Irving audit turns up disallowable expenses for entertainment center

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by BRETT SHIPP

WFAA

Posted on January 12, 2011 at 11:07 PM

Updated Wednesday, Jan 12 at 11:40 PM

IRVING — An audit of alleged spending irregularities by developers of the Las Colinas Entertainment Center in Irving has turned up more than $100,000 in unallowable expenses.

The audit comes in the wake of a News 8 investigation into questionable expenses by project developers.

Our investigation first uncovered questionable expenses in the development phase of the $250 million entertainment center.

We documented thousands of dollars in extravagant expenses incurred by the developers, led by Billy Bob Barnett, including a $2,000-a-month payment to his chauffeur —  all of it being billed to the citizens of Irving.

Of the $21 million in city revenues spent on the project thus far, external auditors determined nearly $133,000 of it should be disallowed.

Some residents feel the $133,000 represents only a fraction of what should have been disallowed.

"As a citizen, I feel like any time an auditor stands and says, 'I had to consult to the people I'm auditing for their interpretation and I yielded to their interpretation,' that makes me rather suspect of the audit," said Irving resident Vicki Tate. 

But Irving Council members appeared pleased with the audit and relieved it didn't find anything worse.

"I have a good confidence level that it's been re-evaluated really well between our team and their team and the independent auditor," said Council member Rick Stopfer.

Irving Mayor Herbert Gears feels the audit supports his assertions that any questionable expenditures uncovered by News 8 and the audit were inconsequential.

"There's always little adjustments you can make, and there's some disagreements on some interpretations, and that's what's created the adjustments of $132,000 that's coming back to the city," he said.

The $133,000 will be repaid to the city.  City officials pledge to monitor spending on the project more closely in the future.

But the future of the project is uncertain because no one — not the developers and not the city —  has sold the bonds or come up with the money to actually build it.

E-mail bshipp@wfaa.com

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