Not all Shore Shore rec measure officials kept in loop


By Kathryn Reed

The treasurer of the board that oversees recreation Measure S on the South Shore just recently found out about the half dozen meetings the board has had this year geared primarily to rewriting the voter approved initiative.

It took a call by an El Dorado County resident to county Auditor Joe Harn in the last few weeks to alert him to what is going on. Harn is also the joint powers authority’s treasurer.

“Protocol would be I’d be informed about the meeting. It is unusual that an officer of the JPA would not be informed of the meeting,” Harn said.

Pine needles fill in the lines at Tahoe Paradise tennis courts in November 2010.

Pine needles fill in the lines at Tahoe Paradise tennis courts in November 2010.

Meetings to discuss changing Measure S to Measure R so the money allocation could be altered have been going on since early spring.

On Aug. 8 Harn was told by county Supervisor Norma Santiago about today’s meeting. Santiago is chairwoman of the recreation JPA. Other board members are South Lake Tahoe City Councilman Hal Cole and Tahoe Paradise Park board member Deborah Henderson.

At the last meeting on July 29, John Upton said in writing and verbally that an audit of the JPA’s books is not necessary. South Tahoe resident Tom Wendell asked the lone paid staff member of the JPA: Why?

Upton said with the JPA writing about eight checks a year that Harn’s “strong position is it’s not necessary.”

Courts at Tahoe Paradise have not been safely played on in years.

Courts at Tahoe Paradise have not been safely played on in years.

Harn on Aug. 9 told Lake Tahoe News, “I’m not saying one is necessary, but I have not spoken to John Upton about JPA business in a couple years.”

An audit in 2006 by Harn uncovered serious accounting deficiencies. He suggested several changes at that time regarding how the 2000 voter approved measure be handled.

This week he agreed the JPA has little money to spend after it pays bond debt, Upton, and disseminates the money per the measure’s requirements. He said that is all straight forward. What Harn said would be the true reflection of how Measure S money is spent is for the three entities receiving the money to have their auditors do an independent schedule showing what happens with the JPA money.

At the annual meeting two weeks ago where finances are talked about, the JPA board did not mention this more detailed analysis being a possibility or consideration.

When the courts at Tahoe Paradise will be open remains an unknown. Photos/Kathryn Reed

When Tahoe Paradise courts will open is unknown. Photos/Kathryn Reed

Harn doesn’t even know what Measure R is designed to do.

“If there is not a lot of transparency, normally the voters don’t trust you. I found out (about Measure R) from a member of the public, but it sounds like they are about to go to the voters,” Harn said.

And he’s right. Today is decision day. The board meets at 9am at Lake Tahoe Airport for its last chance to stop the process of putting Measure R on the Nov. 8 ballot. The potential cost of the election is the main sticking point for the board, otherwise the three have agreed to the resolution and reasons to alter the measure.

R would allow bike trails built pre-2000 to receive maintenance money and funds to be directed to improving existing ball fields.

As it stands now, there is no more money for ball fields and only post-2000 bike trails receive cash for upkeep.

Tahoe Paradise is allocated $50,000 a year. This summer two of the three tennis courts at the park were supposed to be resurfaced. In Upton’s July 29 staff report he said they would be open this month.

Lake Tahoe News spoke with groundskeeper Steve Dunn at the unfinished courts on Tuesday. They won’t be ready for play this month. Dunn wouldn’t even give a date because he doesn’t know when they will be painted and it will be two weeks after they are painted before people can use them.

It used to cost $5 an hour to play on those courts. The groundskeeper said the Tahoe Paradise board has not set a fee, but he said he has heard it could be $10.


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Comments (12)
  1. Bob says - Posted: August 10, 2011

    I’d stop the presses, audit the books. No wonder the public doesn’t trust people like Upton. It sounds like Norma, Upton, Cole and Henderson have their own agenda and don’t want the books reviewed. They want to rob Peter to pay Paul. And they are going to do it no matter what Ham or anyone else says. At least that’s how I read into this article.

  2. snoheather says - Posted: August 10, 2011

    this all sounds very shady and only adds to the publics’ distrust of elected officials. It is obvious these people are holding their own personal interests above what is best for Tahoe. They should’t waste anymore taxpayer money on changing the original measure and getting it on the ballot. Use the money on what it was intended for and stop with trying to please a few special interests. I agree with Bob, a full audit should be done prior to moving forward.

  3. Steve says - Posted: August 10, 2011

    The poor planning of Measure S and its unfulfilled promises have resulted in a fleecing of taxpayers. It should be stopped dead in its tracks before any more money is wasted on bureaucracy, future collections cancelled, and refunds made to taxpayers who have been bilked. Voters beware, unless you enjoy having your pockets picked.

  4. CommonSense says - Posted: August 10, 2011

    Measure S didn’t specify that every couple of years the JPA should waste money on a special election to change the allocation of the fund. JPA – quit wasting money and do what the voters asked when they approved Measure S.

  5. Where is the turnip truck says - Posted: August 10, 2011

    Until a forensic audit is done to account for approximately 800,000 dollars in bike trail maintainence money that was never spent on bike trails and is possible missing nothing should be done regarding Measure R.
    Eight miles of new completed bike trails would consume only 40,000 dollars a year at 5000 dollars per mile. 125,000 dollars a year is being collected for bike trail maintainence, so for the last many years 85,000 dollars a year should have been added to the bike maintainance trail fund.
    Would someone please explain why the above figures are incorrect.

  6. Michael B. Clark says - Posted: August 10, 2011

    Does anyone ever take responsibility for their own actions, EVER? This article implies that the treasurer of the JPA is apparently not aware of the money that the JPA spends. The audit that “uncovered serious accounting deficiencies” back in 2006, was the direct result of Mr. Harn’s refusal to provide an accounting of the checks that his department had written and approved. Mr. Harn was asked for accounting assistance formally and imformally prior to the audit and refused to provide any assistance. As usual, the government simply blamed someone else without taking any responsibility. A serious case of CYA. The complete lack of accountablility by Mr. Harn was the reason that I left the Board after the “audit”.

    As far as the JPA and another expensive audit goes, there are regular meetings that are open to the public. The public is encouraged to attend and ask questions. Simply to ignore those meetings and then demand expensive audits is irresponsible citizenship. Each of the entities in the JPA also have open meetings that the public is encouraged to attend. Yet, simply because you are too lazy to be involved, you want to have another audit. I can guarantee that after the audit, there will be no better understanding of the the funds by the public, and no one will be any more responsible. Primarily because the audit will be published and not one of you who demand an audit will read it. And more money will have been spent on items that do not help our community. If you truly care about these issues, you need to educate yourself, vote, attend meetings and ask questions. Simply throwing out accusations and numbers that you calculate without complete data is rediculous. If you don’t care enough to be involved, demanding audits and explanations will do nothing but waste more money. Take some responsibility and actually participate in your government. Don’t just criticize what you don’t understand.

  7. lou pierini says - Posted: August 10, 2011

    The public does not get paid what Norma, and Hal get paid for public secvice. Those figures with bennies are over $100,000.00 and $25,000.00 for those two. The public deserves more and expects more from these “public servents”. Mr. Clark keep this in mind when you post your coments.

  8. Michael B. Clark says - Posted: August 10, 2011

    So sorry, I was a volunteer and put almost 20 years in without pay. And I expect a little more from those that I served, while I paid taxes.

    Indeed, the public deserves to have the facts of this issue spelled out for them, again. But, how many times should that happen, Lou? Until there is no money left? Is it reasonable for any entity to have to repeat the publicly available information for each and every citizen that demands it?

  9. Michael B. Clark says - Posted: August 11, 2011

    To continue my thoughts, I wonder what would have happened if citizens came to the sheriff’s office every day, accusing you of improperly using their tax dollars and demanding to see your records? Or, worse yet, demanding an audit of your department… Not trying to be a pain, but trying to use an example that shows this situation from another perspective. Thank you.

  10. What?? says - Posted: August 11, 2011

    Wrong Lou Pierini. This is the guy with the pawn shop. If I’m not mistaken.

  11. Michael B. Clark says - Posted: August 11, 2011

    Thanks. The message does not change much. I think I have made my point.

  12. Tom Wendell says - Posted: August 13, 2011

    Clarity is something that has been in serious decline whether we’re talking about Lake Tahoe itself or the politics of the region. We have the opportunity and the obligation to reverse both trends. As far as the rewriting of Measure S to reflect the realities of a changing and challenging economic landscape, clarity is something that has been repeatedly stressed in each of the meetings that have been held over the past several months. This latest wrinkle about the lack of audits and the discussion over Mr. Harn’s role does not, in my mind, mean that we should scrap Measure R. It does mean that thanks to an alert and involved local news media (thank you Kae), the bright light of scrutiny is being focused on every aspect of the process and that is a good thing.

    The details: Measure S was intended, among other things, to provide funds to maintain nearly 30 miles of new bike paths (or more accurately—multi use paths) that were to be constructed in the past decade. Money to construct those paths was available at that time but would not be granted unless there was a funding mechanism to maintain them. Due to the withering economic conditions, funding for building those paths has largely evaporated and only 8 miles have been built. Under Measure S, the accumulating funds intended to maintain those un-built paths cannot be used to repair / reconstruct older paths which we all know are in dire need of serious attention. Measure R would change that to not only allow some funds to be used to repair / reconstruct older paths but will also increase the annual and per-mile allocation of funds for path maintenance. As there are currently several miles of new paths working their way through the planning and funding process, Measure R has been written to assure that funding for maintenance of these and all future new sections along with the 8 newer miles already on the ground will be “sacred”. That is…it can’t be used for anything else. This is a key provision that cycling advocates involved in the process insisted upon for our support of Measure R.

    So why would cycling advocates support using some of the unspent money to upgrade ball fields? First, a little history:
    Two years ago, a small coalition of Little League supporters attempted to pass Measure B which would have taken some of these unused funds to upgrade those fields. The process did not reach out to other Measure S stakeholders like cyclists and supports of other ball sports like girls softball and that lack of transparency and inclusion is what ultimately and rightfully doomed Measure B. I was a very vocal and public critic of Measure B and now, like many others who opposed it, have taken part in the crafting of Measure R and will support it. Here’s why:

    Measure R has been painstakingly crafted by a coalition of stakeholders including cycling advocates and supporters of various ball sports. Both are recreational activities that are in need of infrastructure improvement and both will benefit residents and visitors alike. “Bike” paths have the added advantage of providing alternative, clean transportation options and thus have a more comprehensive benefit. However, both will bring economic benefit to our community and will act as an example of how different interest groups seeking to access limited funds can work together for their mutual benefit and ultimately, for the good of the whole community. What a concept!!! In order to get the necessary 2/3 majority vote to pass Measure R, it will take both ball sports and cycling advocates to work together. Perhaps we could show our dysfunctional state and federal politicians how and why this is so important!

    I’m sure there will be more discussion as we approach the November elections and I look forward to helping our community work together for our mutual benefit.