Weekend Open Thread: Adam Assesses Anaheim’s Audacious Ament Audit Oddity

Anaheim Chamber of Secrets

Voice of OC star reporter Adam Elmahrek gets ahold of the long-delayed draft report on the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce’s use of public funds, possibly by hitching a ride on the back of Councilwoman Gail Eastman’s hairdo

I’m going to invent a new phrase today — “Anaheim Anguish” (or “Anaheimguish”) — to describe the emotional reaction I have every time I see another story in the Voice of OC peeling back that city’s onion skin of corruption.  So, kids,  it’s time for another chapter in our continuing series, Adam Elmahrek and the Chamber of Secrets.  (Honestly, can we just get it over with and give this guy his Pulitzer?)

In Wednesday night’s episode, inadequately titled “Audit: Anaheim Chamber’s Tracking of City Funds Spotty” — and seriously, Norberto Santana, do you need some help jazzing up your headlines?  Because as a gesture of respect, I’ll do it for freeAdam Elmahrek explores the contents of the still-unreleased performance audit of the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce.  (This isn’t even yet the fiscal audit to assess the organization’s financial soundness.  This is just “what did they do with the public money given to them?”)

Among the highlights of the piece, which is mandatory reading for this school year:

  • The completed performance audit was due in June, but the Chamber keeps on not finishing it.  (“Math is hard!  Let’s go politician shopping!”  It’s like they want to delay for some reason — some reason like the September payment for work on the contract to administer the dead Enterprise Zone program.)
  • The draft audit found that the ACoC has been inadequately tracking expenses, particularly using unreliable staff time-keeping methods 
  • Nevertheless, it requested and got a $600,000 increase in its city contract earlier this year, citing the need to hire more staff for day-to-day tasks
  • Mayor Tom Tait is quoted saying: “Without an audit trail, the council cannot know whether our funds were spent appropriately.   It was irresponsible to vote for a $600,000 increase without such verification.”
  • The audit found a potential conflict of interest with having the business-controlled chamber awarding government tax vouchers to businesses
  • The Chamber is not complying with generally accepted accounting practices
  • The chamber was increasingly going into debt to sustain operations, including a $50,000 corporate loan and credit card debt
And then there’s this, which requires a longer call-out:
Matthew Cunningham, a blogger who promotes the council majority, has received between $10,000 and $100,000 from the chamber, according to a statement of economic interest he filed with the county.

The chamber earlier this year purchased an advertisement in The Orange County Register touting the council majority. And the chamber’s website has promoted Councilwoman Kris Murray’s June 25 fundraiser.

Cunningham, who recently resigned from the Voice of OC Community Editorial Board, didn’t deny that he is being paid by the chamber to run his political blog, but he also declined to comment on his contract with the business group or show it to Voice of OC.

“I’m a private business, and my contract is with a private organization … so no,” Cunningham said when asked for a copy of his contract.

So does this mean that Matt Cunningham should now properly be described not as a “paid blogger,” but as a paid lobbyist for the Chamber?  I’m sure that we have a regular commentator on Anaheim issues who may have an opinion on that.

Go read the rest yourself.  This is your Weekend Open Thread — talk about that or anything else you’d like, within broad bounds of decency and decorum.

And yes, this week I’m doing a freakin’ Dearthwatch!  It will appear below, when it’s good and ready.

Dearthwatch - 20130830

For the last two weeks, the urge not to do the Dearthwatch was completely overpowering, but this week I decided to go ahead with it.  So the changes that you see represent three weeks above the green line and four weeks below it.  As you can see, it was an excellent three weeks for the Juice — only Around the Capital did better in raw terms, which we don’t begrudge — but it also tells us something interesting about political scandal.  Look at the San Diego Union-Tribune!  That’s a pretty heft leap — so they should thank Bob Filner. ( I’d say that they should also thank Carl DeMaio too, but they haven’t been covering his scandal.)

The Register continues its slow recovery; the Weekly continues its slow rise, as does the HB Indepenent; and Voice of OC gets back on track.  I’m developing a hypothesis that the problem with newspapers putting their stories behind paywalls is that the radio and TV stations will just take over — getting people onto their websites is a good way to market their main product, after all — and below the green line you’ll see some good evidence for that.  Look at NBC go!  It started out around where Press-Enterprise was, but now it seems like it’s ready to rocket past the Register before too long!

I’m happy enough from the progress of this boiling pot of water when I didn’t watch it for a few weeks that I’m considering continuing and expanding my negligence of the Dearthwatch.  But, again, if anyone out there (with a few exceptions) wants this gig, it’s theirs for the taking!

About Greg Diamond

Somewhat verbose attorney, semi-retired due to disability, residing in northwest Brea. Occasionally runs for office against bad people who would otherwise go unopposed. Got 45% of the vote against Bob Huff for State Senate in 2012; Josh Newman then won the seat in 2016. In 2014 became the first attorney to challenge OCDA Tony Rackauckas since 2002; Todd Spitzer then won that seat in 2018. Every time he's run against some rotten incumbent, the *next* person to challenge them wins! He's OK with that. Corrupt party hacks hate him. He's OK with that too. He does advise some local campaigns informally and (so far) without compensation. (If that last bit changes, he will declare the interest.)