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Council Stops City Auditor's Verbal Presentation Of Report On Unspent Street Repair Budget Money For Three Weeks

Burroughs Surprised As Council Silences Him Until September 5

(August 17, 2000) After releasing a written report that found millions of dollars budgeted for street repairs apparently went unspent, City Auditor Gary Burroughs was prevented from presenting the report verbally at the August 15, 2000 Council meeting.

Although Mr. Burroughs' presentation was publicly agendized for the meeting, Mayor Beverly O'Neill spoke before the Auditor could begin. The Mayor contended an absent Councilmember (whom she did not identify) sought to delay the Council discussion but not the presentation of the Auditor's report, but when Mr. Burroughs offered to present the report immediately and defer its discussion, the Mayor said it appeared to be the will of the Council to delay the entire item until September 5.

Despite Mr. Burroughs' consternation (transcript below), the Council voted 6-3 (Oropeza, Baker & Shultz absent) to delay the Auditor's verbal presentation and discussion of the report for three weeks until September 5. That meeting agenda is expected to be lengthy, including discussion of the budget and capital improvement programs. The August 15 Council meeting had a relatively short agenda.

Written Version of Report Details Unspent Street Money

A written version of the Auditor's report, entitled "Streets Capital Improvement Program, July 13, 2000" was included in Councilmembers' August 15 agenda packs and is a public record. Among other things, it indicates only 25.2% of funds budgeted for street projects were expended in the fiscal year ended September 30, 1999.

Among the issues it identified:

"It appears that the City's Streets CIP [Capital Improvement Program] budget is not a realistic spending plan. We could find no meaningful performance meaures to monitor and ensure accountability."

The Auditor's report compared budgeted and actual street expenditures for the fiscal year ended September 30, 1999 and found:

"Budgeted expenditures totaled $68.2 million of which only $17.2 million was actually expended. Although reoccurring annual funding sources were identified as approximately $9.6 million, appropriations totaled over $68 million for fiscal 1999 including accumulated unspent prior years funding from reoccuring sources, and grants, developer contributions, and General Funds considered non-reoccuring."

The report included a chart (which will be transcribed and posted on our Reference page) indicating some details for the fiscal year ended September 30, 1999:

  • Less than half (45.7%) of $4.46 million budgeted for residential street repair was expended;
  • Only 0.7% of $2.5 million budgeted for a project the Auditor's report called "Spring Street" was expended ;
  • Only 25.5% of roughly $15.6 million for "Major and Secondary Highways" was expended;
  • Only 68% of the much-publicized $3.2 million budgeted by the City Council last year for "Citywide Infrastructure (Sidewalks)" was actually expended, meaning roughly $1.025 Million went unspent.

A City Management's response was included in writing in the Auditor's report:

"[W]e take exception to the implication that there is a lack of accountability for management of the capial program or that the `proper' budgeting basis is a single year spending plan. The City's long-standing capital budget procedures as well as the new accounting system recognize that capital projects are not amenable to [sic] 12-month budget cycle. The capital budget is not a `realistic 12-month spending plan' because it was never intended to be. Rather, it is explicitly intended to initiate a multi-year program of projects, each of those projects typically being budgeted for their duration."

Auditor Treads Lightly But Told To Return In Three Weeks

Mr. Burroughs told the Council he was "being very careful" with the Report and wouldn't comment on it until he'd made his presentation to the Councilmembers, feeling they "have the right to hear this information first." He added that the Council's action delays this and "there's still additional information" including slides and materials that he'd planned to present.

Councilmember Frank Colonna (3d district) supported the delay in Mr. Burroughs' verbal presentation, saying it would give him time to read the report. Mr. Burroughs later remarked from the podium that every Councilmember already had the report for two weeks. will provide our own independent analysis of the Auditor's Report shortly. Pertinent portions will also be posted in our Reference section.

A transcript of pertinent portions of the August 15 Council meeting follows:

Clerk: City Auditor transmitting "Streets, Capital Improvement Program, July 13, 2000."

Mayor O'Neill: Yes, before Mr. Burroughs talks, may I just say that this particular issue I think is one that should be discussed when the entire Council is here, Gary. There are three members that are not here and I don't, I think you should make your presentation this evening but I think that the discussion on this probably should be at the budget workshop on September 5th when the entire Council is here to have a discussion on this. I think this is too important an issue and one of the Councilmembers asked me, they wanted to be here as part of the discussion for this particular issue, and the CIP workshop, capital improvement workshop, will be on the 5th of September, so I would appreciate maybe if we could have the discussion on this when everyone is here if that's alright...Gary Burroughs can make his report this evening but I think, well, I was just asked to do this by other Councilmembers that wanted to be part of the discussion...

Mr. Burroughs: If you'd like, we could, I agree with the concept of having the entire Council here, by the way, so if you'd like to postpone this and do it when you have the full Council, I'll do it, whatever is the preference of the Council.

The Mayor: Well, I'll tell you what, Gary. Maybe we should postpone this to September 5th and have it during the discussion of the CIP and at the Council meeting. You know, I don't mean to postpone you and I was going to have you go ahead with this, but being as three [Councilmembers] are not here...

Mr. Burroughs: I think it's up to the Council...the wishes of the Council.

Councilmember Kell: Madame Mayor, I'd like to make the motion to postpone this until September 5th.


Mr. Burroughs: Why don't I go ahead and make the presentation tonight and let the Council...

The Mayor [interrupting]: I don't think that's the feeling of the Council.

Mr. Burroughs: ...then just make a recommendation, it's up to the Council to decide what they wanna do.

The Mayor: (laughing) OK, OK.

Mr. Burroughs: And then, since there are, and maybe have a partial one, let the questions come up if they have them and we'll deal with those questions either in the budget workshop or later at the Council meeting when everybody's here.

...[Councilmember Kell indicated that proceeding with the item would require Mr. Burroughs to make his presentation twice (a second time for absent Councilmembers) and "I don't think it's fair to those who couldn't be here tonight." Mr. Burroughs responded:]

Mr. Burroughs: Just so you know, this is my report. The second thing is, none of the three Councilpeople who are absent today made have any phone calls to me asking to delay this or asking for additional information. Just so we know that.

The Mayor: OK. The only question that I had is that this was something that more people wanted to discuss when everyone was here, the Councilmembers...There is a motion on the floor and this is whether to put it to September 5 or not and have the report then at that time.

...Councilmember Colonna: Thank you Madame Mayor. I will go along with that vote as well, primarily because it'll give us an opportunity to review the report which I just received.

...[Public testimony included Ms. Colette McLaughlin in opposition to postponing the Auditor's presentation].

Ms. McLaughlin: I find it questionable that...they can't come to the meeting because they're attending political campaigns [the Democrats' LA Convention]...They can watch it on television...[T]he other Councilmembers found it more important to be here and attend this meeting...I think that these people who chose not to be here, we shouldn't change our agenda to meet their schedules."

...[The Mayor reiterated that she had not been asked to delay the report, just Council discussion of the item, "but the Council would like to do both at the same time." After further discussion, Mr. Burroughs said:]

Mr. Burroughs: Let me tell you what I'm beginning to feel here. I'm an elected official. I've got a report. I came prepared to make it tonight. Nobody until I got here has asked that this report be delayed.

The Mayor: I apologize to you. One of the Councilmembers felt that they would like to be part of the discussion of this item and that was what I said. I wanted you to give your report and then have the item discussed later.

...Mr. Burroughs: ...I want this at a regular Council meeting. I'd like to have all nine, it's OK with me that nine people be here, and frankly, the written report has been in everybody's hands that's sittin' behind that rail for over two weeks. So it's not, this isn't something that we didn't have time to think about...

I've tried to be very careful with this report. I've tried to, I mean, the press has asked me to comment on it and I've asked them not to comment on it, that I won't comment till I've talked to, made the presentation to this, to you the Councilmembers 'cause I think you have the right to hear this information first. Now that delays that a couple more weeks. There's still additional information, in fact I just handed out to you copies of slide presentations. I mean, I can't control what you do with that information, in fact frankly I'd like for you to pass it in if we want to postpone this that I at least have the slide presentations back.

The Mayor: Certainly...I didn't think that request that I got [from an unnamed Councilmember] was going to cause such a furor and I apologize to you for that. ...

[The motion to delay the item to September 5 passed 6-0 (Yes: Colonna, Carroll, Kell, Richardson-Batts, Grabinski, Webb)]

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