Auditor looking at pool money

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By Jonna Spelbring Priester

General Manager

Down, but not out, the Eminence swimming pool will not go quietly into the night.

The city is under investigation by the state Auditor of Public Accounts regarding the money raised to repair the pool. And one candidate for the city council claims the city lied in its response to the auditor’s office.

In a letter dated Sept. 19, Brian Lykins, Executive Director  of the Office of Technology and Special Audits, asked the city to provide to Crit Luallen’s office an “accounting of the donated funds received and information regarding the planned disposition of these funds.” The letter was prompted after Luallen’s office received a public complaint.

Included in complaint are allegations that the city did not return all donated money, that “the city has $617 collected from school quarter-drive and donation jars that it will not return to the schoolchildren and citizens,” that $2,400 from a pool fundraiser concert has not been returned, and that “the city presently has $10,000 in the pool repair account and refuses to offer explanations to the public.”

The city responded via city attorney Bill Brammell, who said that $26,972.75 had been donated or raised for the project. Of that amount, he wrote, $17,557 has been refunded, and $9,414.75 remains in the account. Brammell wrote that donors have been told the city will refund their donations upon request, and that refunds have indeed been made to those who asked. Some donors, he wrote, requested the city keep the donations for use in “other projects.”

Brammell also wrote that the $2,315.75 was raised by Craig Meadows in a concert fundraiser and the city is waiting for direction from him.

“The city will distribute those monies upon a request by Craig Meadows for refund to him or directions as how to distribute those monies,” Brammell wrote.

But Making Waves chairwoman, and Eminence City Council candidate, Manda Gingrich says the city lied in its response, particularly regarding the $617.

In the city’s response to Lykins, Brammell wrote that “the second bullet point, $617, is a misstatement. None of the $617 is from donation jars and the city has not received any donation jar money. The $617 was from a school fundraiser and was refunded to the school.”

Gingrich also provided the Local with a report dated Aug. 18, which states that the total amount of money raised in four jars was $226.53, and was combined with $390.47 raised by the students, for a total of $617.

Eminence Mayor Jim Petitt said he understood the entire $617 to come from the elementary school fundraiser.

“Nobody’s given us what class raised what,” he said, noting that the $617 was brought in the form of rolled coins. “We told them we don’t take cash, go get a money order. We have given that amount back to the elementary school.”

According to the city’s ledger for the Making Waves account, a deposit was made on March 3 for $1,167, including “Money order from bank for cash/change turned into them directly 617.00 (elementary school).” The ledger also reflects a $617 check refund to the elementary school written on Sept. 12, one week before the APA’s letter was sent.

Additionally, the Henry County Local ran a photo on March 19, submitted by Gingrich, along with information stating that the students at Eminence Elementary School raised $617, with one class alone raising more than $100.

Monday, she provided a list that said the largest amount any class raised was $89.20, and said that what the Local ran in March was incorrect. She also stated that she brought a correction to the paper correcting the amounts, but a correction never ran, and the piece of paper that correction was on could not be found.

The school, however, was refunded the full $617. When asked why the city would have done that if that was not the correct amount, Gingrich responded “That’s the $64,000 question.”

Gingrich also stated that her husband told Eminence Police Chief Carey Duncan that the $617 included donation jar money.

She also asserted that the city knows the $617 included donation jar money, and that “they chose to make it appear that I did something wrong,” and specifically targetted Petitt.

Petitt said the earliest he was aware that money from the donation jars was part of the $617 was when Duncan updated the city council about his conversation with Doug Gingrich. Petitt also flatly denied Manda Gingrich’s accusation that he, and the city, are trying to make it appear as though she did something wrong.

Petitt said Tuesday morning that the city has not tried to hide anything.

“We’ve never tried to hide anything on this money fiasco,” he said.

A message left at Eminence Elementary School was not returned by press time.

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