We have conducted a special review of the Minnesota Amateur Sports Commission's use of funds appropriated in 1998 to purchase and develop land for use as athletic fields and to develop the National Children's Golf Course.
Our objective in conducting this special review was to identify how the commission spent a $1.7 million appropriation for athletic fields and a $3.1 million appropriation for development of the golf course and to determine whether those expenditures complied with appropriation laws and other legal requirements.
As of January 2003, the Amateur Sports Commission has expended virtually all of the state appropriations for athletic fields and the golf course. Determining whether those expenditures complied with appropriation laws depends on how broadly or strictly one reads the language and defines the specific words in the appropriation law. As auditors, our traditional approach in reviewing legal compliance relating to use of appropriated funds is to consider the "letter of the law." However, in the case of these appropriations, there was other evidence that brought into question the purpose or intent of the appropriation law, and we considered that evidence in making our judgments.
We have concluded that the commission's use of the $1.7 million appropriation for the athletic fields did not comply with a strict reading of the appropriation language, but did comply with the intent of the two legislative conference committee chairs who negotiated the final language in the conference committee.
We think a conclusion on whether the commission's expenditures from the golf course appropriation complied with legal requirements will ultimately depend on how the commission uses the land that it purchased with $1.867 million from the appropriation. Although the commission has not yet built the golf course, current designs include a 9-hole learning center on the land in question. We think the appropriation language directing the commission to "develop" a golf course, as well as the commission's general authority to acquire real property, and the fact that the final appropriation language did not specifically prohibit the purchase of land, together, can support the commission's actions and its use of the appropriation.