It appears the Sonora City Council could get more time to decide on the city’s future participation in the Tuolumne County Economic Development Authority.

Both the council and Tuolumne County Board of Supervisors will hold public meetings on Tuesday and consider a second extension to the deadline for a decision because audits of the TCEDA’s finances and management practices are taking longer to complete than anticipated.

The board will meet at 9 a.m. on Tuesday to consider asking the council for additional time to complete the audits, followed by the council meeting at 5 p.m. that same day to consider either granting an extension or providing notice to withdraw from the TCEDA.

In December, the council requested a 90-day extension to the typical Jan. 1 deadline for providing notice of withdrawal from the authority. The board agreed to extend the deadline by 60 days to March 1, but now it wants to ask the city for more time.

The city or county are typically required to give notice of withdrawal from the authority before Jan. 1 each year under a joint powers agreement between both governments that formed the TCEDA in 2008.

Some city residents have urged the council to withdraw from the TCEDA following the release of a report by the Tuolumne County Civil Grand Jury in June that stated the authority lacked the public accountability, oversight and financial controls typical of most taxpayer-funded agencies.

As a result of the jury’s findings, the TCEDA Governing Board agreed in September to pay the firm MGO $41,000 to conduct independent audits of the authority’s finances and management practices.

The TCEDA would effectively cease to exist as a legal entity if either the city or county withdraws from the agreement.

Council members have expressed a desire to review the completed audits before making a decision on the city’s participation, which led to them requesting an extension to the Jan. 1 deadline mandated by the joint powers agreement.

Both of the audits were expected to be completed by sometime in February, but now the financial audit isn’t expected until the end of the month and the management audit until mid-March.

One of the reasons the board declined to give the council the full 90-day extension it asked for was due to concerns from county staff that the timing would conflict with the process of preparing the budget for the next fiscal year that begins on July 1.

The TCEDA’s annual $460,000 operating budget is funded almost entirely by both governments, with the city’s portion covering about $103,000. Some authority’s detractors say the city could put the money to better use by creating its own economic development program.

Unlike in December, one of the options that county supervisors will consider on Tuesday is providing notice the city of the county’s intention to withdraw from the authority.

A memo to the board from the County Counsel’s Office stated that much of the TCEDA Executive Director Larry Cope’s time since July has been occupied by the audits and fulfilling 17 requests for public records, as opposed to economic development.

The memo stated the board held its annual planning workshop from Jan. 23 to 25 at Rush Creek Lodge near Yosemite National Park, where it directed county staff to prepare an item for the board on whether it wants to remain in the partnership or create its own program for economic development.

The board meets in the supervisors’ chambers on the fourth floor of the County Administration Center at 2 S. Green St. in Sonora, while the council meets on second floor of City Hall at 94 N. Washington St.

Contact Alex MacLean at amaclean@uniondemocrat.com or (209) 588-4530.

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