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Spectrum's increased payments were OK'd

February 25, 2001|By RUDY YNIGUEZ, Staff Writer

Chalk it up, maybe, to a "senior moment."

Apparently, members of the county Board of Supervisors forgot they unanimously approved increased monthly retainer payments to El Centro-based Spectrum back in April 1999.

The issue came to light last week at a supervisors committee meeting where a recently completed audit of the County Administrative Office was discussed. The audit states it was a verbal agreement that resulted in the increased payments, but in actuality, the authorization came from the full board — the full former board, that is.

An April 6, 1999, minute order says the board "approved authorization of an extension of the existing contract with Spectrum with a monthly retainer of $3,000 from March 1, 1999, to June 30, 1999."


The discovery of the minute order brings the audit under scrutiny.

"My question is how did the audit miss it?" said Supervisor Wally Leimgruber, adding the issue will be discussed as soon as possible.

Leimgruber and supervisors Chairman Tony Tirado both voted for the increased payments.

Tirado could not be reached for comment.

Meanwhile, county Auditor/Controller Doug Newland — whose office conducted the audit — said Friday he had not seen the minute order because he was out of town Friday.

"I can tell you that normally when we are interviewing a department and we find something, we inquire of all the parties involved if they have any backup or any knowledge of it," Newland said. "In this particular case everybody said they had no backup, they knew nothing about this, that this never came to light. As to why nobody can remember it, I can't explain it. We normally don't go through and sift through all the minute orders to disprove what somebody's told us. We feel that it's their responsibility to know what's involved in their department and if they say they don't have something we go on that.

"We may relook at thinking our procedures on something like this," he said, adding his department is considering a computer system that would allow it to track minute orders and contracts.

Spectrum owner Rob Zimmer said he was "ecstatic" to hear a minute order existed and that he'd lost sleep over the issue.

"Sometimes this is the price you pay for freedom of the press, but how else do you keep people in-line," he said. "Everything should be open when you deal with public money."

Zimmer said he appreciates the record being set straight.

When informed the Board of Supervisors authorization actually called for four increased payments and not the three he received, Zimmer said, "I think I'm going to go back and do some billing if they'll let me."

The audit alleged that former County Administrative Officer Rich Inman verbally agreed with Zimmer to the increased payments and that no explanation was provided for those increases.

Inman in a previous story said he could not imagine not having gone to the Board of Supervisors for approval of the increased payments. Apparently he was right.

He could not be reached for comment.

Staff Writer Rudy Yniguez can be reached at 337-3440.

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