Town establishes new audit committee

By Linda Bentley | December 3, 2008

‘Don’t ever bank on land reform in this state; this is all we have left’
CAVE CREEK – Mayor Vincent Francia announced the Dec. 15 council meeting will address a single item, the annexation, and encouraged anyone who has any questions whatsoever about the annexation to attend.

Call to the Public began with Charles Spitzer, who thanked town staff for placing the town’s monthly financial information online, and said, “… now we can see how we are doing.”

Spitzer claims the town’s financial situation did not occur in the last month or so but rather two years ago and shows “exactly what I’ve been saying in Call to the Public statements at least six times in the last 18 months.”

He said the outside auditor discovered two items not disclosed during the previous meeting’s financial presentation. One was an “overspending of $3.9 million.” The other was management expenses for running the utility department not being included in the cost for the utility department.

Spitzer said he found it “astounding” town council had not initiated an investigation to ensure it doesn’t happen again and equally “astounding” the local press hadn’t published the information.

Ralph MoziloRalph Mozilo told council, “I know you can’t rescind your own salaries,” and asked them to “show their willingness” by donating their net monthly stipends back to the town until the new fiscal year when the salaries will be eliminated.

Council voted unanimously in favor of reappointing all five Board of Adjustment members after Planning Director Ian Cordwell stated all had expressed a desire to remain on the board.

Noting some of the members have served for “a very long time,” Councilman Dick Esser asked if there wasn’t some sort of time-limit policy.

Town Manager Usama Abujbarah said the town has not followed that policy for the past ten years.

Francia asked Town Clerk Carrie Dyrek to make a note to place it on a future agenda.
There were four applications for three vacancies on the planning commission, three of which, Dan Baxley, Jim Bruce and Reg Monachino, were seeking reappointment.
Adam White was the fourth applicant.

Vice Mayor Gilbert Lopez asked White if he had ever attended a planning commission or town council meeting.

White said he had not but was interested in becoming more involved in the town. By a vote of 2-5, he failed to gain a seat on the commission and the three seated commissioners were unanimously reappointed.

Town Manager Usama Abujbarah said the town advertised for qualified citizens to serve on Bruce Biermecka new audit committee being formed. However, since the town received no responses he extended invitations to members of the community, Bruce Biemeck, Katherine Bosco and Scott Dahne, all of whom have extensive financial backgrounds.

Town Accountant Marian Groeneveld said the committee is new to the town, is considered a “Best Practice” and would serve as a liaison between outside auditors and town council.

Biemeck said he thought it would be a useful committee, noting it would not be a committee that would perform an audit function.

“We can perhaps provide a better understanding of financial presentations and would review monthly, quarterly and annual financial statements,” said Biemeck.

During public comment, Planning Commissioner Bill Allen said it was “absolutely necessary,” in order to start the audit committee off on solid ground, to have them look at the last three years “to show these people how we got into this situation.”

Lopez stated he hopes the committee will be allowed to do more than just check procedures and said, “Almost two years ago, people had concerns about expenditures and debt. We ignored them.”

Only six weeks from the time everything seemed fine “the roof caved in and we laid off seven employees,” said Lopez, “I hope you’ll let us know before we’re caught again with our revenues down.”

Esser said he was mostly concerned with monthly monitoring, while Meeth stated, “I only found out about a $3.9 million deficit from last year. The problem is in getting the information. In the past we have not.”

Abujbarah stated the agenda item was to establish a committee and appoint members to the committee and said, “From staff’s side, I don’t agree with what was said. That’s all I will say for now. Maybe during another agenda we can discuss financials.”

Council unanimously approved the formation of the audit committee and the appointment of the three committee members.

Cordwell gave a brief history of the annexation. He said the next step in the process is the annexation of county land and the town would not be able to do the second reading of the ordinances amending the zoning classifications and zoning maps to include lands to be annexed into the town until that process is completed. He estimated they would be able to bring it back for a second reading mid February. He also said the town received a “letter of no comment” from the city of Phoenix, which he said was “a good thing.”

Allen asked the town to exercise caution in moving forward, citing arsenic treatment is costly and having to acquire water rights in the next 20 years “is sheer folly,” adding, “There is no infrastructure there.”

Meeth said the annexation documents state if water is insufficient for a 100-year assured water supply the developer would be required to obtain an assured water supply.

“None of this would have happened if there were no state land within our boundaries,” said Francia, who pointed to all the failed land reform measures over the past several years and said, “Don’t ever bank on land reform in this state; this is all we have left,” as council voted unanimously in favor of the first readings to amend the zoning classifications and maps for the parcels known as Rogers Wash, Willow Springs, Apache Wash and Core Site Land already within the town’s boundaries.

As part of the consent agenda, council also voted unanimously in favor of recommending approval for a new restaurant liquor license requested by William Jung for Los Mesquites Taqueria that will be opening at the former Territorial site across from town hall.

Top photo: During Call to the Public, Ralph Mozilo said he realized council couldn’t rescind their own salaries and the elimination of their stipends wouldn’t go into effect until the new council is seated. He asked that they donate the net amounts back to the town in the interim.

Lower photo: Bruce Biemeck (pictured), Scott Dahne and Katherine Bosco were appointed to serve on the newly formed Town of Cave Creek Audit Committee, which Town Accountant Marian Groeneveld said is a “Best Practice” in managing and communicating financial information.

Photos by Linda Bentley