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UPDATE: Rec & Park Uncollected Fees

By Martin MacIntyre

Background: For the last 8 years I have been trying to not hear amplified concerts at Sharon Meadow while inside my home, 2/3 of a mile away. The resistance from the Recreation and Park Department to turning down the volume led me to look for a $ reason. To my surprise, these events weren’t big money makers and worse, RPD wasn’t even collecting all the fees. In particular, one promoter was paying only a small portion of the fee and even that was late. Despite this, RPD kept renewing the permits without bringing the problem to the attention of the Commission. When I brought it to the Commission, they yawned. (Apparently $3,000,000 in lost revenues wasn’t worth putting on the agenda or more than my 3 minutes of public comment.) When threats of a lawsuit didn’t produce results, I began a series of revolving Sunshine Ordinance Requests for specific information. I'm on my fifth request, and slowly but surely the facts are reluctantly being laid bare. The last request, on March 18, 2005, didn’t get a response within the 10-day deadline, but a threat of a formal Sunshine complaint caused RPD to fax me their item-by-item response on April 1.

Below is a summary with some of my findings from their response.

Summary: RPD is still answering questions with as little information as possible and not admitting to doing anything wrong. Despite this, each time they respond, they can’t avoid giving something new and the evidence is rapidly mounting that RPD has violated the law and has allowed others to do so.

Here are the latest facts:

The Code and the Permit requires commercial permittees to pay 25% of the certifiable gross ticket receipts. There are no exceptions and this fee is stated in the permit. Despite this, one permittee, Events West, has been given special illegal favors:

1. RPD has issued them permits without requiring the deposit.

2. RPD hasn't required the permittee to submit certified data on the number of attendees and the gross ticket receipts. Without certified information, the 25% fee can’t be computed. Despite not paying the full fee, paying late, and not providing the required data, their permits have continually been renewed by RPD. RPD even issued a permit to the promoter after he failed to pay a penny on his previous permit (i.e., stiffed RPD).

3. RPD accepted the late $10,000 deposit as payment in lieu of the required fee based on an unsubstantiated and illegal oral agreement. This action by RPD is illegal and they know it. All the records demonstrate there was no such agreement, and regardless, it wasn't valid. Where is RPD's City Attorney?

4. Under pressure to retrieve the data, RPD found “one” old record of a payment by Events West on July 30, 2002 for a Sept. 2001 A La Carte A La Park event. The payment of $23,000 for a three-day event wasn’t itemized and was 11 months late. It demonstrates that in 2001 the illegal flat fee that RPD accepted was $7,500 a day x 3  = $22,500 plus a $500 donation for use of the Sharon Art Building. This isn’t the $10,000 per event that RPD claims is the long-standing flat fee and proves there was no such agreement — i.e., $10,000 per event isn't $7,500 per day, and neither is in the Code or the Permit, which call for a minimum of 25% of gross receipts, which would have brought in a minimum of $50,000 a day [10,000 people (estimate on the permit ) x $20 per ticket  = $200,000 x 25%  = $50,000].

5. RPD has ignored the 2002 and 2003 Reggae events which they say are paid in full ($10,000 per event), yet RPD sent me a document dated March 24, 2002 in which Events West is asked to

"Submit Service fee for Reggae in the Park (2002). Please also include financial statement."

This quotation highlights two inconsistencies: (1) On March 24, 2002 RPD was requesting payment of the "service fee" for an event that wasn't held until Sept. 2002; and (2) RPD now states that the fee was a flat $10,000, so they had no reason to ask Events West to submit a financial accounting. Is it possible these statements were typed in after the fact to throw me off track? Regardless, it proves that the $10,000 flat fee is a cover-up and RPD managers aren't checking what their employees are saying, and apparently don't want to because they will find what I am finding.

6. RPD is unwilling to admit the error of their ways but " would be happy to discuss these circumstances further . . ."

I will be doing a more detailed analysis and will ask Katharine Petrucione, the new (4 months) RPD Director of Finance and Administration, to meet with me to sort out the facts. Otherwise, the dirty whirlpool will get deeper and pull her in.


For more info on this “revolving” sunshine request, call Dr. Martin Macintyre at 415-831-0602.

An earlier article on this subject appeared in the SF Call on February 16, 2005.