BILLINGS- A private consultant managing the South Billings tax-increment financing (TIF) district owes the city about $40,000 in overpayments and travel expenses, according to an outside investigator’s report released Friday by City Administrator Chris Kukulski.
The evidence did not establish that Steve Zeier, who owns Zeier Consulting, tried to deceive or defraud the city, according to the investigation conducted by law firm Moulton Bellingham. Zeier is reimbursing the city.
“It confirms what we already knew. There are no surprises,” Zeier told Q2 News Friday.
Zeier’s consulting firm improperly requested $76,345 in payments from its second contract to manage the South Billings Urban Renewal District, which runs from Dec. 1, 2018 through June 30, 2019. To repay part of the overcharge, Zeier waived three months’ of his fees from December through February.
He still owes $38,422.50, which he is repaying under a Feb. 6 agreement, according to Moulton Bellingham.
In addition, Zeier was reimbursed $1,509.87 in travel expenses without supporting documents, which investigators said he should pay back.
Kukulski said the city will reduce its payment to Zeier in May by the same amount to resolve the outstanding financial issue by the end of June when Zeier’s contract expires.
Moulton Bellingham also found no evidence of a conflict of interest in a separate land deal involving the city’s purchase of 10 acres from Popelka Enterprises near Amend Park. Zeier and the South Billings Urban Renewal District have been pushing for an aquatic center at that site.
The city hired Moulton Bellingham to conduct a limited investigation of Zeier’s finances in February 2019.
Zeier began work managing the TIF district in 2014. TIF districts are designed to attract new development into blighted areas to increase property values and taxes, which then fund community improvements.
After Zeier’s contract expires at the end of June, he said he is unsure if he will be back. Zeier, the TIF board of directors and the city remain undecided on the next steps, he said.