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Council reviews policy

Park’s fund management an issue

The role of La Jolla Recreation Council Inc. in managing money for a La Jolla Shores park project stirred up some emotions at the group’s board meeting last week.

As a result, the city’s Parks and Recreation director said Monday she plans to get the leaders of the community’s organzations together to “talk about what’s working and what’s not working.”

In 1998, then Parks and Recreation Director Marcia McClatchy wrote a letter assigning “lead community group” status for the area’s parks and outlined procedures for working with the city. However, in 2007 the city approved a special permit that governs the council’s jurisdiction and how it relates to the city, said Stacey LoMedica, who is now parks director.

She explained that city staff analyzed the role of the recreation councils in terms of who has jurisdiction, but had only recently seen the 1998 letter.

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“We need to take the old letter and have a conversation about how things are working or not working and, if it doesn’t work, make it clear,” she said.

The 1998 letter designated:

-La Jolla Parks Inc. - predecessor to the La Jolla Recreation Council - the responsibility for the La Jolla Recreation Center and Bird Rock Park.

-La Jolla Shores Association oversight of Kellogg Park, the Shores, Laureate Park and Allen Field.

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-La Jolla Town Council responsibility for “all other parks … including beaches and bluffs, shoreline parks, neighborhood parks, miniparks, open space parks and undeveloped parks.”

While the Rec Council and the Town Council have nonprofit status allowing them to handle donations for park projects, the Shores Association does not. That meant when community members decided to create “The Map” - a colorful depiction of the offshore reserve at La Jolla Shores - they needed a nonprofit organization for that purpose.

At the request of Mary Coakley, a longtime Rec Council board member and Shores association director who spearheaded The Map effort, the Rec Council agreed in 2005 to manage the funds.

Procedures changing

Donations were submitted to Diane Brittingham, a city employee who manages the Recreation Center. She would then turn the money over to council’s treasurer and would review invoices as Coakley submitted them and had them paid by the council.

Cathy Anzuoni, the city’s district manager overseeing La Jolla’s parks, referred to the 2007 special use permit, saying the city has tightened its policies on handling funds from groups outside its jurisdiction and told Coakley that things would have to change.

There “are not enough checks and balances” in the way monies had been handled, she told the Rec Council board on Jan. 28.

On top of that, “the staff doesn’t have time to deal with all the money (Coakley) brings in,” she said.

That’s partly because Brittingham no longer has an assistant due to budget cuts, she said.

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Conflict worries

Council President Chip Rome said that he was concerned about the impact on the staff’s time and the need to adhere to city rules.

But he said he had a bigger concern that his group’s efforts to raise money to rehabilitate the aging recreation complex could be hampered by a “conflict of interests” if Coakley listed the recreation council on grant applications when the council was also seeking money from the same groups.

Darcy Ashley, president of the La Jolla Town Council, told the board that “success breeds success. The worst thing you could do is distance yourself” from Coakley. “You want a positive thing going forward.”

Ultimately, the council board unanimously supported a motion that would enable Coakley to withdraw the funds and move them to a new entity being set up by the La Jolla Shores Association.

Currently the fund holds about $32,000 that is committed to work yet to be completed, Coakley said.

She also said several bills are anticipated in the next few weeks and asked that arrangements be made to pay them promptly.

The board agreed they could call special meetings on three days notice to handle requests for payment while the new nonprofit is organized.