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CITY AUDIT: Business Class Plane Flights, Non-Profit Donations Get Called Out

By Bob Conrad

An internal City of Reno audit shows city officials making numerous unauthorized purchases that included business class plane fares, exercise equipment, and donations to nonprofits.

The audit covered the Reno city manager’s office from July 1, 2015 to June 30, 2017 when the city was experiencing change in a number of its high-level positions.

“A change in executive leadership at the City of Reno occurred in 2016-2017,” the report indicates. “The previous City Manager was on administrative leave beginning early August 2016 with the last day of employment October 10, 2016.”

City Manager Sabra Newby.

City Manager Sabra Newby.

The city’s Chief Audit Executive, Emily Kidd, said that a performance audit is sometimes performed when there is new management.

“The intent is to provide the manager with a baseline and recommend procedural improvements,” she said. “This was recommended to the new city manager by our office when she came on board.”

Audit Findings

The audit revealed 49 violations of purchase card expenditures. Many appeared to be simple oversights — travel forms not completed, for example — but findings also show unauthorized expenditures and expenses that clearly violate city policies.

Four business-class air travel tickets were purchased during the audit time period, expenses that are against city rules.

“Air travel should be in coach class or its equivalent, except in exigent circumstances,” the report noted.

Other noncompliant expenditures included purchases of a table or seats at charity events, which required city manager approval but did not have the appropriate documentation.

Another card purchase was for a donation of about $100 allegedly to a nonprofit.

“We don’t have a policy for management donations, so it was difficult to determine if that was an appropriate donation,” Kidd said. “Folks were not aware of that.”

The report recommended that the city not allow this kind of expense or to create a new policy.

Another purchase was for exercise equipment “and was approved by previous management,” the report indicated.

“The audit is designed to find areas where process improvements can occur,” Kidd explained. “Changes have already been made based on the finding of this audit.”

Official Refuses to Disclose Information

Kidd, who answered questions about the audit with what appeared to be scripted answers, refused to disclose additional details about the findings. She cited an auditor’s ethical standards for not answering questions. But those standards include a provision to release the information for a legal reason.

Citing the Nevada Public Records Act was not enough of a reason, as Kidd refused to disclose the details of certain findings.

“I feel like that’s not the point of the (audit),” she said.

Details of how public officials are spending public dollars are historically the point of why such records are public.

ThisisReno therefore filed a public records request with the City Clerk’s office for the information and will report further upon receipt of the material.


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