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Monday, March 17, 2014

DONE Issues Demand for Past Due Sunland Tujunga Neighborhood Council Financial Records

In light of a steaming serving of DONE-DUNG served up by the otherwise decent chap Paul Hatfield at CityWatch (no links because we don't give Google juice to dung and we understand the owner of that site loves the clickety-clicks such drama brings) and said CPA Hatfield's consistent slamming of anyone in Sunland-Tujunga who has called for fiscal transparency of their neighborhood council, we offer up the following official letter from none other than Empower LA.

Some time back, Joseph Mailander went through public data with regard to the Sunland-Tujunga Neighborhood Council's finances. That which was a frequent pattern of cash withdrawals from the city funded panel's account, all around the same time and without any description as to the purpose. No one individual was mentioned or any specific acts of impropriety suggested. That being said, the point was the lack of specificity in the public record keeping and the odd pattern of withrdrawls. Also of particular note was that many of these withdrawals were made last minute, resulting in signifcant bank fees, that would not otherwise be charged for purchases on the Sunland Tujunga Neighborhood Council's debit card, or for city checks requested.

Rather than an explanation, Mailander and others were met with stonewalling, name calling and a very righteous Hatfield who was aghast that anyone had even suggested there was a problem.

Here's the problem. Public funds, in the form of cold hard cash, was being withdrawn from a cash machine on a consistent basis with no apparent explanation. Again, no specific impropriety was charged, yet the appearance of such should be of concern to officials and stakeholders alike.

Sunland-Tujunga's treasuer, Nina Royal, has adamantly declared that the books are in order, they are as clean as can be and that anyone may make an appointment with the Sunland Tujunga Neighborhood Council's part-time employee to visit their office and review documents.

That now appears not to be entirely true. Again, for the sake of folks like Paul Hatfield and others, no specific charges are being made. But as the saying goes, where there is smoke, there may be fire. Certainly the city agency, DONE, charged with overseeing these expenditures is clearly not satisfied with the records and lack of records being submitted. It is very likely once they are, all will be fine. It is also very likely DONE goofed. If either is the case, and is presented and confirmed to us, we'll print that here. The bottom line is that in the handling and spending of the public money, extreme care must be taken to be fully transparent and to demonstrate that everything is on the up and up. If this isn't done, it is certainly justified for stakeholders to question otherwise.

Let me say this: nothing would please me more that after appropriate investigation, everything is on the up and up and at the very worse, we're looking at sloppy bookkeeping and lack of clear direction from DONE. Cherry on top would be for DONE to work for a more transparent system - where this information is available at any time, on line, for stakeholders so that they need not take time off from work to make an appointment with a part-time employee.

Stay tuned.

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