‘Family Fun Center’ under investigation for misappropriating funds

New Mexico

It was meant to bring fun to families in Alamogordo, but the state auditor says the city wasted tens of thousands of dollars in taxpayer money building it.

Voters approved a $6 million bond issue in 2014 to build a family fun center with bowling, a restaurant and much more. It ended up taking four years and $7.5 million. 

Then, someone alerted the state auditor’s office that something didn’t look right, and auditors agree.

“We were getting tips on the fraud hot line and I was personally getting tips,” said State Auditor Wayne Johnson. “I was personally getting some reports by some various legislators in the area about some problems with this particular family fun center.”

The state auditor’s office highlighted five problems. First, the project was $1.5 million over budget. The city also spent $60,000 on designs they never used.

They also gave the green light for the private contractor running it to buy equipment such as arcade games, a security camera system, and furniture for more than $1.5 million without voter approval. 

“These are public dollars and even wasting $1 means that it can’t go to some other project or some other need within the community,” Johnson said. “Sixty-thousand dollars Is a lot of money for a city to waste on a project that they never built.”

The state auditor says the other problem with this was that there is no paperwork stating that the property belongs to the city if this operator stops running it, so they could take it with them.

KRQE News 13 has also learned the city of Alamogordo self reported that the city planner, Darron Williams who worked closely on this project, was driving around in a Mercedes owned by the company running the fun center.

They believe Williams personally gained from the city contract. They say Williams has since left to work for the fun center. The city says it has hired an attorney to look at the issue.

One-and-a-half million dollars involved in the project is grant money. If it’s found the city misused it, they may have to pay it back.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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