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County-ordered audit of planetarium begins

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University of Utah officials say they are cooperating fully with an audit of the Hansen Planetarium requested by Salt Lake County.

"Certainly, under the terms of the interlocal agreement, we knew the county could request this," said assistant director for operations, Claudia Oaks. The county owns the planetarium, but the U.'s Museum of Natural History manages it.

"Actually, we welcome this audit because we are proud of our record and confident of the outcome," Oaks said.

Auditors arrived Thursday and expect to complete their work in two weeks.

Commissioner Mark Shurtleff said the county ordered the audit, which will be conducted by PriceWaterhouseCoopers, because of "some complaints and allegations from employees."

"We're talking about the management of taxpayer dollars, and we just need to make sure that (the university) is living up to the contract and spending that money appropriately," Shurtleff said.

Earlier in the month, two planetarium employees were placed on administrative leave by planetarium director Sarah George. Oaks said George was on vacation and could not comment on the disciplinary action.

The audit comes at a time when the planetarium's future is uncertain.

Commissioners are split over where to relocate the planetarium —at the U.'s Research Park, as part of a new museum of natural history, or in the downtown Gateway project as part of a new Children's Museum of Utah.