Apparent trouble for another organization with close ties to City Hall. Now, Market Lubbock Inc. is under fire for alleged improprieties and misuse of your tax dollars. Things uncovered in a recent audit of Market Lubbock Inc., just released to city council members last week.
NewsChannel 11 talked to Market Lubbock Inc.'s CEO David Sharp and City Councilman Tom Martin, and the two of them have very different opinions about what this audit is really saying.
The 23 page audit and supplemental reports say Market Lubbock Inc. has repeatedly and significantly exceeded its budget without amending its budget or getting written approval from city council. The audit says those excess expenditures could be illegal.
City Councilman Martin says all of Market Lubbock's spending must be approved by city council because Market Lubbock's budget is made up entirely of your tax dollars. "Whether it's one cent or $10 million dollars, money cannot be spent by a corporation set up by the city and governed by city council without city council's approval," says Martin.
Sharp says he understands that, but he was unaware that additional spending needed to be approved by council. "If the city has approved a transfer of $3 million, it seems a little redundant to have to go back for formal approval," says Sharp.
The audit also alleges potential improprieties with public funds and suggests Market Lubbock clean up its record-keeping or face having its funds revoked by the city. Market Lubbock was apparently taking its budget, banking the money and then using the interest income to pay for other things.
Sharp says he thought that was legal. Martin describes this whole thing in one word -- ugly.. And he's starting to see a pattern of messy relationships between the city and the organizations it works closely with. "With the WTMPA and now this, I hate to even ask the question, 'what's next?' What's the next thing we're going to find that's not running right?" says Martin.
The audit also points out that most of these issues have been brought up before. "In other words, in the audit of 2001, these same concerns were expressed. And now, a year later the auditor says the same problems exist and nothing has been done to correct them. My advice to Mr. Sharp is that he is paid to know the law and he needs to start running a tight ship," says Martin.
This audit will be reviewed by Market Lubbock Inc.'s Board of Directors on Wednesday morning. Interim City Manager Tommy Gonzalez says he recommends immediate corrective action be taken.