Historically, volunteer members of 52 recreation councils controlled money generated by programs and special classes at their individual facilities, but City Attorney Mara Elliott opined in September that the practice violated the City Charter in that city funds should be handled by the city, not private citizens.
A proposal to turn the revenues over to city staff drew strong opposition from the community at a subsequent meeting of the City Council, which referred the plan to its Public Safety and Livable Neighborhoods Committee for further vetting.
The latest proposal would satisfy city requirements by amending the Park and Recreation Department’s fee schedule to remove references to “recreation council” and replace them with city of San Diego, and authorize the city’s chief financial officer to appropriate and expend all recreation center area funds, including recreational program and permit revenue.
In return, the plan contains a rule that such funds would only be expended in the geographical area in which they were collected and be used exclusively for the continued provision and administration of recreational programming and activities, according to city staff.
Special use permits for the recreation councils are scheduled to expire at the end of the year, and Elliott said her office wouldn’t sign off on new ones, or extensions, if “problematic language in it, which is the handling of the money,” remains.
“That’s the only issue we have a concern with,” Elliott said. “We don’t want to weigh in on how recreation councils operate, we just want to make sure we’re following the law when it comes to the administration of city funds.”
She said she would be happy to sign if the issue is resolved.
City officials said that unless new procedures are put into effect, the continuation of public programs will be in doubt beginning Jan. 1. The committee hearing was scheduled to give the council a chance to pass an ordinance before it goes into holiday recess after next week’s meetings.
The committee members expressed frustration that they didn’t have more time to work on the issue, so while they forwarded the plan to the full City Council, they didn’t recommend final approval.
Councilwoman Lorie Zapf said she couldn’t support the proposal.
“I have no faith that any of this could be put into motion this quickly, having been here a long time,” Zapf said. “Like somebody said, it takes forever to fix a road, so how can we do this complete overhaul?”
Many of the volunteers said the fact that the money belonged to the city has never been in dispute.
Recreation Department officials expect the councils will continue to operate in an advisory capacity. They would also be allowed to keep money generated by donations or grants.
— City News Service
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