Over $50,000 to be returned from City of Cheyenne to Bloomberg Philanthropies
Although the City of Cheyenne was awarded $100,000 thanks to a grant in 2018, more than half of that money is set to be returned. $56,571.68 is going back to Bloomberg Philanthropies after what Mayor Marian Orr says to be an accounting entry error. At her first “Kicking Rocks Tour” night, Wyoming News Now asked Mayor Orr where the money was coming from for the provided food at the town hall on Sept. 30 and for the upcoming dates.
“We were awarded $100,000 to get our idea of community building, “Buildings With A Purpose,” as far as how do we grow our community,” said Mayor Orr. Although Cheyenne did not make it to the final round of the 2018 Mayors Challenge Champion City, $100,000 was awarded. “So we still had some leftover funds and so that’s created a nice account, if you will, so it’s not taxpayer dollars but we come and we can talk about community issues and how to solve them and what better way to use those funds.”
The application for the grant funding included how the City wanted to develop an idea and a plan to revitalize downtown and blighted commercial buildings needing attention. After taking a closer look at what else the Mayor’s Challenge Champion City funds were being used for, City Council President Rocky Case had some concerns.
“It sounds to me like perhaps some in her administration as well as folks perhaps involved with the award don’t believe some of that spend was appropriate,” said Rocky Case, City Council President, Ward III.
On Oct. 7, Mayor Orr put out a statement that the spending of the funds was justified and that her staff would put out a full report in a few days:
CHEYENNE – City of Cheyenne Mayor Marian Orr has released the following statement: “Councilman Case has questioned some of the expenditures from the Bloomberg national challenge grant. The Councilman is mistaken. The expenditures are all appropriate and were used only as authorized under the Bloomberg grant. The Bloomberg grant has been very helpful to the City as it allowed significant activities to occur on behalf of the City without having to use taxpayer funds. In keeping with my long-standing promise of transparency, I have instructed my staff to assemble all of the data and receipts from the expenditures. This will take several days. Once completed, I will be releasing a full accounting of the Bloomberg funds.”
As of noon on Oct. 18 the report had not yet been released.
“And here we are two weeks later and I mean, are the books being cooked or what’s going on,” asked Case.
At 1:16 p.m. on Oct. 18, the Mayor’s office released the an accounting PDF that can be found at https://www.cheyennecity.org/DocumentCenter/View/30665/Cheyenne-Final-Categorized-accounting2
Along with the PDF was a statement from the Mayor’s office that says:
“CHEYENNE – The Mayor’s office has been honored and privileged to be part of the Mayor’s Challenge Grant provided through Bloomberg Philanthropies. Questions have been raised about expenditures charged against the grant in the City’s accounting system. Several days ago, I instructed my staff to assemble all of the data and receipts associated with those charges and develop a full accounting.
That full accounting is attached.
Some explanation of this accounting is in order to make certain the provided information is fully understood.
The City uses a software program for accounting. The Challenge Grant funds were deposited in that system to a revenue account. As charges related to the Challenge grant were received, they were coded to the Challenge grant funds within the City’s discretionary account. Unfortunately, many charges that should have been charged to other departments were incorrectly charged against the Challenge Grant funds, many of them being incurred after August 2018. An accounting entry error occurred and that error has now been corrected.
The result of these efforts is that the City’s accounting, and the attached accounting, now show the charges coded to the Challenge Grant in furtherance of the City’s work to test and refine its idea for matching property owners with entrepreneurs to spur downtown redevelopment. All unused funds from the Grant will be returned to Bloomberg Philanthropies.”
Mayor Orr’s message along with the accounting PDF says the City uses a software program for accounting and although there was an entry error, the error has now been corrected. Council President Case says that every department within the City, when they’re submitting charges to the City Treasurer’s office, an individual and not a software has to deliberately choose which account the charge is going to be charged against.
“One of the line items is a text book for $600 that is something about managing within a dysfunctional environment and if this really is a case of miscommunication and confusion, perhaps the Mayor should read that book and implement some of the principles that are in it,” said Councilman Case.
The grand total prior to the adjustments indicated that $66,782.58 had been spent from the grant funds. The Mayor’s Challenge Grant Challenge Award expenditures after the recent adjustments came to $43,428.32, meaning more than half is going back to Bloomberg Philanthropies.