The resignation this week of the Roswell Chamber of Commerce executive director did not stop the City of Roswell Finance Committee from recommending a firm to audit the chamber’s finances.
City Manager Joe Neeb told the committee of Candace Purcella’s resignation from the chamber during a discussion Thursday morning on a recommendation for the auditor.
Andrea Moore, president of the board of directors for the chamber, confirmed Purcella’s resignation was given Monday and accepted by the board at noon that day. Moore said she is interim director of the chamber until a search is completed.
At Thursday’s meeting, Neeb recommended the committee table any action on the auditor until next month to give the chamber board time to gather information necessary for the audit.
“They would like a little time in order to find all the information that’s in the office. We would have relied heavily on the executive director to provide the information that was necessary for the audit,” Neeb said.
Support Local Journalism
Subscribe to the Roswell Daily Record today.
Support Local Journalism
However, the committee, urged by three other city council members, approved Finance Director Monica Garcia’s recommendation of Kubiak Melton and Associates, Albuquerque, to perform the audit at a cost to the city of $32,790. The audit would examine financial records from the last three years.
Committee Chair Councilor Jason Perry and Councilor Margaret Kennard, a former chamber employee, voted in favor while Committee Vice Chair Councilor Juan Oropesa voted against. Councilor Jacob Roebuck was not present. Councilors Barry Foster, Jeanine Best and Judy Stubbs also spoke at Thursday’s meeting.
The recommendation will now go before the full city council at its Aug. 13 meeting.
The audit stems from concerns from the city going back to at least February about how the chamber was spending public funds, Neeb said.
Under a Business Retention Services contract that began in July 2018, the city allocated $76,700 a year to the chamber. The chamber also has an agreement with Chaves County, receiving $57,500.
On March 12, just prior to giving the chamber’s required annual report to the Roswell City Council, Purcella read a letter from the chamber board of directors that immediately terminated the chamber’s agreement with the city. The audit was a condition of the city accepting the immediate termination rather than abiding by the 60-day notice required by the contract, Neeb said.
An audit would have been conducted if the contract had continued its full term through June, Neeb said.
With recent turnover in staffing, Neeb said the city’s concern was about “poor housekeeping” of the finances rather than any deliberate wrongdoing.
Four staff members of the Roswell Chamber resigned on the same day in January, including Kennard, who left because she had been appointed to the city council. At the time, Purcella said the resignations were coincidental.
Neeb said the city sent the chamber a letter in February outlining its concerns. Those same concerns were included in a March letter accepting the termination of the agreement because the issues had not been resolved, he said.
Neeb said the chamber’s funds have been commingled, which had made it difficult to know how the city funds were being spent.
“We know that over the last two years that there were quicker expenditures in their funds than there was before. Their reserves were a lot higher from one year to the next year,” he said.
“We want to confirm that the taxpayer money got attributed to the appropriate things and that it was really for peace of mind more than it was to find any type of wrongdoing. I believe the changeover of staff over there made it more difficult to keep a very good, clean tracking system of their financials,” Neeb said.
Oropesa asked if the audit did show any wrongdoing, would the city ask the chamber to return the money.
“If it is to that severity, then I’m assuming the state will take action in order to correct anything of that magnitude,” Neeb said.
If the audit just shows poor financial records, then the city can use that to learn from if it decides to renew its partnership with the chamber, Neeb said.
Foster encouraged the committee to approve the recommendation, saying the chamber board should still have time to gather records.
“Us saying that we’re going to go ahead and authorize this doesn’t mean that suddenly they’re going to show up tomorrow at the chamber,” he said.
Stubbs, who spoke via GoToMeeting, and Best agreed the city should move forward with the audit.
Stubbs said her main concern was being accountable to the public.
“I don’t think this has anything to do with specific people or jobs or any of that thing. I think it has a lot to do with the fact that we are responsible to the taxpayer to ensure that their money is being spent properly. We’re looking at the books, not the personalities,” Stubbs said.
“It seems to me that we owe it to our constituents to perform an audit,” she said.
“I think it needs to go to full council. It needs to get started and get started right away,” Best said.
City/RISD reporter Juno Ogle can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or email@example.com.