The City Council’s press release regarding the audit of Fiscal Year 2022 Downtown Development Authority financial activity by their hand-picked auditor is just another repeat of the same lies and distortions that have marked City Council’s entire term of office.
The simple fact is this – there was a budget impasse with regard to the use of DDA funds in Fiscal 2022. I proposed a budget that would continue to pay for annual landscaping services, tax appeal legal fees, engineering and other professional fees that have been part of the operation of the DDA for many years. Some of the services were actually connected to contract awards that the City Council itself had approved.
The City Council chose to turn their backs on local companies providing services merely to spite me – another failure for which this Council has been noted.
The impasse had to be resolved in court – adding to the more than $1 Million of taxpayer money for legal fees needlessly squandered by City Council.
Once the court determined that the council-adopted budget prevailed the DDA stopped paying vendors for services even though some of those services could not be stopped. Grass still had to be cut, trees and bushes trimmed and debris cleaned up. Legal services to resolve tax appeals still had to be processed. It took more than a year to get the City Council to quietly pay for services they knew were necessary parts of city operations – only after they were warned that landscaping, legal and other services would be discontinued and the blame for deterioration of city property and other costs to the taxpayers would fall squarely in their laps.
The forensic audit is nothing more than a regurgitation of the same information that the Administration has provided to City Council from the beginning. Another wasted City Council expenditure. There was no denying that Council irresponsibly failed to provide funding for necessary services without justification. I continued to provide those services despite Council’s wanton disregard for the community.
There are three (3) other minor points in the City Council propaganda release that should be addressed here:
1. The September 2021 minutes of the DDA Board meeting did indeed infer that COVID relief monies were part gift card program meant to stimulate activity in local businesses. That was a misstatement on the part of staff. No COVID relief monies were ever a part of the DDA budget for Fiscal Year 2022. If there had been federal funds involved in DDA operations those monies would have been listed as such in the budget document (FY2022 Adopted City Budget page 211) and they clearly were not.
2. The funds that were used for promotional ads on television and in print were by no means political advertising. The focus of the ads was on encouraging investment and development of the business community. My part in those ads was minor and totally in keeping with my role as Mayor and Chairman of the DDA Board. I am, by right, the spokesman for the City, like it or not. Council’s objection to this is founded in petty jealousy for doing something they would definitely do themselves if roles were reversed.
3. All funds are dedicated to the DDA, and must be utilized, for lawful purposes including economic stimulation, development, infrastructural repairs, and even community promotion. This is all to enhance the City, according to a DDA Plan approved by the Council in 2005, state statute and local ordinances. The DDA expended all funds according to their lawful mission, as legally required. This is not funding that can be withheld from the Board as a means to stop its progress or the discharge of its responsibilities.