Officials from state Auditor Adam Edelen’s office said Monday there still is no timetable for the completion of a special audit of the downtown parking garage wrap, formerly known as Hitcents Park Plaza, leaving open the possibility that Auditor-elect Mike Harmon will decide whether the investigation continues.
Harmon told the Daily News on Tuesday that he would probably continue the investigation when he assumes office in January.
The commercial wrap on two sides of the parking garage in Block 6 of the Tax Increment Financing district has been entangled in a series of financial and legal troubles this year. Contractors filed liens on the property in February for money they said they are owed for their work, and the county and development authority subsequently sued Mills Family Realty, which previously served as the wrap’s developer, and contractors to remove the liens.
Warren County, the city of Bowling Green and the Warren County Downtown Economic Development Authority have been working to settle those and related issues; the county is slated to issue $30 million in revenue bonds to pay a settlement with the contractors, pay off existing bonds and complete the other two sides of the wrap – now Stadium Park Plaza – with Bowling Green Hot Rods owner Jerry Katzoff as developer. A flurry of documents to make all that official have been approved in recent weeks by the three entities.
Edelen announced in June that his office would conduct a special examination of the project, including into the use of bond proceeds.
“We are nearing completion of field work, but obviously this is a very complex exam that can’t be written overnight. I’m told it is actually the most complex exam we’ve done in the last four years,” auditor’s office director of communications Stephenie Hoelscher said in an email Monday. “I do not know at this point if it will be complete before we leave office at the end of the year.”
The end of the year could be a critical milestone – Edelen lost his re-election bid Nov. 3 to Republican state Rep. Harmon, R-Danville.
Harmon said Tuesday he was briefed by Edelen’s office about the Bowling Green probe, as well as other open audits, at a transition meeting Monday.
“My understanding is it’d be difficult to conclude prior to the transition,” Harmon said. “Based on what I’ve heard, my initial thought is we will pursue it ... because of the size, dollar amount and poor use of funds. Anything dealing with taxpayer dollars is important.”
Investigators from Edelen’s office asked as recently as last week for information about some of the documentation, said Warren County Downtown Economic Development Authority attorney Scott Bachert. But, he said, even as local officials await the audit, it is not holding up the process of moving ahead with the new agreements regarding the wrap, which are tentatively expected to be complete by mid-December.
Authority chairman and fiscal court Magistrate Doug Gorman said he’d prefer that the process run its course as opposed to being pushed to completion.
“They need to take their time and not rush it as this point,” he said, adding “at this point we are all just waiting.”