While the city appears to be headed in the right direction financially; at least, that is what its new fiscal year 2015-16 budget indicates, there are questions about how it is settling its situation with the Coyotes arena management contract.
Until and unless the numbers from the Coyotes’ own audit are made public, there will always be the hint of a cover-up. There will always be the scent of fish about the hockey team’s finances, and the appearance of impropriety about the entire arena management agreement between the city and the Coyotes.
So far, nobody has come right out and accused the city or the Coyotes of illegal shenanigans. But there are many who may be thinking there’s fire where there’s smoke. And recent statements by the former assistant city auditor do nothing more than add fuel to that tinderbox of thought.
So many inconsistencies cloud what could otherwise be a clean, clear-cut audit. A time-out time-off for the assistant auditor may have been merely coincidental. It perhaps could have been unavoidable, but it did provide a space in time for her supervisor to review her findings and apparently come up with a different conclusion.
Whatever reasoning has been utilized, there were definitely opposing views about what the numbers meant. And we thought bean-counters were boring.
None of this drama matters if there is no public disclosure of the actual numbers, and according to the agreement between the Coyotes and the city, the hockey team’s audit is taboo, confidential, cannot be seen by the public’s eyes.
Then, just how are taxpayers supposed to follow their money?
But before you start blaming the Coyotes for this financial fiasco, look closer to home.
Consider a council majority that favored an NHL franchise at the expense of adequate public safety.
And don’t forget a previous city manager who found it necessary to keep accountability of taxpayer money beyond its view.
Finally, what is one to think of city officials who appear to discredit and dismiss the findings of their own auditor in order to maintain a scripted performance, leaving citizens wondering just what’s next.