Tuesday, July 19, 2016
[Riverside County] BANNING: Council to hear response to grand jury
Banning officials are taking steps to act on a grand jury report critical of the relationship between the city and the Banning Chamber of Commerce.
City Council members will look at a draft response to the report when they meet Tuesday, July 12.
In the report issued in late April, the Riverside County Grand Jury recommended that Banning start the process of collecting money owed by the chamber for unpaid utility bills for a building leased from the city and from a judgment against the chamber’s now former Executive Director Jim Smith.
According to the letter, the city mostly agreed with the findings and has laid out ways it has addressed the issues. Yet Councilman Don Peterson, who reported the city to the grand jury, is not pleased.
“All this council is going to do is kick the can down the road until this can disappears,” he said.
Among issues addressed was the chamber not meeting a requirement to create a maintenance fund after it signed a 50-year lease in January 2006 for the property at 60 E. Ramsey St. for $1 per year.
The city sent a demand letter to the chamber May 26 requiring the chamber to name the city on its insurance policy for the building and to deposit $10,000 in a maintenance fund. Both of those concerns have been met, according to the response to the grand jury.
“Additionally, the city is also updating its lease and contract policies and procedures to ensure compliance with the provisions in all contractors and leases,” the letter reads.
Banning also demanded payment of $15,795 in past due utility bills. The chamber has asked for an extension of the 30-day notice to pay the bill, which expired June 27, an item the council will tackle in a separate item Tuesday night.
As for Smith’s debt, the city has hired attorneys who specialize in debt collection to collect $75,000 judgment against him from 2011 after Smith unsuccessfully sued the city.
Smith resigned from the chamber in June.
The city does not have to act on the findings. In 2010, the Banning council rejected a report that sought the return of $162,000 it awarded to the Banning Cultural Alliance.
July 8, 2016
The Press Enterprise
By Craig Shultz