YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Outside Group Plans Audit of Park District : Camarillo: The agency is being examined amid concerns its records have been kept secret. It has agreed to furnish figures.


Prompted by concerns about financial records being kept from the public, a local watchdog group plans to conduct an independent audit of the Pleasant Valley Recreation and Park District.

The nonprofit Ventura County Alliance of Taxpayers sent a letter to the Camarillo park district Wednesday requesting copies of a host of records, including employee benefit and pension plans, minutes of board meetings and the district's checkbook.

"We've had concerns that some of the financial records of the district have been kept under pretty tight wraps," alliance President H. Jere Robings said. "We wanted the opportunity to have a look at the entire financial structure of the district."

Although the alliance and the Ventura County Taxpayers' Assn. have both investigated financial records of the County Board of Supervisors and other public agencies, Pleasant Valley will be the first park district in the county audited by a watchdog group, Robings said.

On Thursday, Pleasant Valley General Manager Eldred E. Lokker agreed to make the records available to Robings next week.

"Our records are fine," Lokker said. "We run a good operation here."

And district board President Gary Gasperino pointed out that the district is already audited every year by an independent accounting firm.

Robings said he has no suspicions at this point of any illegal activities at the district.

"I don't think it's an illegality," he said. "I think it's more a matter of the public doesn't know where the money's being spent."

Robings said certified public accountants who are members of the taxpayers alliance will review the district's records. He said they will look for any discrepancies between Pleasant Valley's budget and the actual amounts spent during the year, examine employee benefits and scrutinize minutes of board meetings to see how spending decisions are made.

"We'll look for anything that looks out of line," Robings said. "It's really too early to say what our concerns are. We're just cracking the door open."

Lokker said he knows of no instances where the district has withheld financial records requested by residents.

But a local attorney who resigned Wednesday from an ad hoc park district committee said he has been frustrated in his attempts to examine Pleasant Valley's finances.

Attorney David E. Edsall is one of 13 residents that the district last month appointed to the ad hoc committee. Formed in response to residents' concerns about recent district cutbacks in recreation programs, the committee was charged with the duty of finding alternative funding sources to supplement Pleasant Valley's property tax revenues.

But Edsall said Thursday that he was frustrated because he felt that district officials discouraged committee members from examining Pleasant Valley's financial condition.

"I pressed and pressed for financial records," Edsall said.

Finally, after Pleasant Valley officials gave the committee a summary budget that lumped together various revenue and expense categories, Edsall said he realized that the district was in far better financial condition than he had realized.

The summary figures show that Pleasant Valley had a $1.7-million surplus in 1992-93 that it was able to carry forward into this budget year, Edsall said.

"I was under the impression the park district was in a financial crisis. So I thought maybe I could help," Edsall said. "I just felt we were kind of misled."

Although he said he doesn't suspect the district of doing anything illegal, Edsall said he is pleased that the taxpayers alliance is planning an independent audit of the district.

"I think it's a good thing," he said.

Los Angeles Times Articles