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The council voted unanimously to approve a contract and expressed satisfaction with a recently released audit.

PMG PHOTO: SCOTT KEITH - St. Helens City Council approves tourism contract for Tina Curry.The St. Helens City Council voted unanimously Wednesday, May 4, to approve a new contract for city event coordinator Tina Curry.

The events management independent contractor agreement will expire Dec. 31, 2023, and, according to the city, may be renewed by mutual written agreement of the parties.

A recently released audit report noted that not all deposits were clearly documented and found a variance of $3,290 between net ticket sales and accounted-for expenditures and deposits — a relatively small fraction of the nearly $1 million in ticket sales, minus processing fees, from June through December 2021.

Despite that issue, councilors said they were satisfied with the audit.

St. Helens' tourism expenditures were originally questioned at a City Council meeting in late December, when the topic of an audit to ensure all of the money was being tracked and accounted for was first raised.

Under contract in St. Helens since 2017, Curry is an independent contractor for the city, with E2C Corp., and organizes several tourism events for the city, including Spirit of Halloweentown.

Curry has defended her handling of the tourism dollars, telling the Spotlight earlier this week, "All the money was accounted for. All of the checks were accounted for. The only part that we didn't score 100 percent on was in itemization of some of the deposits that are made from ticket sales. They were deposited, but under the direction of the city, they weren't categorized as stringently as they want for an audit."

Curry continued, "The money got deposited, but it was just listed as general income."

At a council work session Wednesday afternoon, Councilor Patrick Birkle addressed the draft audit.

"When I saw it, I was satisfied that it provides accountability to communicate with the community that the city has been doing its due diligence, that our contractor has been performing the job with financial integrity," Birkle said. "I think it also shows to the residents that we, as councilors, take our fiscal responsibility seriously."

Birkle continued, "I am satisfied with the audit for moving forward and as a vindication both of our position and the performance of our contractor."

Councilor Jessica Chilton praised the audit, as well as the new contract.

"The only thing that was concerning was just the cash deposits seemed to be an issue," Chilton said. "After looking over the new contract, it looks like there's a resolution to that, and how to handle that better, so that kind of cured itself."

Chilton added, "It is a good audit and I've seen a lot of really good things in there."

Council President Doug Morten said he'd like to see more regular audits in the future — perhaps even as often as every month or two. He suggested it could be a "wonderful tool to keep people informed of where money is."

While the auditor identified issues in places, finance director Matt Brown pointed out that the audit report clearly states it doesn't express an opinion as to Curry's performance.

"It would be inaccurate to say in any way that the tourism contractor passed or failed in any sense of the way of the audit," Brown said. "What you can say as a city council is that you have received the audit and you are satisfied with the results."

Brown continued, "But it would not be correct to state that the tourism contractor passed or did not pass."

At a St. Helens City Council meeting in December, Curry's previous contract was allowed to expire, effective Dec. 31. It was always councilors' intent to replace the contract with a revised version, however, and Curry has continued to work on St. Helens' behalf and appear at council meetings.

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