Audits were misrepresented
August 5, 2008
The appalling dishonesty in the Burlingame saga continues. The city persists in its misrepresentation of the facts, deception of the public and cover-ups of deliberate actions related to Burlingame.
The results of recent audits were presented to our local media last Monday via a press release from the city that erroneously cited that the “two independent investigations” found “no evidence of intentional misrepresentation of facts.” Tuesday’s headlines screamed “vindication” for the city. This is particularly troubling since the CPA audit appropriately did not even address this issue, let alone comment on it. (CPA audits do not and cannot undertake legal issues such as “intentional misrepresentation.”)
More troubling was the statement that both auditors’ reports “verify” that Burlingame I was delivered “on budget.” Neither auditor was even shown a budget! And they certainly did not verify anything related to budget versus actual expenditures. When questioned at the city’s Burlingame open house last Tuesday, both auditors denied that this was in the scope of their work ” and their reports are abundantly clear on this, particularly since the city never prepared a comprehensive Burlingame budget to audit.
Unlike the newspapers that took the city’s release as fact and published exonerations, several citizens were not as easily fooled. The open house provided a wonderful forum in which to gain access to the auditors and clarity on their findings. When these citizens complained to city officials about the gross mischaracterization of the auditors’ reports, the city pulled the deceitful press release from its website and replaced it with another, citing less impressive findings. But in its inimitable fashion, the city backdated the second release to July 28, the date of the original release, in an effort to cover up its poor attempt at claiming findings that were not actually found. There was no retraction, nor was the latter identified as a “corrected version.”
When questioned about the unsupported statements in the original release, the city’s community relations officer, Sally Spaulding, admitted that our mayor had instructed staff to include the fallacious language, and senior staff subsequently reviewed and approved it. City Manager Steve Barwick even repeated the false statements in his letter to the editor.
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Again, it was not until the open house and citizens’ queries of the two professional firms that the city attempted to replace its original deceptive release. Both Ms. Spaulding and special counsel Jim True acknowledge that a “corrected” release presenting the true audit results is now on the city’s website; however, the city will not publicly acknowledge the highly inaccurate and misleading statements they originally put forth to the media and public at large. Sound familiar? The dishonest and troubling pattern of misrepresentation, deceit and cover-up continues.
When it comes to Burlingame, the facts don’t always make it into the newspapers. For the facts, don’t forget to attend the citizens’ town hall meeting, Burlingame – the unanswered questions, Thursday, 5:30-7:30 p.m., at Paepcke Auditorium. Feel free to submit your questions to the panel in advance at Burlingamequestion@gmail.com.