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Tourism bureau audit finds over $300K in misused or undocumented funds
City Council to review CPA report at special meeting on Thursday
city council
The details of the external audit of the Convention and Visitors Bureau will be presented before the City Council at 6 p.m. Thursday at City Hall. - photo by Journal file photo

The City of Turlock's investigation into how the Turlock Chamber of Commerce used public funds it received while operating the Convention and Visitors Bureau will continue on Thursday as the City Council is scheduled to receive an external audit report by Kemper CPA Group.

In their report, Kemper Group found that 54 percent of the 112 transactions selected for review from January 2009 to May 2015 did not have proper supporting documentation, totaling $233,722. The report also states that of the transactions with adequate or partial documentation, $107,098 — including thousands of dollars to cover Chamber payroll —was noncompliant with the terms of the agreement to run the tourism bureau.

The details of the external audit will be presented before the City Council at 6 p.m. Thursday at City Hall.

"With a responsibility to our taxpayers, the Turlock City Council closely and carefully reviews each City department's expenditures. Outside groups awarded City contracts should not and will not be treated any differently. I hope that the transparency provided by this independent, third-party audit leads to significant improvements in the oversight of our City's funds," said Mayor Gary Soiseth. 

An internal audit of the CVB was conducted by City staff after the Turlock Chamber of Commerce decided to terminate its contract with the City to operate the tourism service in February, a contract it held for 24 years. The CVB, which is taxed with bringing tourists to town, is funded by Transit Occupancy Tax dollars, or money generated when visitors stay in local hotels.

On April 24, the City sent then -Chamber President and CEO Sharon Silva a letter stating that 43 expenditures totaling $241,297.07 in the past five years did not qualify as permissible.

In May, the City Council voted to conduct an external audit.

The Chamber of Commerce did not comment on the City's internal audit findings in April, but Chamber Interim President and CEO Paul Wright said on Monday that the Chamber Board of Directors will be reviewing the Kemper Group audit prior to Thursday's meeting.

"Once we've been through the report, we will reach out to the City and commence a conversation on how we move forward," said Wright.