A new financial report from the recently disbanded nonprofit that was organizing a celebration of the 1915 Panama California Exposition shows the group received more than $3 million in funding and spent about $2.6 million.
Balboa Park Celebration Inc. said it released the report to provide a look at its operations “so San Diegans have accurate and current information regarding BPCI’s financial activities and expenses.”
The group, which has been under scrutiny for weeks after stonewalling requests to disclose its financials, agreed to disband March 4 and transfer responsibility for organizing the celebration to the city of San Diego.
“This is the beginning of a comprehensive disclosure process,” said Gerry Braun, the transition director for BPCI, adding that the group plans to transfer all its financial records to the city and post additional information on its website.
BPCI’s board of directors voted to disband the organization after it failed to secure sufficient private sponsorship to pay for a year-long series of events commemorating the 100th anniversary of the event that is credited with putting the city on the global map.
In a statement, BPCI co-chairs Ben and Nikki Clay said the goal for the celebration was to create “a year-long celebration of global significance that would boost the regional economy and generate hundreds of thousands of room nights in local hotels.”
Original estimates for the group’s budget were about $22 million, Ben Clay said, although documents posted by the contracted events production business, Autonomy LLC, shows a budget of nearly $39 million.
Clay said the group scaled back the budget — most recently at $2 million — several times when it was unable to attract large corporate sponsors.
“Everybody had grand ideas, but if nobody funds it, we’re not doing it,” Clay said.
City Leads All Funders
The latest report done for the group by San Diego accounting firm AKT LLP shows BPCI received $1.6 million in city funding. It received another $1.28 million from the city’s Tourism Marketing District, which is funded entirely from city hotel taxes, and $40,000 from San Diego County.
It also received $487,561 from nine unnamed private donors, which were described as “foundations and private corporations.” The names were excluded from the report “to protect their privacy, per nonprofit regulations,” Braun said in the report.
Nevertheless, Braun told the San Diego Business Journal that BPCI received corporate sponsorships from AT&T Inc. and San Diego Gas & Electric for a total commitment of $325,000.
Counting the private donations, BPCI received nearly $3.1 million. Subtracting its expenses of roughly $2.6 million, the group should have about $461,000 left, although the report shows “cash on hand” as of Jan. 31 was $553,911.
BPCI’s largest expenditures were for events planning and production with Los Angeles-based Autonomy, with whom the organization spent $467,189; and with Loma Media Partners of San Diego for $463,766 to develop a social-digital strategy, website and media strategy, the report shows.
CEOs Paid More Than $440,000
The next-largest spending was for the three chief executive officers BPCI hired since its founding in late 2011. Mark Germyn was paid $123,523 for about five months as the first CEO; Michael McDowell, the current president of the San Diego Hall of Champions, was paid $181,862 as the second CEO for one year; and Julie Dubick, who resigned in February after nine months, received $135,723, including an insurance stipend.
Dubick was hired by Gafcon Inc., a San Diego construction management company headed by Yehudi Gaffen, who is also a member of BPCI’s board of directors.
It’s unclear whether Gaffen obtained permission from BPCI’s board before hiring Dubick. Calls to Gaffen and Dubick weren’t returned.
Dubick is a former chief of staff to former San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders. Braun, another former staffer for Sanders, was paid $115,000 through the end of January. He’s negotiating with the board for a new contract, he said, to handle the transition of the organization to the city, a project that could take more than three months.
Mayor Kevin Faulconer said in a statement that the city will take a look at all of BPCI’s documents when they are received and develop a new game plan. “This is an opportunity to move forward with a more practical and realistic celebration that recognizes the character and history of Balboa Park, and focuses on the existing cultural institutions within the park,” he said.