A report issued Thursday by Hartford’s Internal Audit Commission shows that the XL Center owes the city more than $700,000 in back payments for private police details.
The report, authored by acting commission chair Craig Trujillo, notes that the downtown arena is one of 20 “customers” with outstanding balances for police service, but is responsible for the lion’s share of the $988,000 owed to the city. And it is one of only three of those 20 that continues to receive those services from the city.
Trujillo notes, however, that the XL Center’s leadership made a partial payment of $239,007 in September on its balance, which dates to 2016.
“It was not clear or readily apparent why this customer’s remaining $737,673 past due balance was not paid or what actions were being taken to follow up on and collect the balance,” Trujillo writes, adding that the responsibility for collecting the money falls with the revenue manager in the city’s finance department.
The XL Center is currently operating at a nearly $2 million annual deficit. The funding approved by the state legislature in October fell far short of the $125 million sought over two years by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy to launch a $250 million top-to-bottom makeover recommended by the authority’s board.
The XL Center is operated by the Capitol Region Development Agency, a quasi-public agency that also operates Rentschler Field and the Connecticut Convention Center, and promotes economic development in the city and beyond.
Michael Freimuth, CRDA’s executive director, confirmed the details outlined in the audit and said he has had several conversations with city hall about the XL Center’s balance.
Freimuth added that the venue makes payments when it can, pushing out installments when it’s feasible in its operating budget.
“That’s the way it works; we keep catching up and then slipping back,” he said. “The building was shut down in the summer, and fall is a slow period for us. Now that we’re in peak season, we can make payments and catch up again.”
Mayor Luke Bronin, in a statement Friday morning, said the city will “continue to work with CRDA to collect all amounts due to the city of Hartford."
"The bottom line is that the XL Center is an obsolete and unprofitable venue, and that CRDA’s inability to cover operating costs raises a much bigger question about the XL Center’s future in the absence of urgently needed upgrades,” he added.
Beyond the money owed by the XL Center, the audit released Thursday also uncovered that the city’s finance department lacked adequate controls “to ensure that customers with unpaid past due balances do not continue to receive services” and is “not assessing late fees and interest on the old outstanding balances.”
Hartford’s finance department is currently in flux as the city searches to find a permanent replacement for former chief financial officer Darryl Hill, who resigned in September. In the interim, Melissa McCaw, the city’s director of management and budget, has been appointed to lead the department.
Trujillo notes in his report that McCaw was made aware of the issue and “agreed to address these issues promptly.”