City audit questions use of $1.9M

Office of Special Events' spending comes under fire

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - An audit of the city of Jacksonville's Recreation and Community Services department questions how the Office of Special Events used nearly $2 million of taxpayers' money over more than a four-year period, Channel 4 has learned.

For nearly 25 years, Theresa O'Donnell directed the department that brings residents entertainment such as the Fourth of July fireworks show and the Jazz Festival.

The audit shows signs of fake invoices and sloppy bookkeeping under her watch. The money is supposed to be used to pay vendors at special events and handle emergencies.

DOCUMENT: Recreation and Community Services bank account audit

The audit says the department has filed misleading documents on how it spent $1.9 million.

"We didn't like the bookkeeping. The bookkeeping did violate city policies," city auditor Kirk Sherman said.

That's not the only thing. The audit also questions how former director O'Donnell handled the funds to run the events from 2006 to last year. It also criticized her for hiring families members to do jobs during some of those events.

The audit questions how the department purchased products and other items. It says at times there were fake bills or invoices submitted.

The city audit says the department went over authorized amounts of money approved for its use, and it did not get permission to enter into certain contracts with vendors.

No money is currently missing. The city believes it is very sloppy bookkeeping that can lead to some serious problems. The auditors say the city needs to take some type of action.

"Any disciplinary measures the city should take a look to see what was going on," Sherman said. "If there are legal matters, they need to go forward and take it to the General Counsel's office."

"How they handle the money, in essence, the bookkeeping -- they need a lot of flexibility," Sherman added. "We recognize that, but there are other ways to do it."

O'Donnell said she did not want to comment at this time. She no longer works for the city and was not aware the audit was complete.

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