City: Audit coming on Pinon Grill

Sales tax payments called into question

Alleged discrepancies in the finances of a food vendor, under contract with the city of Grand Junction for the past 14 years, will be the focus of an audit, Grand Junction City Manager Laurie Kadrich told the City Council on Thursday night.

In a hastily called special meeting — media outlets at 4 p.m. received e-mailed notice from the city of a meeting starting at 6 p.m. — Kadrich told council members information that was brought to light this week showed possible underpayment of city sales tax by The Pinon Grill Inc., which has provided food and beverage services at Tiara Rado Golf Course since January 1997 and at Lincoln Park Golf Course since March 2000. Both are city-owned courses.

“The amount of money submitted by the current operator was lower than sales tax receipts said we were owed,” said Kadrich, who declined to give a specific dollar amount.

“It’s a significant concern, and we’re proceeding ahead with an audit,” Kadrich told the council.

City Attorney John Shaver said if the results of a full audit reveal fraud occurred, possible remedies could include a lawsuit to recover money the city is owed.

Stephen Hoefer, president of Pinon Grill, whose business has been at the heart of a bidding controversy with the city, rejected any suggestions of wrongdoing.

“I was in a meeting with Laurie at 4 p.m., and we never discussed a (special City Council) meeting,” Hoefer said, adding he first learned his business and its finances were discussed when a Daily Sentinel reporter contacted him Thursday night after the meeting had finished.

“I’ve run an honest business, and I haven’t been out to rip the city off,” Hoefer said. “Sounds to me like I’ll need to get an attorney.”

Hoefer declined to respond in more detail.

In response to a query by The Daily Sentinel, city spokeswoman Sam Rainguet said formal, legal notice of the special meeting was posted outside the office of City Clerk Stephanie Tuin around 5 p.m. Wednesday.

Kadrich told council members Thursday the time period under financial scrutiny covers Pinon Grill’s most recent contract to provide services at the Tiara Rado and Lincoln Park courses, which was signed in 2005. The city’s existing contract with Pinon Grill is scheduled to expire Feb. 11, and Kadrich said the shortfall in monies was detected as part of a routine analysis of profit and loss statements toward the end of the life of city contracts.

That analysis happened this week, she told council members.

Pinon Grill apparently failed to submit regular monthly profit and loss statements, as required under its contract with the city, according to testimony Thursday. The time period for which statements were not provided was not specified.

Hoefer previously said city staff had informed him that monthly statements were not provided for May, August, September and October of last year.

Council member Bonnie Beckstein questioned why city staff had missed the alleged discrepancies, and she questioned the timing.

“I’m concerned why this wasn’t addressed after the third missed report, and why (Pinon Grill) is allowed to bid again in the first place?” Beckstein said.

Hoefer has said he is closing his operation after his bid for the food-and-beverage-services contract at Tiara Rado and Lincoln Park lost.

City officials earlier this week were asked by council members to redo the bidding process. During the previous bid process, city staff participated and ultimately recommended Two Rivers Convention Center as the most qualified bidder. The convention center is owned and operated by the city.



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