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ASNC Funding Freeze Imperils Community Projects

Projects slated for funding at Mount Washington Elementary School and Debs park won't receive their dollars until the board's funding freeze is lifted.

ASNC Funding Freeze Imperils Community Projects

With the 's bank account frozen due to allegations of financial mismanagement, more than $2,000 in board funds slated for community projects won't be paid, according to Department of Neighborhood Empowerment Project Coordinator Rita Moreno.

Last week, the council was informed that their budget would be frozen due to allegations that President Martha Benedict's signature was used without authorization on financial documents in the fourth quarter of the previous fiscal year. On Monday night, the board learned how that freeze would impact community projects that were already slated for funding.

Projects slated for funding include $1,000 for new audio visual equipment to be installed at and $250 for trail beautification at Ernest E. Debs Park in Montecito Heights.

Moreno explained that if demand warrants for the projects have not yet been submitted to the city for approval, they were unlikely to be paid while the board's funding was still suspended.

"If we haven't received  the request, then there is nothing for us to do," Moreno said. "If we got those demand warrants in October or November, we would have processed those requests. But if we haven't received them, there's nothing we can do."

According to the council's minutes, funds for the audio visual equipment and trail improvement were approved in October and November, respectively.

Moreno, who spoke to the board during their monthly meeting on Monday night, said the city began the process of auditing each of the city's 95 neighborhood councils in October, the result of pressure from the office of the City Controller. 

"You have the bad luck of being Arroyo. You're one of the first alphabetically, so you were one of the first council's we looked at," Moreno said.

Moreno said that the department were prompted to look deeper into the board's spending after finding more than $1,500 in animal welfare funds spent through the board's purchase card in the fourth quarter of the 2011 fiscal year.

"What caught my attention were all the expenditures for animal welfare," Moreno said.

Moreno also told the council that the department had erred by not freezing the council's funds in October, when the allegations of forgery were first made.

"We decided to hold off on that, and that's why we're here today," she said.

Moreno said the department was likely to rule on whether council's funding  suspension should be lifted next month, pending the completion on an ongoing financial audit and board's participation in required ethics and accounting training.

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