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Call for State to Probe Pacifica's "Missing" Millions

The City of Pacifica has lost track of $4.8 million, saying it was moved from one account to another, but no one seems to know what it was spent on. I have been told  repeatedly that the city does not believe the money was misspent or embezzled, but I was offered no proof. When it comes to $4.8 million of taxpayer money, "believe me and trust me" is just not good enough. Since both the city manager and City Council refuse to do a forensic audit, our only choice is to request that the State Controller's Office investigate Pacifica's financial practices. Email: eoinquiry@sco.ca.gov

Tom Clifford

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I'm curious: Is Pacifica's "missing" $4.8 million related to the alleged mishandling of the Highway 1 fund? Also, is it conceivable that any of Pacifica's missing millions could have been embezzled?

By the way, I don't think Leo Leon has received enough credit for his investigation of the highway fund. If his information proves true, he should receive something.

P.S. According to palindrome lovers, the amount of missing money is around "noillion" -- roughly the number of dollars it takes for the average person to forget working and devote his life to wordplay.

A question that’s implicitly connected to Tom Clifford’s cogent comment is: “How long are the people of this town going to tolerate the ongoing stonewalling behavior being generated at City Hall?”

Laurie, not only should Ms. Tinfow commission a forensic audit, the City Council, because of its fiduciary responsibility to the citizens of Pacifica, should have directed staff (city manager) to have a forensic audit done as soon as it was made aware that the money was missing. As much as I would like to be able to trust our accounting staff, they should not be the ones reporting on problems in their own department.

Caltrans & the Bay Bridge boondoggle is a case in point. All the outside experts say there are big problems, but Caltrans keeps saying, "Don't worry, we didn't need those bolts anyway."

Direct from Pacifica City Manager Lorie Tinfow: "Our other funds -- 24 to be exact -- are 'special,' mostly because the source of the funds has strings attached as to how the money is spent. We keep these outside the General Fund so we can properly track the accounting activity individually."

They might be "special," but as public monies, public accounting is required -- same as all public monies.

The public is losing trust. As you promised more than a year ago when you took office, you must account for the missing $4.8 million and publish a full and detailed accounting of Pacifica public monies.

Why, whatever could be wrong? These are "loans" that will be paid back in due time, by unknown parties using unknown funds for unknown reasons.

If you want to make a case for something that will clear up messes and benefit citizens, it's best not to cite San Mateo County's LAFCO.

When we got a new city manager a year or so ago, and a finance manager after seven years without one, it was expected -- and the public was told -- that a full accounting would be forthcoming. This after other City Council members, specifically Mary Ann Nihart, refused to answer the question of a missing $4 million (grown to $4.75 million since).

If you don't follow City Council meetings, Tom Clifford has been asking for a formal audit since June 2015, and San Mateo County's Local Agency Formation Commission confirmed its need in August stating in one of the few sentences (bottom of page one) in bold print of the entire report:

"AUDITS SHOULD BE COMPLETED IN A TIMELY MANNER TO FULLY UNDERSTAND THE STATUS OF THE CITY'S SITUATION"

http://www.pacifica.city/forms/SMC_LAFCO_PAC_draft_reccs_080515.pdf#page=1

So -- if I have this correctly, as a hypothetical example -- money was needed to pave the streets one year, but the Pavement Fund had no money left in it. The Solar Panel Fund had tons of money in it, but could be used only on solar panels. To get around this legal restriction, the city lent money from the Solar Panel Fund to the Pavement Fund. It had to be a loan and not a straight transfer of funds due to legal requirements.

But the city forgot to repay the loan and lost all documentation surrounding the loan. And the city did this multiple times.

Hoo boy.

Thanks to Tom and Larry for clearing this up!

Thank you, Larry and Tom!

Direct from Lorie Tinfow:

"Our other funds -- 24 to be exact -- are 'special', mostly because the source of the funds has strings attached as to how the money is spent. We keep these outside the General Fund so we can properly track the accounting activity individually."

Chris, I asked that question and was told that the city, by law, must pay back the loan.

Good job, Tom.

The explanation may be benign, but the burden of proof is on the city. Accountability requires a public body to make all financial dealings transparent, otherwise the odor of corruption lingers. It is time for the city to remove all doubt and come clean about this missing or misplaced money.

Thanks, Tom, for pushing for answers. I agree that it's important to find out what happened to help prevent it from occurring again.

I'm a bit embarrassed to admit this publicly, but there's something I'm just not understanding about how this affects Pacifica's budget, and I feel like something very basic is going right over my head. I agree that the money needs to be accounted for, but why does it need to be paid back in future budgets?

If the city manager's explanation is accurate, this is simply money that was improperly accounted for when it was shifted from one account to another -- in the end, though, it was all drawn from the same general fund (albeit different accounts/line-items) and spent on various projects.

I guess my question is: If the city owes this money to itself, why doesn't the city forgive its own loans?

Thanks for any illumination.

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