Mission Viejo

ITF TOURNAMENT COSTS 
RAISE QUESTIONS

Staff Writer

How many people would sign a 28-page contract if their copy had only 11 pages? During the July 1, 2013 city council meeting, council members approved a contract to host a for-profit International Tennis Federation (ITF) tournament for professional wheelchair tennis players. The concept may be noble however, the council approved this without knowing the cost to taxpayers.

The council approved budgeting $55,000 for the event after staff members indicated the money would be repaid. Without further approval however, the city manager spent at least $239,350 and costs are still mounting for the event held in November 2013.

The following list illustrates the problem with the apparent unwillingness to account for how taxpayer funds are spent:
1. Council members’ were only given 11 pages of a 28-page contract.

2. Council members’ 11 pages didn’t include specific city obligations or other financial data, such as providing accommodations for paid athletes in a 4-star hotel.

3. The tournament is a business (not a charity) with paid professional tennis players.

4. City staff didn’t have council approval to apply for hosting the tournament and yet ITF’s April 2, 2013 press release announced Mission Viejo would host the event. The council didn’t approve hosting the event until July 1, 2013.

5. On July 1, 2013, the staff said that the city’s outlay of $55,000 would “be underwritten by sponsorships, donations and fees.”

6. Sponsors were solicited ($107,500 as per city website), but research indicates the money has not been accounted for. Where’s the money?

7. The amount budgeted for a Tournament Director was $6,500, but a summary states he was paid $9,450, and the check register shows he was actually paid $10,100.

8. The city taxpayers paid $2,039 for a private ITF party on November 11, 2013 at the Mission Viejo Country Club.

9. Costs for a “farewell dinner” have not been found. How much and who paid for it?

10. City employees’ time and pay have not been accounted for. How much is the cost of staff time?

11. Taxpayers were dinged $5,000 for hundreds of ITF Wheelchair Master staff shirts.

12. There is no record of players’ prize money – some prizes were as high as $9,533.

13. City photos of the 2013 winners crop off oversize checks of prize money.

14. The city (taxpayers) printed 2,000 programs, but the attendance was abysmally low.

15. City videos of the tourney block out the stands of empty seats.

16. ITF has already announced Mission Viejo is hosting the November 2014 tournament.

17. The city manager is requesting to contract with ITF for the 2014 event.

“In-kind donations”of $45,000 were solicited from local restaurants to feed 125 people for a week, but what’s unknown is whether/how much staff time was spent soliciting donations. Other expenses included hotels and “gifts for the players.”

36 professional tennis players and their entourage enjoyed a week-long luxury vacation at Mission Viejo taxpayers’ expense. While Council member Frank Ury dismissed the need to obtain answers to the questions about expenses, stating, “This issue has run its course”, Council member Cathy Schlicht is in the process of requesting records for the missing data on the list. “Taxpayers deserve to know what they paid for and how they benefited before staff and council agree to host another event at taxpayers’ expense,” said Schlicht.

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