A local accounting firm will return to the Casper Events Center within the next two months to check up on its finances after an audit detected numerous accounting errors at the city-owned facility.
“They will be back in there doing some interim testing,” City Manager Carter Napier said Friday.
The city hired Spectra Venue Management in 2016 to operate the center on its behalf. Porter, Muirhead, Cornia & Howard — an accounting firm that was hired by Spectra last summer to conduct a required audit — found that proper accounting procedures were not being followed.
“Cash on hand in petty cash for food and beverages, the finance office, the box office and the ATM machine were not witnessed by more than one individual,” states a copy of the auditor's report. “In addition, the poor condition of the accounting records resulted in numerous misstatements in accounts receivable, accounts payable, advance ticket sales, deferred revenues and other accrued liabilities.”
These errors were severe to the point that it prevented the firm from being able to reach a conclusion.
“We were not able to obtain sufficient appropriate audit evidence to provide a basis for an audit opinion,” states the report.
Attempts to reach the auditors involved were unsuccessful.
Brady Murphy, the general manager for the events center, said Friday that the auditors told him there was no indication of embezzlement or any misuse of funds.
The previous director appeared to be qualified for the position but has since been replaced, he said. The venue is now back on track.
“We are following general acceptable accounting principles,” he said, adding that the center is ready to move forward.
Murphy publicly apologized to the City Council earlier this month and introduced council members to Jessica Dixon, the center’s new director of finance. Dixon explained that she has put checks and balances in place to prevent similar errors from occurring.
“Spectra takes full responsibly and blame … We recognize that this was a major error,” Murphy told the Council.
Councilwoman Kenyne Humphrey said Friday that she is concerned by the audit’s findings.
“I think [this issue] needs to be revisited multiple times before the end of another fiscal year just to ensure that the issues that were identified have been corrected,” she said.
The city signed a five-year contract with the company in 2016, but Humphrey said the city should explore ending the contract if similar issues arise in the future.
Napier said he's unsure what the city's options are for terminating the contract but he agreed it would be worth exploring if other serious problems occur.
The contract between Spectra and the city was written with a target subsidy of $994,919. If Spectra operates with a lower subsidy, then it is entitled to 20 percent of the subsidy reduction, according to a memo from the city's financial services division to Napier.
The plan to privatize the performance venue began in 2015 when Spectra reached out to Casper officials, former city manager City Manager V.H. McDonald previously told the Star-Tribune.
City officials hoped that switching the center's management over to private hands would eventually reduce operational costs.
Spectra’s ability to bring better-known acts to Casper was also part of its appeal. Since Spectra took over, the events center has hosted a number of major acts including Foo Fighters and Elton John.
The national company already manages venues in nearby states including Pueblo Convention Center in Colorado, the Utah Valley Convention Center in Utah and the Sioux Falls Convention Center in South Dakota.