Centennial celebration gets audit for ‘financial mismanagement’

The Anchorage Assembly is requesting an official audit after a review surfaced alleging financial mismanagement in the city’s Centennial celebration.

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A review of expenditures still outstanding connected with the summer's Centennial celebration in Anchorage.
A review of expenditures still outstanding connected with the summer’s Centennial celebration in Anchorage.

Assembly Member Bill Starr of Eagle River chairs the audit committee, and asked the Assembly to delay paying $69,000 from the Areawide General Fund for outstanding bills related to the Centennial last summer.

A review of contracts handled under the Sullivan administration, first reported by KTUU News, shows $98,697 in unpaid Centennial expenses with vendors like the Alaska Aces, the Downtown Partnership, and Alaska Railroad Corporation, among others. The review was requested by the Berkowitz administration. Now Starr is requesting an official report from the city’s independent auditor.

“We may have a different motivation in play,” Starr said during an interview Tuesday, adding that the Assembly’s scope and focus might differ slightly from the information requested by the administration.

The point of an official audit, according to Starr, is two-fold: First, to make sure vendors get paid the money they’re owed. Second, to look back back in detail over the recent findings on misallocated funds, poor oversight, and “bypassed” purchasing procedures.

Starr and members of the administration, including city manager Mike Abbott, agree that it does not appear anything illegal happened, but instead that city procedures for handling public money may have been poorly followed.

“We had certain expectations on how the money was going to be spent,” Starr said. “I don’t think there’s anybody making accusations that it was inappropriately spent… but it also needs to bear truth that we did accountability and tried to deliver the best products we could.”

Starr also hopes an audit will turn up other funding sources — like matching grants originally offered by private companies — that may lessen how much the municipality has to repay.