(January 23, 2003, w/ update) -- LB neighborhood activist Traci Wilson-Kleekamp has filed a lawsuit alleging Long Beach City Hall can't document portions of rent credits allowed to the firm operating the Queen Mary under lease with City Hall, alleging City Hall's conduct amounts to a gift of public funds.
The civil suit, filed in L.A. Superior Court on January 22 by attorney Patrick Manshardt of the L.A.-based Southwestern Legal Foundation, also alleges City Hall has not produced documents requested by Ms. Wilson-Kleekamp in Public Records Act requests dating back to January 2002.
The ship's operator, Queens Seaport Development Inc. (QSDI), is entitled under its lease with City Hall to receive certain credits for rent in connection with repairs and capital expenditures on the Queen Mary and for development of adjacent lands in the lease. Alleging City Hall's inability to document portions of the rent credits amounts to a "gift of public funds," the suit includes QSDI and its president Joe Prevratil as defendants.
As previously reported by LBReport.com, at the Dec. 23, 2003 City Council meeting, City Manager Jerry Miller and City Auditor Gary Burroughs agendized (and the Council approved) a request to have the Staubach Company conduct an independent review of the business relationship between City Hall and the Queen Mary operator.
Ms. Wilson-Kleekamp's suit alleges on information and belief that her activities to alert City Hall to the rent credit issue "caused the City to hire a consultant to examine the City’s relationship with QSDI" and cites the Council's Dec. 23 action.
[update] City Manager Miller informs LBReport.com that "Ms. Kleekamp's involvement had nothing to do with my calling for an outside review of the business relationship between the City and QSDI. My position was formulated by an honest concern with the number and complexity of outstanding issues regarding the Queen Mary lease." [end update]
Assistant City Auditor J.C. Squires told LBReport.com in December 2003 that the Staubach Co. review is separate from an audit being finalized by the City Auditor's office with completion anticipated in January concerning QM rent, percentage rent, credits paid and taken and the like. Mr. Squires indicated that the audit would be of a type routinely done by the City Auditor's office on hotels and other entities paying transient occupancy tax or similar sums to City Hall.
Ms. Wilson-Kleekamp told LBReport.com in Dec. 2003, "I don't understand what the Auditor is auditing because City Hall claims not to have some materials that I think taxpayers would expect it to have."
City Attorney Bob Shannon, reached while on the road by LBReport.com, said he hadn't had an opportunity to see the lawsuit yet and couldn't comment.
In December 2003, QSDI president Joe Prevratil told LBReport.com that his firm's records are in quite good order and said they undergo regular audits by an independent accounting firm.