of a waste of time usually.

miss persnickety said...

oz,

I think you mean Boss Tweed....

Curmudgeon said...

Oz:

In re: administration arrogance. No argument from me. In fact, it was a Godfrey act of arrogant contempt for the Council that first started me watching his administration: his buying the expensive rollaway seats for the Amphitheater immediately after the Council said "no" because there wasn't enough in the budget just then. Sadly, it was just the tip of what was to become an iceberg of arrogance over the years.

The ironic part is that it has, in the end, worked to Godfrey's disadvantage, and has made it much more difficult for him to get what he wants from the Council. For example, the Ramp Tax Ice Tower money: if the Mayor had managed to establish a good working relationship with the Council, based on mutual trust and a mutual conviction that each party's word was good once given, the mistake the Administration made spending the RAMP funds might have been easily handled. But Godfrey poisoned that well --- relations with the Council built on mutual confidence --- long ago and so concealing for as long as they could what had happened, and their continued spending [without Council authorization] to cover work already contracted for Ice Tower prep work, and how they were going to put the money back, seemed to them their only option. Which of course will make things still more difficult for them down the road.

The administration's incompetence at even the basics of effective urban public administration [e.g. read the terms of grants before spending the money; establish good working relations with the Council whose cooperation you will need to do what you want to do; make sure your word, once given, is good, and so on] is pretty breathtaking when you add it all up. And I have little doubt that, as you say, a good portion of the bungling can be traced to arrogance.

danny said...

Here's what I think.

1. Dan S., wonderful work.

2. Curm's point, if oft repeated, is valid. Godfrey and his cronies' insular, condescending, backroom, and often calculatingly misleading way of doing things ultimately hurts Godfrey himself.

3. With his hand (and possibly Jeff Lowe's) caught in the till, Godfrey needed $62,949.82 ASAP. No problem, a ledger entry solves the problem except it involved NO MONEY ACTUALLY PAID BY OGDEN CLIMBING PARKS. Godfrey's plan is to "finesse" the money from somewhere else when nobody is looking.

It's just standard procedure for Godfrey. (Hey possible donors, how do you like all this sleaze?) But every instance of this kind of tomfoolery will just make it all the harder for him in the future. It's all good.

Thanks Dan, and the WCF, without both of which we would have never known.

the lovely jennifer said...

Miss Persnickety

Boss Tweet works!

TLJ

Curmudgeon said...

Comment bumped to front page

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