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Joyce Clark Unfiltered

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It has been 17 years and 256 days since the city’s pledge to build the West Branch Library.

I spent some time reading the audit of the Coyotes released by the city on September 9, 2015. Here is the link: https://www.glendaleaz.com/auditor/documents/ArenaContractComplianceReview2015.pdf . The overall sense of the audit expresses the city’s deep frustration with IceArizona’s failure to provide all of the information required by the Professional Management Services and Arena Lease Agreement (PMSA).

Here are a few of the limitations utilized by IceArizona in responding to audit requests:

  • “City staff requested that the Arena Manager provide the City’s auditors and Consultant with a copy of the Team Owner’s financial statements. The Arena Manager denied this request.”
  • “The City’s auditors also requested an independent confirmation of the Team Owner’s 2013/2014 annual operating loss. The Arena Manager’s independent external auditors denied this request.”
  • “On March 13, 2015, the Team Owner issued a notice to the City of the Team Owner’s claimed operating loss for the ‘First Certification Period,’ as defined in the PMSA. The Team Owner provided no additional backup documentation, including Team Owner financial statements, for the city to verify the claimed operating loss.”

Much of the final audit findings are no longer applicable or relevant since the city council cancelled the original contract and negotiated an amended contract good for two years. The audit dealt with all of the revenue streams some of which are no longer applicable under the new temporary contract. However, there were quite a few potential non-compliance issues identified:

  • “Early Termination: The Team Owner’s June 30, 2014 financial statements were not provided to the City, prohibiting the City from verifying the Team Owner’s claimed operating loss. Additionally, the City’s estimate of the Team Owner’s 2013/2014 operating loss is greater than the Team Owner’s March 13, 2015 claimed operating loss based upon the information provided to the City and the Consultant by the Arena Manager. It appeared that the loss as reported to the City was not based upon the Team Owner’s financial results but was based upon the Partnership’s earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization from the consolidated audited financial statements.” The city had to subtract out the Arena Manager’s audited financial statements from the Partnership’s financial statements since they were not reported separately but all lumped together. The city calculated the Team Owner’s loss to be greater than what they reported to the city.
  • Naming Rights: The City was not paid their full share of naming rights under the 2006 Jobing.com Naming Rights Agreement, resulting in a potential underpayment.” Under the agreement the city was to receive 20% or $1.2 M a year ($60,000 a month). Instead the city received $55,540 for the year. Unilaterally IceArizona said if Jobing.com pays us less, the city gets less. They also independently revised the definition of what components made up the naming rights and told the city that it was not entitled to some of those revenue components.
  • “Qualified Tickets: The number of paid admissions reported by the Team Owner to the NHL was higher than the number of paid admissions reported to the City, resulting in potential surcharge and supplemental surcharge fees still due to the City estimated at $39,640.” The number of paid admissions reported to the city was 533,856; the number reported to the NHL was 542,665 ( a difference of 8,809). The number of complimentary tickets reported to the city was 43,762; the number reported to the NHL was 34,953. The city should have received an additional $39,640.50 for the unreported 8,809 tickets.
  • “Supplemental Surcharge Fees: The Arena Manager did not establish a Supplemental Surcharge Escrow Account in 2014/2014 and deposit funds into the account as required by the PMSA. The Arena Manager wired the entire amount of supplemental surcharge fees that were collected throughout the year to the City on July 9, 2014.” Again, because of the discrepancy in reported ticket sales the city did not receive all supplemental revenue to which it was entitled.
  • “Annual Financial Reports: The City did not receive the Arena Manager’s audited financial statements, which were due September 30, 2014, until February 25, 2015. The Team Owner’s annual financial statements were not reported to the city. The Arena Manager’s independent external auditors were unable to confirm the Arena Manager’s and Team Owner’s 2013/2014 revenues and expenses to the City.
  • “Sales Tax: The Arena Manager and the City have not clarified responsibilities regarding the collection and remittance of sales tax, potentially resulting in unremitted sales taxes on certain Arena revenues.”
  • “Annual Budget: The Arena Manager submitted the 2013/2014 annual budget to the City late on March 25, 2014. The budget was due within 30 days of the closing date of the PMSA.

What does all of this government-speak mean in plain English? The city was frustrated because IceArizona was very late in submitting their audit and IceArizona played games with the report they submitted. The city was put in the position of finding the hidden pea under three cups. The city was conned. IceArizona’s game playing shouldn’t come as any surprise. After all, look at with whom they surrounded themselves…Craig Tindall, Julie Frisoni and Gary Sherwood…who appear to be three little peas in an ethically challenged peapod.

The city didn’t care about the profit and loss statements of the IceArizona partnership. It wanted and didn’t get, two, separately and independently verified audits of IceArizona as the arena manager and IceArizona as the team owner. The city suspects that the annual loss was greater than IceArizona reported but without those two audits the city can surmise but not verify their suspicion. The city was underpaid on ticket sales and the related surcharges that flowed from the ticket sales. The city was underpaid on naming rights because IceArizona unilaterally changed the rules of the game. Finally, the city may also have been underpaid on sales tax revenues generated within the arena.

After having seen the results of the audit is it any wonder that a majority of council cancelled the original agreement? It also lends credence to council’s decision to move forward with putting the arena management contract out for bids. IceArizona has demonstrated an unwillingness to share crucial information, financial or otherwise. They have flexed their muscles as the “big boys” and have shown considerable distain for the city and the taxpayers whose dollars keep them alive.

IceArizona, just like any other entity, is free to submit a bid but based upon their past performance. They will have to clean up their act considerably to be considered seriously.

© Joyce Clark, 2015

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The major categories of debt that Glendale carries have been identified in the bdu-4-pocket-khaki-tan-jacket-100-ripstop-cotton[1]previous 4 blogs. How the revenues are spent has also been explored.  The next question is…was the issuance of all Glendale debt prudent and necessary?

The issuance of Enterprise Fund debt, Highway User Revenue Fund (HURF) debt and Transportation debt has historically been reasonable and prudent. The debt associated with these three funds are for the “bricks and mortar” of the city. They fund projects for the construction of new infrastructure as Glendale grew and for the repair and maintenance of all city infrastructures. They were used on projects as diverse as new water treatment facilities to new traffic lights to Northern Parkway.

There is one form of debt that I have not covered previously and that is the Interfund Loan debt. The General Fund borrowed from the Water/Sewer, Landfill, Sanitation, Technology Replacement and Vehicle Replacement Funds to cover two annual $25 million management fee payments to the National Hockey League (NHL) for Jobing.com Arena during Fiscal Years 2011 and 2012. The first $25 million annual fee payment in 2011 came from the General Fund’s Contingency Fund and no Enterprise Funds were used.

The second $25 million annual fee payment in 2012 came from loans from the above mentioned funds with the lion’s share of $20 million borrowed from the Water/Sewer Enterprise Fund. We know from Ordinance 1451 that, “The sanitation fund shall be a separate and protected fund, to be used for no other purpose than expenses associated with sanitation services.” The other Enterprise Fund Ordinances carry the same caveat.

There are some who have heart burn over the concept of the city having borrowed money from these funds. What they fail to recognize is that over many years, General Fund dollars were used to support these funds by carrying some of the Enterprise Fund employees or by not receiving full compensation for the support functions performed by General Fund employees. Historically, over the years, the Enterprise Funds have been supported financially in some form or fashion by the General Fund. Under those circumstances borrowing from the Enterprise Funds is not as egregious as some think it to be. Here is just one example of the financial interrelationship between the General Fund and the Enterprise Funds occurring on January 8, 2013, This is a request for City Council to waive reading beyond the title and adopt an ordinance approving an operating cash transfer from the General Fund (GF) to the Water/Sewer Enterprise Fund; and the transfer of 3.5 Full Time Employees (FTEs), and the associated appropriation authority, from the Water/Sewer Enterprise Fund to the GF, both of which are within the Financial Services Department.”

The debt issuance decisions associated with the General Obligation (G.O.) bonds and the Municipal Property Corporation (MPC) bonds have not always been prudent or even necessary. As has been stated previously some of the council decisions were political. In the G.O. bond category just two examples are: the accelerated advancement of the Foothills Recreation & Aquatic Center which was politically motivated; as was the Capital Improvement Program (CIP) number 1 placement of the Public Safety & Training Facility (PSTF). The PSTF was funded with a combination of G.O. debt and MPC debt.

Was the need for either of these facilities critical? No. Those that get everything in north Glendale wanted more and in this case it was their own recreation and aquatic center so that they wouldn’t have to travel down “there.” The number of resident-owned swimming pools in north Glendale and especially the Cholla district is astronomical compared to any other region of Glendale. It’s ironic that this facility has become regional serving the interests of Peoria and Phoenix residents. Councilmember Martinez would be quick to point out that the facility earned revenues that just about cover the annual O&M facility costs but those revenues do not cover the debt issued to pay for its construction. That’s being paid off by every property owner in Glendale with their secondary property tax.

Was the need for a Public Safety Training Facility (PSTF) critical? Again, the answer is No. To this day new police recruits go to a regional police academy such as the Arizona Law Enforcement Training Academy (ALETA) for initial training. The PSTF is used by Glendale police for advanced training only, another function whose needs can be met elsewhere. The Glendale fire department just had to have this facility even though they have always been able to obtain training slots for new recruits at the regional facilities in Phoenix and Mesa. Training slots had never been an issue. Suddenly the dearth of slots became the rationale for Glendale’s very own training facility.

Lastly we arrive at the MPC Bond debt. Were the projects funded by MPC debt critical and necessary? The answer is No.  Decisions regarding MPC expenditures were often political. Former Mayor Scruggs always went ballistic when she heard references to Glendale as the town of “hicks and sticks, plows and cows.” She and former City Manager Ed Beasley shared a vision. Their vision was that Glendale would become an equal of the well known Valley cities who had developed a niche and a city brand for themselves. Tempe is known as a college town. Scottsdale has always been the “west’s most western town.” Chandler and Gilbert were becoming the technology towns. Glendale wanted to be the sports town.

The former mayor often had majority council support from Councilmembers Eggleston, Martinez, Frate and Goulet. All wanted Glendale to be a member of the “big boys’ club” that included cities like Phoenix, Scottsdale and Tempe. All had cache and Glendale had none. The road to acceptance meant Glendale’s branding as a sports and entertainment mecca and accepting the cost associated with making that a reality. As major developments appeared and wanted costly incentives to locate in and around the Westgate area, more and more MPC debt was issued.

Glendale has issued more MPC debt than it can sustain for such projects as Jobing.com Arena, Camelback Ranch, the Regional Public Safety Training Facility, Zanjero infrastructure and the Westgate parking garage, media center & convention center. All…very “big ticket” projects. These projects are the albatrosses hanging from Glendale’s neck.

The final blog in this series will explore any possible solutions to paying down or eliminating the MPC debt. Can it be done? Yes but it requires the will to do so.

© Joyce Clark, 2014

FAIR USE NOTICE

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which is in accordance with Title 17 U.S. C., Section 107. The material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democratic, scientific and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Section 107 of the US Copyright Law and who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information go to http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use,’ you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

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