Local NewsGovernment WhatsApp Previous articleBoard to discuss charter for bond committee, consultantNext articleCouncil approves roof repairs admin By admin – April 10, 2018 ODC wants audit of Hispanic Chamber WhatsApp Twitter Pinterest Facebook Twitter Facebook Pinterest The city board overseeing economic development funds requested detailed financial information from the Odessa Hispanic Chamber of Commerce as part of a review underway that comes as the struggling organization prepares to seek new public funding following the abrupt removal of its leaders last month.The Odessa Development Corporation asked for information including a third-party audit, a copy of the organization’s bylaws and policies, and an explanation of any relationship between the city-funded nonprofit and a charity that lists the same city office as its address.ODC President Betsy Triplett-Hurt said the city has never required a third-party audit of the Hispanic Chamber — a revelation that emerged during the review. She said an outside accounting firm handles the organization’s bookkeeping but the scope of that work does not include the level of detail that an audit would, such as connecting spending to receipts.“We just don’t have that assurance, that protection of taxpayers’ money,” Triplett-Hurt said. “And we did not realize until all this came about that their contract does not require them to have an audit. Shame on us. We didn’t realize the contract doesn’t require it. So why should they? And we don’t know why it doesn’t.”Triplett-Hurt said the Hispanic Chamber is the only organization funded by the ODC that doesn’t get the independent audits.Hispanic Chamber officials say they are cooperating with the review while the organization conducts its own investigation that seeks to answer “if any misconduct was done by past leadership,” as the chamber’s Interim CEO and Chair Ben Rubio described it at a recent press conference.Public funds budgeted for the Hispanic Chamber this year totaled more than $305,000, paid in monthly installments.Rubio said the organization has routinely reported financial information to the city and will cooperate with the review.“Anything the city is going to ask for we are going to try our best to give them,” Rubio said. “We are cooperating 100 percent with the city and the ODC.”The former CEO Price Arredondo, who was abruptly fired from his paid post on March 8, has denied any wrongdoing. Arredondo’s ouster came just before he was set to present a proposal to the ODC for changes to the Hispanic Chamber that would have included ending the paid position heading the Mexico Initiatives, an effort to build business ties with Mexico.Other new board members said they were also pushed out at the meeting, an account remaining Hispanic Chamber officials have disputed. Hispanic Chamber officials have not explained the reason for Arredondo’s removal.The shake-up prompted concern by ODC board members about who was in charge of the Hispanic Chamber and how money was being spent.Until this month, the paid position was filled by Raymond Chavez, who was paid about $58,000 by the city this year for six months of work. The project served as a lifeline for the Hispanic Chamber when Chavez founded it in 2014.But early supporters including Mayor David Turner and some ODC board members have since criticized poor management by the Hispanic Chamber and a struggle documenting results.Rubio, who says he is volunteering his time leading the organization, said there is no financial connection between the Hispanic Chamber and the Odessa Hispanic Chamber Charitable Foundation — meaning no public money goes to the charity — and that he and others who serve on the charity do not get paid. Public documents list Chavez as the president of the charity.Turner said he did not know about the charity with the same address listed as the Hispanic Chamber.“Those are questions that certainly need to be asked,” Turner said. “It may be totally innocent, and that’s fine. But if you have mail coming to an organization that’s titled something else, it needs to be a public record. All our books are public record.”The ODC meets Thursday and is scheduled to the upcoming budgeting process for the coming fiscal year, when it’s expected that Hispanic Chamber officials will request new funding.Rubio, at a Thursday news conference where he declined to take questions, asked Odessans for patience and promised to release the findings of the Hispanic Chamber’s investigation once it’s complete.Interim City Attorney Gary Landers said he is leading “negotiations” between the city and the Hispanic Chamber that “are moving along well” but declined to discuss details of those talks.“We’ll be able to verify where all the public money went and where it’s been accounted for,” Landers said.An audit by a third-party may take longer than the 60-day period the organization had per its contract with the city before its public funding stops.Landers and Triplett-Hurt said they anticipated an outcome of the review would be greater consistency in the way organizations funded through the ODC report back to the city.“The good that’s coming out of all of this is everything is going to be straightened out, and everything will be done as it should be,” Triplett-Hurt said.
Work to replace a block of boardwalk in front of Gillian’s Wonderland Pier is proceeding more quickly than a similar block-long project last year.City Council on Thursday approved spending $750,000 on a new skateboard park, moved to lease a city-owned property to the Greater Ocean City Theatre Company for $1 a year and approved an agreement to transport dredge spoils to Wildwood, but here are some other items from Thursday’s meeting that might be of interest.Downtown and Boardwalk Budgets: City Council approved the first reading of a $311,448 budget for Ocean City’s three Special Improvement Districts (SIDs). The SIDs include the retail section of the Ocean City Boardwalk, the downtown section of Asbury Avenue and the gateway section of Ninth Street. The budget is funded by assessments on businesses in the districts (based on storefront footage) and by revenue from events. The budget goes to marketing, beautification and promoting special events. Downtown Merchants Association co-chairman Paul Cunningham and Boardwalk Merchants Association President Wes Kazmarck reported on plans to build on momentum from 2014. Cunningham said efforts to merge downtown groups into the new Downtown Merchants Association and to create a cohesive branding message in 2014 were successful. Kazmarck said the popular boardwalk theme nights (Family Night, Mummers Night, etc.) will continue and the group will look to expand on a successful season. A second reading and public hearing on the budget is scheduled for Jan. 8. (See Agenda Packet for detail on the budget.)Attics in Ocean City Homes Neighborhood: City Council approved the first reading of an ordinance that provides relief for the only single-family neighborhood in Ocean City with a six-foot attic height limit. The proposed measure would allow attic heights of nine feet and eliminate a requirement for a pull-down stair (without affecting overall building height requirements). A second reading is scheduled for Dec. 29. (See Agenda Packet for detail.)Merion Park Utility Poles: Council approved the installation of three new utility poles to support the new pumping station in the drainage project near completion. The new pumps are expected to be installed next week.Leon Costello Contract: City Council voted to award a professional services contract to Leon Costello of Ford, Scott & Associates for municipal auditing services.Project Updates: Ocean City Business Administrator Mike Dattilo reported that the city expects to have more information next week on the schedule for the Army Corps of Engineers beach replenishment project on the south end of the island. He said the project to replace a block of boardwalk between Sixth and Seventh streets is proceeding more quickly than a similar project last year with pilings already being installed. He said work to repave some streets between Battersea Road and First Street will begin next week.
The USC women’s basketball team will travel across town to Westwood to take on UCLA at Pauley Pavilion on Sunday, Jan. 18 at 7:30 p.m.The Women of Troy (11-5, 3-2 Pac-12) will look to avenge a 59-52 loss at the hands of the Bruins on Dec. 30 at the Galen Center. Freshman guard McKenzie Calvert led USC with 16 points in the contest, with senior forward Kaneisha Horn adding 12 points and 7 rebounds, as USC went cold from behind the arc, going 3-for-22 in the contest.Recee Caldwell led UCLA (7-9, 3-2 Pac-12) with 17 points. The Women of Troy are now 47-40 all-time against the Bruins, but are 4-5 against UCLA since the 2010-11 season, as the two rivals have alternated sweeping the season series.“We gotta work on our zone,” said redshirt sophomore guard Jordan Adams about what the team learned from last month’s loss to the Bruins. “I think we came out with the right energy, I just think that we didn’t execute the way that we wanted to and we play better as a team than we do as individuals. I think we tried to either rely on a couple [of] individuals too much or only rely on ourselves and we should have shared the ball more, and we should have played more as a team. Had we done that I think that the outcome would have been different.”Since the loss to UCLA, USC has won three of their last four games, including completing a road sweep last weekend with an 81-61 win against Colorado (7-8, 0-4 Pac-12) and a 46-43 win against Utah (6-9, 0-4 Pac-12). Senior forward Alexyz Vaioletama and Calvert each scored 20 points against the Buffaloes, while junior guard Brianna Barrett added 17 points and 6 rebounds. Barrett followed that up with 13 points against the Utes, making her the only double-digit scorer for the Women of Troy.“Our goal as a team is to consistently improve and get better,” said associate head coach Beth Burns. “Whoever is next, whether it’s UCLA, Cal or Stanford—which are the following weekend—we want to continue to improve. We’re coming off a road sweep, which is just huge in our league to be able to win two games on the road, most especially because we had dropped two home games.”Vaioletama leads USC with 12.8 points and 6.5 rebounds per game. Calvert is averaging 11.9 points per game, while Barrett has 10.7 points per game, and leads the team with 4.5 assists and 2.5 steals per game.The Bruins are led by Nirra Fields, who is averaging 14.3 points and 6.2 rebounds per game. Jordin Canada is averaging 10.2 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 3.9 assists per game, and leads the team in points (12.7) and assists (5.0) per game during Pac-12 play.Like USC, the Bruins also completed a road sweep last weekend, pulling out a 49-46 win over the Utes and a 90-84 win over the Buffaloes. Kari Korver led the team with a combined 32 points over the weekend, including leading six double-digit scorers against Colorado.“The energy that we had was great, especially at Colorado and we kind of lost it when we’re at Utah, but I think the energy needs to be shifted as far as focusing,” said Vaioletama. “Our energy sometimes is great, but it’s not focused on the right things that we do in practice and we do in games.”The Women of Troy will return to the Galen Center next week to take on California (11-4, 3-1 Pac-12) on Friday, Jan. 23 at 7 p.m. and No. 13 Stanford (12-4, 4-0 Pac-12) on Sunday, Jan. 25 at 5 p.m.