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Expenses Defended, Some Misread by Style

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The foundation acknowledged that the records available publicly could create confusion about some expenses. "We were inconsistent in the way that we reported them," foundation spokeswoman Carolyn Cuthrell says. The foundation keeps backup records at its offices, she says.

The expenses have become a fiery topic, and City Auditor Lance Kronzer began an audit of expenses last week at the foundation's request.

In 2003 City Council agreed to pay up to $12 million to the foundation for pre-construction costs. The city's paid $7.6 million so far. But Mayor L. Douglas Wilder has put a hold on the payments because he questions the appropriateness of some expenses.

The foundation says its expenses are valid and relate to pre-construction activities, which are, Cuthrell says, "pretty much any cost that would go into getting the design ready and the information ready to answer the questions that get you a building permit," as well as the expenses of getting bids ready.

Those expenses have raised the mayor's eyebrows, though.

One expense, for example, is a Feb. 15 "Partnering Workshop" that cost at least $6,068. It included travel for consultants, rented space at C3, the Creative Change Center, and an interactive "Afro-Brazilian-Caribbean Percussion Demonstration/Jam" facilitated by James Coles.

Pre-construction cost? Yes, Cuthrell says.

"It was a session where we brought all our consultants together to look at how they could work together creatively to actually lower costs," she says. "It may be that that's out-of-the-box thinking for some people, but it related to the project directly."

"It takes money to save money," she added, saying the foundation was looking forward to the auditor's report and a resolution of the issues. — Jason Roop



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