Scene from Balboa Park Centennial Celebration video. Image from
Scene from Balboa Park Centennial Celebration video. Image from

The former organizers of a yearlong celebration of Balboa Park’s centennial did not misuse city funds but didn’t always follow proper procedures either, according to a report released Wednesday by the San Diego City Auditor.

Balboa Park Centennial Inc. was formed by the city to put on a big public celebration of the park’s 100th birthday, but the group disbanded when it failed to find major sponsors. Centennial planning is now being handled by the city and the park’s cultural organizations.

BPCI faced allegations that some of the $1.6 million received from the city was misspent, with financial records kept from public view.

“In our analysis of BPCI’s expenditures, we found that BPCI complied with the funding agreement’s use of funds requirements,” the audit says.

It goes on to say the range of allowable expenses were broad, but both the spending and required reporting to the city met the guidelines.

On the other hand, the organization did not fully comply with a section of a memorandum of understanding with the city that governs procurement of goods and services when it came to hiring contractors to help plan and carry off the celebration, according to the auditor.

“We found several instances where BPCI awarded contracts without going through the required procurement processes,” the audit says.

The finding, however, was qualified by the auditor’s reference to communications from BPCI to the City Attorney’s Office that sought guidance on such matters. The City Attorney’s Office had said that the MOU did not require such procedures, however, there might be other city ordinances that required BPCI to do so.

The study found that contractors, vendors and executives delivered on what they were hired to do, given the broad scope of work set forth in the contracts.

Among other issues found in the audit:

  • city oversight of BPCI was limited, though some provisions of the funding agreement and MOU should have led to more stringent examination of the organization, which could have warned city officials of impending problems;
  • planning was disrupted when former Mayor Bob Filner took office and brought with him a grander vision of what the celebration could be;
  • local corporations were not enthusiastic about sponsorship opportunities;
  • philanthropic donations were not believed to be sufficient enough to defray costs, and the potential dropped further when a plan to remove cars from the center of the park was detailed by a court ruling; and
  • the scandal that surrounded Filner might have dried up any remaining sponsorship or donation possibilities.

City management and BPCI officials generally agreed with the findings of the audit, and some detailed comments were sprinkled throughout the report, the audit says.

Gerry Braun, who served as BPCI’s spokesman, declined to comment.

— City News Service