Settlement of Promote La Jolla claim awaiting signatures


By Kathy Day

Staff Writer

The city attorney’s office and the insurance carrier for Promote La Jolla have worked out a settlement on a claim seeking repayment of $112,070.

Details of the settlement have not been released because it has not been signed and the parties are bound by a confidentiality agreement.

In June 2009, the city auditor issued a report outlining “alleged accounting irregularities and possible misuse of city funds.” The report also recommended that city staff implement four changes in how it coordinates with business improvement districts — groups authorized by the city that are funded through fees paid by merchants.

Beth Murray, of the city’s economic development office, and Meridith Dibden-Brown, of the city’s Office of Small Business, said Monday three have been implemented and the fourth is in the works.

Both agreed the new processes are a little more complicated, but a good thing in the long run.

“It is a reminder how important it is to be diligent,” Murray said.

The first recommendation was to “recoup the $112,070,” which is being met by settling the claim.

Filed in April, it named the board of Promote La Jolla, which managed the business district until it lost its contract with the city. Although PLJ is still holding board meetings, it has been without funds since the city failed to renew its contract.

Also named were former PLJ president Deborah Marengo and former treasurer Reza Ghasemi and former executive director Tiffany Sherer.

PLJ president Rick Wildman and Marengo declined to comment, as did a spokeswoman for the city attorney’s office.

The second recommendation was to set up a procedure to “prevent duplicate city payments to organizations receiving city funds from multiple sources,” as was alleged in the PLJ audit and the third, carrying that into the BID contracts, was also enacted. Training sessions were held in April to explain the new rules, Dibden-Brown noted.

Still to be completed is finalizing a process for “on-site visits and other additional oversite” of the BIDS and other entities receiving city funds. Dibden-Brown said that has taken a little longer but is close to being done.

After PLJ’s contract was not renewed, the city’s Office of Small Business took over management of the La Jolla merchant district and is looking to four PLJ directors as “advisers.” Now there is a move to form a new nonprofit management group so that the city can get out of the business of managing La Jolla’s BID.