Balboa Park centennial planning group goes out of business

Group given $3 million in taxpayer money

SAN DIEGO - San Diego city leaders are now in charge of plans for the Balboa Park 2015 Centennial celebration.

The nonprofit group that was formed to organize the year long event announced Tuesday that it was out of business and turning over operations to the city.

Former San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders, who is the current CEO of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, said the recent political climate made it difficult for the group to find sponsors.

"I think everyone went into this with good intentions, but like I said, we had a lot of political uncertainty that just sort of bled off the energy," said Sanders. "Some people weren't treated very well in the philanthropic community and I don't think that really makes people want to step forward and donate money."

Balboa Park Celebration, Inc. was given $2.8 million in taxpayer money and a budget of $50 million to put on 365 days of festivities to honor the 1915 Panama-California Exposition. As for the nearly $3 million, it is unclear how it was spent.

San Diego City Council President Todd Gloria said the show will go on, but on a much smaller scale.

"We will have a yearlong celebration," he said. "It will not be the $100 million dollar extravaganza that Bob Filner envisioned and did no fundraising for."

Gloria said planning got out of control under Filner's watch.

"Really, the year had been spent on picking out logos and sort of re-envisioning the event to a much, much larger event," said Gloria. "At the same time, very little to no fundraising was done."

Since the group formed in 2011, three CEOs left and roughly 150 days of activities had been planned.

"The consultants and staff that were on hand were receiving a good deal of compensation and again, when I look at this in terms of deliverables and return on investment, they weren't necessarily matching the marks that I wanted to see," said Gloria.

San Diego City Councilman Scott Sherman said he wants to know where the money was spent.

"I have some serious concerns though with them not wanting to turn over their records, the money issues, where those dollars were spent. I've raised it in committee before," he said.

Sherman also pointed the finger of blame to Filner.

"I think the whole Filner saga … everybody during that whole 10 months, everybody around here, quite frankly, was afraid to do anything," he said.  

The board of directors of Balboa Park Celebration, Inc. declined an on camera interview with 10News on Tuesday but issued this press release.

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