For three summers, a 23-team adult hockey league was using space Kansas City owned, under the guidance of city employees, but the city didn’t know about it.
It wasn’t until someone complained about not being allowed to pay with a credit card in 2013 that the city noticed something might not be quite right at the Line Creek Community Center Ice Arena.
On April 15, the city auditor’s office issued the results of an audit that began last summer.
Auditors found that when the previous operator of the league pulled out in 2011, rink employees decided to operate the league as if it were private rather than city-run. Employees said they sent the city forms to get permission, but they never heard back and moved forward with the league anyway, according to the audit.
“I think they were just trying to keep that league going, keep the ice used,” city auditor Douglas Jones said.
The audit showed that the league wasn’t approved and payments weren’t being processed correctly, but auditors struggled to come up with many specifics. It’s why the audit focuses on the most recent summer instead of reaching back to 2011. Auditors think nobody kept detailed records for the league.
“We even had trouble with those (recent records),” Jones said.
The audit showed that checks made out to the Parks Department were processed as payments for league ice rentals.
Employees didn’t keep records of ice rental payments, so auditors couldn’t tell whether the city was fully paid for the league’s ice time, the audit reports.
The audit also reports four employees played on league teams and two of those employees also refereed. During the investigation, the audit team was told that the employees who played in the league did so only during breaks and they refereed only when they were off the clock.
The city couldn’t verify that because records of break time and referee schedules weren’t available.
Deputy Parks and Recreation Director Terry Rynard said she thinks the employees kept the league going instead of pushing for approval because it was just easier.
“Staff wanted to keep running (the league) like it was thinking that was the best way to not have an interruption of service,” she said.
That employee goal was probably accomplished. Most of the players probably didn’t notice any major changes and costs were about the same, Rynard said.
Line Creek Community Center director Dan Smith wouldn’t discuss the audit in detail this week.
Rynard would not say how many employees were involved in the situation, or whether they were punished.
“The department will finish the investigation and take appropriate action, and that’s about all I can say,” she said.
Right now, the department is focused on making sure all employees understand procedures and know how to use the online payment processing system, RecTrac. It was one of the audit’s recommendations.
The audit also recommends additional staff training on the guidelines for league activities, which the Parks Department is conducting.
“It’s a good lesson for us in making sure we’re doing everything we can to monitor our resources at every level,” Rynard said.
Line Creek is one of 10 community centers the city’s Park Department operates. The audit’s recommendations are intended for all city-run community centers.
“If this type of issue happened there, could have happened someplace else,” Jones said.
City Councilman Scott Wagner also stressed the need to make sure this isn’t happening at any of the city’s other facilities.
“The main issues had to do with hockey at the Line Creek, but it could just as easily be soccer in another location or swimming in another location,” he said. “The solution out here should really be system-wide.”
The most recent previous audit of the Parks Department also focused on a community center’s fee collection procedures.
In 2011, a city audit found that Northland Community Center staff missed opportunities to collect all of the fees and inappropriately accepted passes for some payments. Receipts weren’t printed for most of the transactions.
“We did an audit of one community center and it helped the Parks Department make improvements at other community centers,” Jones said.
Rynard said the department found an outside party to take over the summer adult hockey league at Line Creek.
The Parks Department will report back to the City Council in about six months, which is typical procedure in this type of situation, said Wagner.