Denver's auditor claims the Denver Zoo has stalled an audit of the facility for five months and is "stonewalling" him from gaining information and speaking with zoo employees.
In a letter published on the City and County of Denver's website and in a hand delivered letter to the mayor on April 4, Timothy O'Brien said his office has tried to audit the zoo since November but has been unable to get the initial information from the zoo's foundation.
"I've have never experienced, in my 40 plus years of auditing, push-back and lack of cooperation on an audit like I have with this audit," said O'Brien.
Zoo Public Relations Manager Sean Andersen-Vie told 9NEWS he could not comment on whether or not the auditor has tried to look into the facility for five months but did release a statement regarding O'Brien's letter published Monday.
"Denver Zoological Foundation, Inc. has received Denver City Auditor Tim O’Brien’s comments regarding the proposed audit of Denver Zoo. The Foundation remains committed to its longstanding and successful relationship with the City and County of Denver for operation of the Denver Zoo, and has always operated with transparency with our stakeholders. The Foundation will release an additional statement once our management and Board of Trustees have an opportunity to evaluate Mr. O’Brien’s comments."
Under a Cooperative Agreement between Denver and the Denver Zoological Foundation, Inc., the auditor has authority to look into the zoo's financial statements. The agreement was signed on Nov. 4, 1998 by then-Mayor Wellington Webb and the zoo's Chairman of the Board, Bruce Benson.
"The Foundation agrees that any duly authorized representative of the City (including the City Auditor) shall, at the City's own expense and until three years after termination of this Agreement, have the right to perform whatever audit or check the City may require, including a financial audit and a check for compliance with this Agreement." The agreement also states that includes expenditures, invoices and payroll.
The original cooperative agreement between the zoo and the city was signed in 1956 and since then, the zoo has never been audited, said O'Brien who was sworn into the position in July.
He said over the past 15 years, the 93-acre zoo received $58 million in capital improvements and gets $2 million in operating expenses annually.
"I think this is important for Denver that you can't have a rogue agency out there that's going to take the money but not accept the oversight that goes with it," said O'Brien.
Every year an independent accountant reviewd the zoo's financial statements and looks into if they've accounted for money properly. O'Brien wants to know what happened with the dollars that were spent.
"I think there's something there they don't want us to find out about," he said.
O'Brien wants to interview zoo staff members but said the zoo will only allow the meetings if a member of the executive management team and member of the board of trustees are present.
"That's an environment of intimidation for the individual being audited," said O'Brien.
Denver's auditor wants Mayor Michael Hancock to notify the zoo they are in breach of the agreement. That notice would give them 90 days to let the Auditor's Office conduct the audit which could take around four months.
The mayor released a statement Tuesday regarding the zoo's seemingly lack of cooperation.
“As part of our fiduciary responsibility and as fiscal stewards, we expect all city agencies and contractual partners to comply with audit requests of the duly elected Denver Auditor. My team is already looking into this issue to understand the obligations within the cooperative agreement in hopes that we can help enable a meaningful audit of the Denver Zoo.”
Read more at the Denver Business Journal: http://bit.ly/1q3Rd0Z