The much-maligned Richland County Recreation Commission has “major” operational issues to address, an audit has concluded, with taxpayer funding from Richland County Council still up in the air.
Among the audit’s recommendations for a better-run Recreation Commission: a more detailed budget, regular evaluations of the director and hiring an internal complaints investigator, according to a report discussed by Richland County Council members this week.
At stake since the audit’s completion is more than $8 million in funding frozen by council last year.
The recreation commission has been under fire for the past year, facing numerous civil lawsuits, a criminal indictment of its former director and a near-complete overhaul of its seven-member board.
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When setting the current year’s budget, County Council said it would not fund the Recreation Commission above the amount mandated by state law – about $4.9 million, or a third of the commission’s requested funding – until a county-funded audit was completed.
The auditors, of California’s Matrix Consulting Group, concluded there is a “major issue” with some of the RCRC’s operational practices and that the agency is not responsible and accountable “at the level expected for a well-run organization.”
The audit report addresses management and financial practices but does not comment on whether money was appropriately spent; it is not a fiscal audit.
Auditors noted that because County Council legally has no control over the agency, Council has only two ways to affect change in how the recreation commission is run: Seek changes in state law or withhold money from its budget.
Councilman Seth Rose told The State newspaper his vote to fund the RCRC depends on the agency “agreeing to adopt corrective measures identified in the audit that will help ensure taxpayer money is spent wisely.”
Otherwise, “I will support releasing funds so this vital local agency being governed by our state legislature can continue to operate for the citizens of Richland County,” Rose said.
But time is of the essence, Councilman Norman Jackson said at Tuesday’s council meeting. He was ready to vote to fund the agency then and there.
“I don’t want to wait two weeks or two months to release the funds,” Jackson said Tuesday. “...The kids are threatened (with) not having after-school programs because these funds are withheld.”
Council members have asked their staff to draft an agreement between the county and the recreation commission outlining recommendations that must be followed to receive full funding.
Council will convene a special meeting on Tuesday to vote on funding the commission.