CITY HALL — Despite allegations of bookkeeping problems put forth, once again, by City Hall, City Council voted to fund the Pico Youth and Family Center (PYFC), though at a lower rate than in years past.
Last year, council issued a one-time grant of $225,000 to the center, which aims to, among other things, curb gang violence in the Pico neighborhood. This year, council approved a $190,000 payment rather than a grant because, City Manager Rod Gould said, City Hall hasn’t been able to verify “finances or outcomes” with the PYFC.
Gould called reporting and administration at the PYFC “a chronic and ongoing problem.”
PYFC founder Oscar de la Torre refuted nearly every claim made by Gould.
About two-dozen residents and PYFC beneficiaries spoke during the public input portion of the meeting, praising the nonprofit’s work in the community and asking that council fund at the $225,000 level.
No council member pushed for additional funds to be allocated to the program.
A 2011 audit from City Hall revealed nearly $30,000 worth of grant money was missing from the organization. De la Torre, who is also a member of the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District Board of Education, claims that the discrepancy has been rectified and was a fault of the bank, not the organization.
In 2012, City Hall released a report scrutinizing the finances of the organization.
Last year’s one-time grant set aside $30,000 to fund Social and Environmental Entrepreneurs (SEE), a consulting service meant to help with administration and bookkeeping, Gould said. De la Torre claims the cost was closer to $25,000.
Free of grant requirements, the PYFC will no longer need to provide additional financial reporting, Gould said, and they’d be free of that cost.
“Because we’re not seeking the reporting, there’s no need to hire SEE to continue to provide this service,” Gould said. “What we’ve been told is that, (the PYFC is) going to need to hire a (Certified Public Accountant) CPA as well. We understand last year they employed a CPA and SEE, so we’re not quite sure why they need both.”
“That’s a set-up,” de la Torre told the Daily Press. “If we don’t keep proper records then next year they’re going to say that we’re hiding something. We’re actually in the process of hiring SEE again for next year.”
The PYFC, Gould said, has not provided City Hall with “consolidated financials” of its staffing or its expenses.
De la Torre claims that City Hall made the organization “jump through hoops,” requiring the PYFC to consistently reformat its financial information. All the information, de la Torre claims, was provided.
City Hall, Gould said, doesn’t know how much the PYFC is allowed to use annually of its recently procured $1.6 million grant from the foundation of the late Santa Monica philanthropist Peggy Bergmann.
De la Torre told the Daily Press that the PYFC is allowed to use up to 10 percent of the total contribution each year.
The PYFC, Gould said, has failed to show receipt of this.
Council, he said, wants to see PYFC diversify its funding sources. This point — that council wants to see the nonprofit become less dependent on City Hall — is one that de la Torre and Gould agree on.
But de la Torre said council is wrong in this case. Because the PYFC has not been around as long as many of the city’s other nonprofits and because it serves a neighborhood with less resources, he said, it should be allowed to rely more heavily on public dollars.
De la Torre believes it comes down to a personal beef between he and Gould.
Gould’s claim that the PYFC has administrative issues, de la Torre said, is hypocritical.
He points to Gould’s recent controversial decision to put forth and then rescind a job offer to a resident who had previously been involved in local politics. He points to a map of previously-unknown origin included in a city planning document that changed several dozen lots from residential to commercial. City Hall ultimately acknowledged that the map was inserted by city planners and viewed, though not discussed, by council.
“Rod Gould wants to point at the PYFC and say that we have administrative issues but makes no mention of the errors that he’s made,” de la Torre said. “Look what we’ve done for the community. What has he done to fight gang violence? What has he done to send kids to college?”
De la Torre noted that Gould, whose 2012 salary was nearly $353,000, takes more public dollars than the PYFC.
“He’s the biggest welfare mom in the city of Santa Monica,” de la Torre said.
“I believe that PYFC does seek to help youth, particularly from the Pico Neighborhood and there is certainly value there,” Gould told the Daily Press. “Hence the recommendation for an additional payment. The Council made clear over a year ago that after 12 years of substantial funding, PYFC was to find new revenue sources and greater community support in order to move toward fiscal independence.”
The $190,000 payment comes from council’s discretionary funds. Council also dipped into the account to fund the Hospitality Training Academy and the Safe Routes to School program, which will create safer pedestrian and bike access to Santa Monica High School.