San Diego Business Journal

City Council Committee Votes for Audit of Balboa Park Centennial Inc.

By Mike Allen Originally published March 27, 2014 at 4:04 p.m., updated March 27, 2014 at 2:13 p.m.

A San Diego City Council committee voted to contract for an outside audit of the disbanded nonprofit group that was organizing a celebration of 100th anniversary of the Panama California Exposition.

The organization called Balboa Park Centennial Inc. has been under scrutiny in recent months about how it was conducting business and spending about $3 million it received since its founding in 2011, most of which came from city funds.

About $273,000 remained on BPCI’s books, but councilmembers said in a public meeting that they wanted to investigate how the money was spent, and what services were delivered.

Answering queries from the elected officials was Gerry Braun, BPCI’s former spokesman, and now the group’s transition director. Braun is now receiving $13,000 monthly, up from his former salary of $8,000. He said the money for the salary is coming from private funds.

He said that he’s wrapping up the organization’s business and expects to complete that task in two to five months.

Braun told the committee the volunteer members of BPCI’s board had the best intentions of putting on a grand celebration that would draw hundreds of thousands of visitors, but were unable to raise much in the way of corporate sponsorships to achieve their goal.

The group went through three CEOs, most recently Julie Dubick, who took a job this month with Gafcon, a local construction management firm owned by Yehudi Gaffen, who is a BPCI director.

Plans for a year-long celebration were initially based on an expected budget of $30 million to $40 million, but when private funding didn’t materialize, the group scaled down the scope of the party.

Mayor Kevin Faulconer has said he wants to put on communitywide celebration that befits San Diego, but so far, hasn’t elaborated on what that means.

Responding to the latest news, the San Diego County Taxpayers Association said BPCI should disband immediately.

“The Taxpayers association does not understand why it should cost taxpayers $13,000 a month to unwind an organization that proved to be a complete failure,” said SDCTA Vice President Chris Cate.