Sports Authority quizzed on bond deal

They've been asking the same questions for more than two years. Now county commissioners know more about the $250-million bond deal to finance the arena project. Commissioners submitted 19 questions to the Sports Authority and received answers, along with those long sought after financial records. Members of the Sports Authority say they've answered the questions before, but those financial records did not escape criticism. "We're not on a witch hunt." That's not the way the Memphis Shelby County Sports Authority feels about the list of questions from county commissioners. Willie Gregory, Sports Authority said, "Some of them are very accusatory in terms of what the Sports Authority has done in order to build FedEx arena." The Sports Authority issued the bonds used to help finance the arena project. Commissioners wanted to know if the board had provided an annual financial statement about the area project as required by Tennessee law. The answer: Yes. Lisa Daniel, Public Financial Management said, "All of the Sports Authority audits--2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, have been sent to David Sturdavent, comptroller of the treasury. And the 2004 statement will be filled with the state prior to June 30th." The Sports Authority admits that the 2002, 2003 financial reports were filed late, something that didn't sit well with Commissioner John Willingham. "I think Tiffany called it, slipped through the cracks. One of the other things we could call it is not having funds to pay the company to do the audit." The Sports Authority had asked the County Commission for that money. But a review of the Sports Authority's 2002 financial records done by BDO Seidman shows the Sports Authority failed to use a qualified accountant for the bookkeeping. Gregory said, "For instance, there were some deposits that did not detail where the deposits came from, and I think it's very clear in the audit reports." But there may not be an end to questions for the Sports Authority. John Willingham, County Commissioner said, "There's things that we need to know so that there's a comfort level. If that comfort level can be achieved with answers, there wouldn't be any need for these questions over the last 2 1/2 years."