STRAWBERRY COLORED MONEY or HOW DO YOU SPELL IRS?
Have our Strawberry Festivals been generating additional income to our city’s coffers or has it been operating in the Red and a financial liability? This question has become additionally prevalent when records provided by the city verified that the city used approximately $19,000 in “Petty Cash” to operate this year’s Strawberry Festival, and that after the Festival the City Council was asked to approve this this expenditure without any explanation. Sounds like Grand Jury fodder to me.
At our previous city council meeting I inquired about 4 checks totaling over $20,000 for “Petty Cash”. I received a response from our Finance Director explaining that $10,450.00 of it was to pay 3 bands that performed at this year’s Strawberry Festival. Banda Autentica de Jerez was paid with 70 one-hundred dollar bills, Los Grandes de Tijuana was paid with 30 one-hundred dollar bills, and Mariachi Salinas de Martin Alcantar was paid with 4 one-hundred dollar bills and one fifty dollar bill.
The response prompted these additional questions to City Manager Carlos Palacios:
· Why couldn’t these bands accept checks?
· Other bands played at the Strawberry Festival. Were they also paid with cash money?
· The check, #182454, in the amount of $18,650 for the bands, Sodas, Parking and Sales was issued on July 27th, which is 10 days prior to the festival. When was the check cashed and who had the care, custody and control of the cash for the days preceding payment?
· Who handed out the 104 One-Hundred Dollar Bills and the one Fifty Dollar Bill to the Bands, on what date and to which individuals (names)?
· When was it agreed with the Bands that they would be paid with cash money?
Can you imagine how maybe conversations went when 104 one-hundred dollar bills were being handed out?
“Hey, what’s that big bulge in your pocket?”
“Sssh Dude! It’s the Benjis we gonna use to pay the bandas.”
“What? Are you nuts carrying that amount of cash? What if somebody holds you up? How you going to explain that?”
“No worries man, we’ll just use the missing Fire Truck tactic.”
“We say the money will be found in 3 years.”
“Great, that’s all we need. Another Grand Jury Investigation!”
I also made a Request for Documents from City Clerk Beatriz Flores:
· Copies of 1099(s) for the past 2 years issued for Entertainment (to Bands) and upon availability for the Bands that played this year at the Strawberry Festival.
· Copies of Contracts for this year and past 2 years between the city and all the Bands that played at the Strawberry Festivals.
· Copy of the Petty Cash Policy
I received an email presumably from our City Clerk:
I am in receipt of your Public Records Request for 1099s issued to vendors for the Strawberry Festival, contracts, and City’s policy for petty cash. I will be compiling the responsive documents and providing you with a response within the ten (10) days pursuant to the Public Records Act.
The Finance and Parks & Community Services Departments will be working to provide me with the additional requests in your email. They will endeavor to get me the information within the ten days; however, they may need the extra fourteen days allowed by the Public Records Acts to gather all the information. I will let you know if the extra time will be necessary on or before September 19, 2011.
Beatriz Vázquez Flores, CMC
Considering that the only individual that writes me with “Dear Emilio” is City Attorney Alan Smith and that our city clerk usually just types her name in her emails, not her cut and paste title, I wondered if Mr. Smith wrote the email for our city clerk and sent him an email:
Did you write this for Beatriz? You’re the only one who uses “Dear Emilio”. Not that I mind…I am starting to have fun guessing who writes what and for whom within the confines of the Civic Plaza.
If our city is being financially burdened with the Strawberry Festival, especially during this “historic” (a fond word of Assemblyman Alejo) Great Recession, which looks like its gaining momentum, wouldn’t it behoove us to consider outsourcing it or combining it with another festival and having it at the fairgrounds?
Also, many of you have been providing information regarding “Petty Cash” policy and procedures at your place of employment and most are shocked at the amount of money kept for “Petty Cash” in our city.
Not me. Not when the city issues a $225,000 check for a Fire Truck to a fire truck dealer who does not own or have possession of the Fire Truck, or that it took almost 3 years before the city received the Title of Ownership, not the truck, and without explanation where our $225,000.00 sat for that amount of time. And, City Manager Carlos Palacios responds to the Grand Jury, for the city council members, that in essence, the Grand Jury is erroneous? Erroneous after the city produced 2 identical Invoices for 2 different Fire Trucks and that the $225,000 check was not for the Fire Truck that we purchased which is possibly still not in service and may not be until after the New Year? Confused?
Not me, because this reminds of back in the day when I heard the urban legend of the employee who lost his hat in heavy winds while working. He requested reimbursement for the hat from his employer in his Expense Account Report. The employer responded they were not responsible for the cost of the hat. The employee re-did his Expense Account Report requesting the same amount of money but without the cost of the hat. He attached a yellow sticky pad paper to the Expense Report that read: “Now, find the hat.” He would have made a great city manager.
Something Smells Fishy and You Know It’s Not The Watsonville Fishing Report!