City responds to audit allegations
August 5, 2008
The city of Aspen and Mayor Mick Ireland would like to respond to Ms. Milias (letter to the editor, Aug. 5), who makes unfounded claims regarding an alleged “cover-up” of the Burlingame audits. (To recap: The financial audit found that the Burlingame cost and revenue numbers as prepared by the city of Aspen are accurate and “can be relied upon for the purposes of project analysis and decision making” [page 4]. The performance audit found “no significant deficiencies in project oversight or delivery” and found no “intentional misrepresentation of costs associated with Burlingame Ranch Phase 1” [page 5]. The performance audit also stated: “While we do not believe our recommendations would have had a material impact on the overall cost of Burlingame Ranch Phase I, they may have mitigated project related miscommunications and improved the public’s overall understanding of the broader Burlingame development.” [page 6].
Ms. Milias asserts the city issued a press release regarding the two independent audits on Burlingame, attempting to mislead the public on the findings. This is simply untrue. Furthermore, Community Relations Officer Sally Spaulding has never met Ms. Milias nor had any personal communication with her regarding the Burlingame press release.
The city issued a press release to the media Monday, July 28, along with full copies of the two audits. In addition, representatives from the performance audit firm Alvarez and Marsal were made available in person at a press conference to answer questions.
The following day, Tuesday, July 29, the city posted both audits to its website at 7 a.m. in their entirety and printed dozens of copies to be distributed at the Burlingame open house that same day. Representatives from Alvarez and Marsal, as well as McMahan and Associates, the financial auditors, were on hand at the open house to answer questions. The two firms also prepared summary presentations for the public and media to read at the open house. These summaries were also available at the press conference the day before.
Marilyn Marks pointed out a mistake in the first paragraph of the press release, where the findings of both audits were presented together, with no clear delineation as to which findings were attributable to the performance audit and which were attributable to the financial audit. Ms. Marks discussed this in detail with Ms. Spaulding on Tuesday, July 29. A correction was made to the press release on the city’s website on Tuesday, clarifying the findings and their sources.
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Ms. Milias’ letter takes issue with the original press release’s statement that Burlingame Phase I was “delivered on budget.” As the financial audit notes, the project spanned several city budgetary years, and the funds were properly spent. However, since the use of the term “on budget” could be misinterpreted without a full definition of the city’s annual budgeting practices and policies, the phrase was omitted in the press release on the city’s website on Tuesday, at the request of Ms. Marks. The media was notified of the changes.
The press release was written by the city’s community relations officer with input from city staff and the mayor. There was no instruction from staff or Mayor Ireland to include any sort of “misleading” language but rather to simply alert the press of the two audits and their results.
The results of the audits remain unchanged and can be read on the city’s website.
Visit http://www.aspenpitkin.com/burlingame to read them for yourself.
Mayor Michael C. Ireland
Community Relations Officer Sally Spaulding