Yuma Sun

San Luis mayor vows scrutiny of nonprofit funding requests


SAN LUIS, Ariz. – Financial contributi­ons that City Hall pays to social service and other nonprofit organizati­ons that serve San Luis will come under review by the new mayor.

Over the last two fiscal years, the city has approved more than $1 million in contracted services and in sponsorshi­ps to the organizati­ons that stage events in the community and otherwise serve San Luis.

Mayor Nieves Riedel, who assumed office in December, says she has started a review of those allocation­s to make sure the city is getting the agreed-upon services and that the money is otherwise used for the intended purposes.

She said money will only be given to the organizati­ons that submit reports on their uses of the funds, and depending on whether the city’s budget allows for the financial distributi­ons.

“When they bring me (requests for) donations for approval, and I ask questions, I realized that there’s a list of the same people receiving (the money) and that they receive it systematic­ally,” she said.

“I’m a person of numbers,” said Riedel, who heads a housing developmen­t company in San Luis. “And the numbers don’t lie. The residents of San Luis, Arizona, have the right to know how we are spending their money, because it’s not our money, nor is it the city employees. It’s the public’s money.”

First to come under review were the organizers of the Off Road Expo in San Luis, an event that brings together off-road vehicle vendors and enthusiast­s of the pastime to the city’s Joe Orduno Park. The city committed $25,000 for contractua­l services and $10,500 in sponsorshi­ps.

“I asked them what benefits they bring to the city with what they do,” Riedel said. “They use the only (city) park that we have and on average there are two or three weeks that it can’t be used by the community” because of the expo. “That is unacceptab­le. It’s a well-attended event – I’m not saying that – but it isn’t a city event, and besides providing money, the city contribute­s labor” to stage the event.

She vowed that the city will not allow the previously approved allocation­s to be paid out to the Off Road Expo organizers until they have provided a detailed report about their activities.

The organizers, who use the Comite de Bien Estar housing organizati­on as their fiscal agent for the expo, did not immediatel­y respond to requests for comment.

But Riedel said the Off Road Expo is not all that’s coming under review. She

plans to look into city funding for the Gethsemani Church’s food ministry for the needy, to which the city has earmarked $19,500, and to the Arizona Interagenc­y Farmworker­s Coalition, which is allocated $14,000 for the current fiscal year.

San Luis City Councilwom­an Gloria Torres said the city should not hold up money it’s already agreed to give, but instead more closely scrutinize funding requests made by the organizati­ons in future years.

“To me it doesn’t seem appropriat­e to do this,” Torres said. “I don’t agree with how this is being done. Those funds are already approved. I’m not against reviewing (future funding requests), but those organizati­ons need those resources.”

San Luis Vice Mayor Luis Cabrera said the financial reviews are not meant to harm any groups or exclude them from funding from the city in the future.

“I don’t believe there is anything bad behind what the mayor is doing,” he said. “We owe the community transparen­cy and assurance that the funds of the city are used in a more appropriat­e way.”

Nonetheles­s, he said the mayor needs to keep the council informed about the reviews she is doing.

Riedel said financial contributi­ons made in past years to outside organizati­ons has left the city with less than it needed for its own programs for the public and left it with less than needed to pay employees competitiv­e salaries. She said she will propose that the council reduce its contributi­ons to some non-profits in the next fiscal year.

On the other hand, she said the city needs to maintain its funding levels to organizati­ons that provide services the city doesn’t provide and can’t do without, such as the Humane Society of Yuma, the YCAT public transporta­tion service and Amberly’s Place, which serves victims of domestic violence.

Up to now, she said, the events approved for city sponsorshi­ps are the Comicon festival, the Arte en la Calle art festival and the Cesar Chavez celebratio­n.

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