Senior center will allow its spending to be reviewed

Daily Pilot

The Costa Mesa Senior Center's use of taxpayer money may become more transparent under a five-year agreement reached with city officials Tuesday night.

The City Council voted 4 to 1 to approve a financial audit of the center, whittling down a previous proposal that sparked criticism from senior center officials. Councilman Eric Bever voted no.

"We're an independent organization. We're not an employee of the city," said Bruce Garlich, the senior center's board president.

Council members suggested last month that the city be given forensic audit powers. The proposal would use city funds to hire an outside auditor who would probe the senior center's spending for potential wrongdoing.

"We have a right and sometimes an obligation to audit taxpayer dollars," Mayor Allan Mansoor said. "I believe we have a right if we choose."

The city plans to give the center $240,000 annually.

Members of the Senior Center Task Force, a group slated to review the center for cost-savings and program expansions where needed, rebuked the suggestion that the city be given that power.

The senior center already conducts financial audits with a third party in order to maintain its nonprofit status, Garlich said.

The city should not be given power to conduct a forensic audit, which investigates potential wrongdoing, or a broad audit, which allows probes into the center's leadership, he added.

"I'm not suggesting anyone has done any wrong," Mansoor said. "I want to keep this as simple as possible, and I'll leave it at that."

If the city wants to audit the center, Garlich told the council, the center would be OK with a financial audit.

City Atty. Kimberly Barlow, answering Mansoor's question, said a financial audit would suffice for the accountability he sought.

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