LACIE SILVA – Editor
During the South Pittsburg city meeting on October 10, the board of mayor and commissioners voted to terminate 22Visionz as the managers of the Princess Theatre due to contract violations. Four members voted in favor of the termination, none opposed it, and two abstained from voting.
Mayor Samantha Rector first proposed a budget amendment to reimburse TRAN and Alexis Gilberts’ company, 22Visionz, for an amount totaling $6,013. This reimbursement was subsequently approved by all board members. Next, Rector motioned to terminate the contracts with 22Visionz for the Princess Theatre. In the subsequent vote, Commissioners Cheryl Kellerman and Allison Buchanan abstained, while Commissioner Cameron Moss, Vice-Mayor Matt Stone, and City Administrator Gene Vess voted in favor of Mayor Rector’s motion.
City Attorney William Gouger Jr. presented the results of a third-party audit that outlined the alleged violations by 22Visionz. TRAN denied all findings stating that they are incorrect and they have ample evidence to support that they complied with all rules of their contract – cited that they have emails time-stamping exactly when they communicated with officials including City Recorder Heather Pickett. “We have done everything by the books,” TRAN affirmed.
The findings provided are as follows: invoices paid in cash and collecting cash (when it is supposed to be a cashless system). Secondly, the audit alleges that 22Visionz is paying invoices and requesting reimbursement from the city. Thirdly, the audit alleges that 22Visionz is paying sales tax on items where the city is not to pay sales tax on any item. Fourthly, the audit alleges that 22Visionz is not turning over all revenues collected within the three business day rule. Fifthly, the audit alleges that 22Visionz is not turning in to the city the support for the revenues collected. Finally, the audit alleges that 22Visionz is not using pre numbered receipts.
As described by the third-party auditors, the contract between the city of South Pittsburg and 22Visionz allegedly has been broken several times for each allegation.
This report outlines several critical issues pertaining to the operation of the theatre. First, the theater is mandated to function as a cashless system, with all revenue collected to be promptly remitted to the city within three business days. Furthermore, invoices are required to be submitted directly to the city, and payments to vendors should adhere to the City’s Purchase Policy. The city’s issuance of reimbursements for invoices previously claimed to have been paid by 22Visionz represents a direct violation of their policy, potentially leading to unfavorable audit findings.
Additionally, the city is obliged to operate within the regulatory framework and standards applicable to a government entity, rather than as a public or private corporation. This means that all expenses must be budgeted and approved through the board and the comptroller. Any expenses not included in the approved budget or a budget amendment cannot be disbursed by the city. A government entity is not allowed to expend funds that haven’t received approval in the annual budget or a budget amendment. Notably, according to the auditor, a $5,500 invoice provided to the city by the management team exceeds the limit that the City Recorder or City Administrator can authorize, necessitating board approval before disbursement, in line with standard purchase procedures. In the end, the third-party auditor advised contacting the city attorney to nullify the contract with 22Visionz due to their breaches. Continuing to work with 22Visionz under the current process could expose the city to legal liability for violations of the rules and regulations governing government entity operations.
Alexis Gilbert pointed out that city officials had meetings with auditors without prior notification to either of them. Rector interjected, noting that this was indeed possible. However, Alexis continued, highlighting that this lack of communication had left them in the dark and hindered their ability to effectively manage the Princess Theatre, especially if their performance was deemed unsatisfactory. Furthermore, she emphasized that they hadn’t been provided with any handbook pertaining to the management of the theater, and in particular, hadn’t received specific guidance on matters like auditing, day-to-day operations, or a comprehensive list of essential tasks. The grievance was centered on the absence of proactive communication from the city, which would have allowed them to address any issues well before the city pointed out any alleged wrongdoings.
TRAN highlighted the absence of prior communication regarding the issues the city raised, both before the meeting and their eventual termination. This lack of communication created a situation in which the couple couldn’t demonstrate their compliance with the rules, and it appeared that the city terminated their contract without a justifiable reason or a proper procedure.
Gouger clarified that the audit findings were conducted by a third-party auditor, not the board members themselves. He explained that the managers had a 14-day window from the date they received the notice about these findings to provide evidence demonstrating their compliance and refuting the accuracy of the findings. Additionally, Gouger assured that he would provide the Gilberts with a copy of the auditor’s findings so they could present any evidence they had to counter the allegations.
The Gilberts have issued the following public statement, “We firmly believe that the city of South Pittsburg has unjustly terminated our contract under false pretenses. We are committed to sharing further details regarding this matter in due course.” Mayor Rector could not be reached for comment.
The Marion Tribune – October 19, 2023