Published: September 11, 2012 by the West Central Region
Contact(s): Bill Cosh, DNR spokesperson, 608-267-2773
Phil Addis, La Crosse city attorney, 608-784-1355
LA CROSSE, Wis. - Officials with the city of La Crosse and the state Department of Natural Resources are inviting leaders of the Mississippi Valley Conservancy to address the findings of an audit into their use of public grants.
The DNR and the city jointly contracted for an independent audit to answer questions about the appropriate use of city and state funds to acquire lands in the La Crosse bluffs. That audit, released today, raises questions about $1.14 million in budget entries that need to be resolved.
The DNR's interest concerns $518,807 in previously undisclosed matching funds.
In a letter to city mayor Matt Harter, DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp thanked city officials for bringing the issue to the attention of DNR officials.
"I know you agree that as trustees of this public money we need to make sure that they are properly used. We are committed to making the Stewardship fund and taxpayers whole," said Stepp.
"The City is concerned over the use of $624,621.00 in City funds given to MVC," said La Crosse City Attorney Stephen F. Matty. "The City is committed to protecting the interests of the City taxpayers and will take all steps necessary to do so. The City thanks the DNR for all of its assistance with the audit and looks forward to working with DNR and MVC to resolve this issue quickly."
DNR officials said the agency's highest priority was guarding the integrity of the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program, created by the Wisconsin Legislature in 1989 to preserve valuable natural areas and wildlife habitat, protect water quality and fisheries, and expand opportunities for outdoor recreation.
The audit recommended adjustments to grant application and reporting procedures which agency staff has already implemented.
"The DNR hopes that MVC will work with the DNR and the City to resolve this issue in an expedient and satisfactory manner" said DNR spokesperson Bill Cosh.