MORE INSANITY : City Council (CRA) gets ready to spend hundreds of thousands on Cultural Alliance Art Gallery
1/27/10 – Layoffs and cutbacks in essential City services now are a daily reality within the City of Banning, which is facing the greatest financial crisis in it’s history . But the City Council seems to ignore the crisis : they are getting ready to spend at least $ 250,000 – and maybe as much as half a million – on the most non-essential building the City owns : an Art Gallery operated by the Banning Cultural Alliance.
Located at 130 N. San Gorgonio Ave, the City of Banning owns a gallery building that it purchased in 2008 for the exclusive use by the Alliance. The City paid $ 450,000 for this building, arguably overpaying substantially. If put up for sale today, this building would not even get a bid of $ 200,000. To add insult to injury, Botts, Hanna , Robinson and Machisic have authorized for the Cultural Alliance to currently occupy the building rent free and for them to keep rental income from apartments located in this building (read more in our previous article).
MONEY ALREADY “SET ASIDE”
The City Council is quick to point out that $ 250,000 had been “set aside” in 2008 for a remodel of this building. But in light of mounting deficits and the City’s $ 110,000,000 bond debt, wouldn’t it seem prudent to use this money for debt reduction instead ? In a CRA meeting of January 26, 2010 certain City Council members (Hanna, Machisic, Robinson -with Botts absent ) seemed to falsely suggest that the City has no choice but to go forward with their plan.
In reality the City never committed to remodeling this building to any third party, and therefore is under no obligation whatsoever to go forward with the remodel. To the contrary, the current lease agreement for the Gallery Building requires the Cultural Alliance to pay for all improvements to the building ( view lease, page 5 ). But contracts don’t mean anything when it comes to the Banning Cultural Alliance.
BANNING CUTURAL ALLIANCE HAS A HISTORY OF TAXPAYER RIPOFF AND OVERCHARGING
As the Banning Informer had reported before, the Banning Cultural Alliance has a long standing history of taking the taxpayer to the cleaners. In the past, this predatory “non-profit organization” was paid $ 110,000 by the City for services which they never bothered to perform ( read more here and listen to podcast Radio Interviews here and here).
On another occasion, the Cultural Alliance had received a $ 100,000 façade grant for the Women’s Club “ building on 175 W. Hays St. ( a building different from the Art Gallery). The Women’s Club building is owned by the Cultural Alliance and used as their headquarters. In 2007 the Alliance used the $ 100,000 façade grant to submit – among other things – a severely overinflated painting invoice : for painting just the exterior of the approximately 3,500 sqft. Women’s Club building they billed the taxpayer $ 23,895.00 ! (view invoice).
Fair market value for this contract would have been no more $ 6,000, which means the taxpayer was overcharged by 400 %. It is a well known fact that building contractors often submit overstated invoices in order to pay kickbacks to key individuals ; while there is no hard evidence that kickbacks were actually paid in this case, it can be safely assumed that even the most unsophisticated person ( f.e. CEO Carol Newkirk ) would not sign a contract that is 4 times higher than it should be. Needless to say, nobody on the City Council (CRA) ever questioned the excessive amount submitted for painting the exterior of this building. They were eager to pay . Draw your own conclusions.
GET READY FOR MORE
The Cultural Alliance, which negotiated this unbelievable painting contract will now be in charge of negotiating the huge remodel contract for the City owned Gallery building on San Gorgonio. Get ready to get ripped off in a much bigger way – $ 25,000 for an architect have already been approved on Jan 26, 2010. Once again, this latest development is living proof that the City of Banning has been hijacked by a corrupt City Council in conjunction with a cancerous Banning Cultural Alliance, an organization that always enjoys the unconditional approval of these 4 City Council members:
Their message to the citizens is : “We may not have the money to keep City Hall open 5 days a week, and we certainly have to lay off City employees. But you better believe that we always have an extra $ 250,000 (maybe even $ 500,000) “set aside”, just in case the Cultural Alliance tells us they want us to remodel an Art Gallery.”
Total insanity is ruling the City of Banning.