UNION COUNTY – The Union County Prosecutor’s Office concluded a five-month investigation into last year’s MusicFest and found no evidence of criminal wrongdoing, officials announced yesterday. However, Prosecutor Theodore J. Romankow strongly criticized the county for its poor planning and management of the event.
The investigation was initiated after Union County Watchdog Association founder Tina Renna repeatedly alleged that money collected for parking and beer sales during the five-day concert event went missing.
“It became evident during the investigation that while the intent to entertain the public was admirable as was the permission to permit certain charities to pursue fundraising, the management of the event from the drafting of contracts to the accounting of monies was poorly executed by the County of Union,” Romankow wrote in a memorandum to County Manager Al Faella. “An event of this nature requires constant oversight and personal involvement by those in county government who endorse it. It received neither.”
The prosecutor’s office investigation of the 2010 MusicFest determined that the county spent more than $1.1 million on the event, including the cost of overtime/comp time for police and county employees.
The investigation found that money was not handled carefully. More than $15,000 from the sale of county merchandise and artist’s merchandise was placed in a safe at the county’s Finance Department, where it was apparently forgotten until the prosecutor’s office investigative staff discovered the oversight.
Some contracts contained conflicting provisions and unclear language about who had the authority to make changes to terms, the investigation found. In some cases, contracts were modified by verbal agreement rather than written changes.
Former County Manager George Devanney estimated that 80,000 people attended last year’s MusicFest event, but the prosecutor’s office investigation found that there was no way to determine the accuracy of that figure.
The investigation also found that there was no way to determine how many people paid to park. A car counting device provided by the county’s Department of Parks and Recreation tracked the number of cars entering the paid lot, but it also registered the cars as they were leaving. Further, it counted cars that turned around and left after their drivers learned that there was a parking fee, as well as those driven by people who received free parking passes, which the county did not track. However, the investigation determined that the county should be reimbursed for more than $24,000 in parking fees because of an accounting error.
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