GRANTSVILLE (ABC4 News) – A legislative audit claims that Tooele County made numerous costly mistakes in the sale of the racetrack formerly known as Miller Motorsports Park.
In the scathing 92 page report, the state’s Auditor General says that the Tooele County Commission completely mishandled the sale of the racetrack potentially costing the county millions of dollars.
In 2015, the commission sold the renamed Utah Motorsports Campus to Chinese company Mitime for $20 million…even though Las Vegas real estate developer Andrew Cartwright says he offered $27.5 million. Current Chairman Tom Tripp wasn’t on the County Commission then but dismisses Cartwright’s bid.
“There was only one true legitimate bidder,” Chairman Tripp said. “While the other team had bid higher, their viability was in question. Their solvency was in question.”
But later in 2015, Judge Robert Atkins struck down the sale to Mitime.
“They clearly broke the law,” Cartwright told ABC4 News in a Skype interview Wednesday. “The law simply stated they had to sell the property at fair market value…Judge Atkins ruled that the fair market value was $27.5 million, what we were willing to pay.”
Then the county paid Mitime to run the track for three years before selling it to them again in December 2018 for $18.5 million. Among the findings of the audit, the “County Did Not Use An Appraiser To Establish Fair Market Value”, “Misleading Financial Reporting Impeded Accountability” and the “Commission Did Not Provide Adequate Budgetary Oversight.”
“The county was feeling rushed,” Chairman Tripp said. “And they didn’t implement all of the practices that maybe if they’d thought about it longer, worked that differently than they had.”
After deducting operating costs and legal fees, the audit says Tooele County wound up with just $7.36 million.
“The fact that at the end of the day they barely got $7 million and they gave it to the Chinese, you give it to one of the bidders. Isn’t that a conflict of interest?” Cartwright asked. “This was a liquidation of property and they lost out on $20 million of actual hard cash that would have went to the public.”
Despite the audit, the sale is not affected and Mitime continues to operate the Utah Motorsports Campus.
The audit did not find any evidence of conflicts of interest but recommends that the County Commission provide greater transparency in the way it does business. Chairman Tripp says they’ve already taken those steps.