BLOOMINGTON — VenuWorks has paid the city of Bloomington $40,535 in restitution and is making arrangements to pay back more than $100,000 to the city of Bemidji, Minn., for the alleged misappropriation of money when a former director oversaw daily operations at arenas in both communities.
Curtis Webb was executive director of Bemidji's Sanford Center from 2013 until May 2016, when VenuWorks, based in Ames, Iowa, named him to lead daily operations at Bloomington's arena, then called U.S. Cellular Coliseum.
He was fired in late October 2016 by VenuWorks, which manages the city-owned event centers in both cities, after charges not related to the business were found during a review of Coliseum financial records.
Webb, 46, has pleaded not guilty in McLean County Circuit Court to theft of government property, a felony, for allegedly taking an unspecified amount of money from the city between July 31 and Aug. 30, 2016.
Webb's next court appearance is Nov. 20. His defense lawyer, Stephanie Wong, said in court in April that talks are ongoing prosecutors concerning a possible plea deal.
Webb remains free on $5,035 bond.
But the restitution amount has more than doubled after VenuWorks decided to also reimburse Bloomington for Webb's $8,011 in moving expenses and $16,358 in unauthorized travel expenses that were paid by the Coliseum, VenuWorks CFO Tim Sullivan told The Pantagraph.
After Webb's arrest in December, the city of Bemidji launched an internal investigation of Sanford Center financial records, with the assistance of the state of Minnesota auditor's office.
While Webb has not been charged in Minnesota, VenuWorks has made arrangements to reimburse Bemidji for the alleged misappropriation of public money during his tenure as director of the city-owned arena there.
"We don't have an exact figure ... but it likely will be more than $100,000," said Sullivan.
He said he will not have an exact figure until the state auditor's office releases its report of the investigation, which he anticipates will be soon.
"Upon discovering Mr. Webb's financial impropriety, VenuWorks withheld receiving their management fee" from the city, said Bemidji City Manager Nate Mathews, who also does not have an exact figure of the amount of misappropriated money.
Since November, VenuWorks has had the city of Bemidji withhold paying the $9,500 base monthly management fee until "we had enough accrued to pay back the amount of anticipated restitution," said Sullivan.
Mathews said in December the Beltrami County Attorney's Office and Bemidji Police Department were notified about the alleged financial impropriety the city was investigating.
"I have no idea if charges have been filed or if (a criminal) investigation has commenced against Mr. Webb," said the city manager.
Bemidji, with a population of 14,301 as of July 2016, is located in northwest Minnesota and is the largest commercial center between Grand Forks, N.D., and Duluth, Minn.