San Bernardino Seal

Andrew Edwards, Staff Writer
Posted: 12/14/2009 10:48:30 PM PST

SAN BERNARDINO – City officials said Monday that a $350,000 budget mistake was a result of miscommunication and honest oversight that should never happen again.

The error prompted a Monday morning meeting with Mayor Pat Morris and other top officials, which mayoral chief of staff Jim Morris said involved conversations on how to prevent future errors and make San Bernardino government more efficient.

Jim Morris said the mayor met with City Manager Charles McNeely and interim San Bernardino Economic Development Agency chief Emil Marzullo. City Hall and the EDA have separate budgets and officials have blamed the error on the Finance Department’s incorrect assumption the EDA would transfer $350,000 in golf course money to the city’s budget.

“Obviously, no people between the two groups sat down and worked out the difference,” Councilman Tobin Brinker said.

Brinker is a member of the City Council committee that deals with financial matters.

He also said City Hall and EDA officials need to improve their information-sharing procedures, but that the mistake is also understandable given the many “moving parts” involved in recent financial decisions.

The City Council and other top officials have had to address a series of deficits with four different city managers since 2008.

Finance Director Barbara Pachon revealed the $350,000 mistake during the Dec. 9 meeting of the council’s financial committee while presenting proposals to solve a $4.9 million deficit.

Councilman Rikke Van Johnson, another committee member, said he did not think the error warranted disciplinary action and gave his approval to the current budget balancing proposal.

“I thought it was pretty sound. I like the fact that we’re not cutting services,” Johnson said.

The miscommunication between City Hall and EDA officials means the phantom $350,000 transfer seems to have been forgotten during the past summer’s budget talks. Proposals to balance the city’s general fund with EDA dollars were at the center of those discussions.

McNeely, who took on the city’s top job June 1, pushed for a budget plan that partially relied on borrowing from the EDA. The City Council voted in August to borrow $1.3 million from the agency.

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