RIO VISTA --
Courtesy: Google News
Courtesy: Google News
The state has placed Rio Vista on a noncompliance list for not filing an audit on a federal grant with the California state controller's office. City leaders needed to file an audit by March 31 to account for how it spent about $800,000 community development block grant dollars during the 2009-10 fiscal year.
State agencies can deny Rio Vista any additional grants and force the city to repay money that has already been distributed.
Rio Vista is not eligible to apply for future (federal grant) awards until it is in compliance," said Chris Westlake, deputy director of the community development department.
The city was awarded the grant in 2005, but it waited until 2009 to begin much of the construction work to make bathrooms at City Hall and at a baseball park accessible to people with disabilities.
"We had to destroy the (existing) break room in order to make room for
the new bathrooms at City Hall," Councilman Jack Krebs said. "We moved the break room to a new space."
A similar issue was presented at the Egbert Field ballpark on St. Francis Way, where a food stand was knocked down and rebuilt at a different location to expand existing bathrooms.
That created a problem, because the city was not allowed to spend the grant on anything other than the bathrooms.
Rio Vista resident Steve Lamb, a former city building inspector, found out about the project and filed a complaint with the state Housing and Community Development Department. He said the city's handling of the projects, including moving the break room and the food stand, added thousands of dollars in unnecessary costs.
"The citizen's complaint was the reason to monitor how Rio Vista was spending its grant money," Westlake said.
The investigation resulted in several areas of noncompliance. The largest was the construction of the break room and snack shop. However, the city also broke protocol on how it handed out contracts for the construction, Westlake said. On several occasions, city planners did not verify that contractors were licensed and eligible to do the work.
"It's internal processes they need to work on cleaning up," he said.
Westlake said his agency is waiting to hear from the city regarding the concerns before deciding whether to void part of the grant.
"It's hard to say what actions we can take until we see that response," he said.
Rio Vista Finance Manager Roel Briones and Krebs said they expect at least $89,000 of the grant to be withheld initially. The city would appeal that decision.
"If they decide our response is adequate and that it complies with their guidelines, we would receive the full amount or partial amount," Briones said. "We feel strongly we're going to get most of it."
Briones said the state housing and community development investigation delayed the required audit the city was supposed to perform for the state controller's office.
Any city spending more than $500,000 in federal grants must file an audit with the state, controller's office spokesman Jacob Roper said. Those that do not have to file for an exemption. The due date was March 31, but as of mid-July the city had filed neither. At least four letters of notice from the state went unanswered, Roper said.
"Maybe there was a mix-up about who was going to respond to the state," Briones said. "It's in the (independent) auditor's hands. We're at the mercy of the auditors. It's a catch-22."
The office is not accusing the city of mishandling money, Roper said, but the city had a responsibility to file an audit with the state.
The controller's office sent a letter to about 50 other state agencies that said they have a responsibility to sanction Rio Vista by suspending, terminating or withholding any grants being distributed to the city.
"It means a state department could begin withholding that grant money," Roper said.