Westfield mayor orders financial review of all city practices, accounts

Following a controversy over contracts for Grand Park Sports Campus, Westfield Mayor Andy Cook announced Friday that he has initiated a review of all city financial practices and accounts to be conducted by independent auditors.

The review is set to begin immediately, and the results will be delivered to the mayor’s office upon completion, Cook announced in a media release.

“Damaging, unfounded accusations have been made and spilled into the public commentary, specifically casting aspersions at the Westfield Redevelopment Commission and Grand Park. It is time to end this and I am taking action to authorize a review of the RDC and Grand Park, as well as all City departments and offices,” Cook said in the release.

The appointees for the review will include representatives of accounting firm BKD CPAs & Advisors, public sector advisory firm Baker Tilly Municipal Advisors LLC and law firm Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP.

C0ok’s announcement follows his decision in late July to essentially veto a resolution from the Westfield City Council that would have required its review and approval of all of Grand Parks contracts. By not signing the resolution within 10 days of its approval by the council, the resolution was kicked back to the council.

The city’s attorney claimed that the resolution was unenforceable. Cook’s administration maintained that the council could not dictate how Grand Park conducts business, because the Westfield Redevelopment Authority owns the sports campus and is in charge of its operations and all contracts.

The resolution was introduced and then approved by a 6-0 vote by the council on July 13. It was authored by at-large member Troy Patton, who claimed that Westfield-based Bullpen Tournaments LLC, which manages Grand Park’s ball diamonds, had failed to pay the city $470,000 it owed as of May 31, according to a 2014 revenue-sharing agreement with the city.

Joe Plankis, president of the redevelopment commission, told IBJ the commission’s contracts with Bullpen Tournaments have changed and that the city has actually come out ahead on the deal.

“There’s no monkeying around going on or any of that stuff,” Plankis said.

The council was set to address the resolution again at its meeting set for Monday. It’s not clear how the council will proceed in light of Cook’s announcement on Friday.

Patton’s resolution did not address the allegations against Bullpen, but instead required council approval for all current diamond and field contracts before they were extended into next year. That oversight also applied to monthly agreements made after June 30, and required those deals be memorialized in writing and that all previously agreed-upon amounts were paid before a contract is extended.

Patton was not immediately available for comment on Friday morning. Council President Joe Edwards did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

There is no planned completion date for the review announced by Cook on Friday, according to Vicki Gardner, the city of Westfield’s spokeswomen.

Gardner said the audit will run “until it’s done completely, thoroughly and professionally. We hope sooner, rather than later.”

The review is being funded from the city’s operational budget, under the consulting category. Gardner said the cost of the review was not yet available.

“It depends what, if anything, is found and the extent of the review,” she said. “If it is more than what is budgeted, we would expect the council to understand the importance of an independent review and approve any additional monies.”

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