Councilmen to host public meeting on convention center PR excesses

Wednesday, August 12, 2009 at 10:52am

Metro Council members will host a public panel discussion concerning the public relations invoices turned in for the convention center project on Aug. 17 at 6 p.m. at the historic Metro courthouse.

The panel discussion is being hosted by Council members Tim Garrett, Eric Crafton, Emily Evans and Mike Jameson and is open to the public. Metro Development and Housing Agency Director Phil Ryan, Metro Finance Director Rich Riebeling, McNeely Pigott & Fox founding partner Mike Pigott and Convention Center Commission members have been invited to attend.

The meeting was originally called for by Jameson last week after it was revealed that McNeely, Pigott & Fox had billed the city for over $450,000 for communications work done for the proposed new convention center project. The original contract between MDHA and the PR firm was for $75,000, but it was amended last year to become open-ended.

Ryan said on Tuesday the contract actually had a cap of $900,000.

Mayor Karl Dean called for suspending the use of McNeely, Pigott & Fox pending a review of the invoices, which is being conducted by the Finance Department.

Jameson said last week the Finance Department was the wrong entity to conduct the review, because the invoices show regular meetings between the PR firm and Riebeling.

Ryan said MDHA was conducting a review of the invoices as well.

As a result of the story, first reported by NewsChannel 5, Dean also required MDHA to forward all predevelopment invoices to the Finance Department for review before payment is issued.

So far, Metro has spent $16 million on predevelopment activities. The funds come from tourism-related taxes and fees created last year by Council.

The administration has said it will bring a financing package to Council for approval on the estimated $635 million project in the coming months.

13 Comments on this post:

By: JeffF on 8/12/09 at 12:58

Bring a copy of all the invoices to the meetings along with the contract and Scope of Services or Scope of Work.

By: JeffF on 8/12/09 at 2:18

If MFP does not rally the troops and pack the room does this still make a noise?

By: nashbeck on 8/12/09 at 2:49

Bring the invoices to show that no taxpayer money was used.

By: producer2 on 8/12/09 at 3:35

Bring a buddy, tell a friend.....:)

By: nvestnbna on 8/13/09 at 8:11

Let's see, MDHA and Metro Finance are reviewing the invoices. I guess that is the perfect opportunity to make sure there are no gotcha's on them. And I'm sure when they get released they'll be squeaky clean.

Nashbeck, it's all taxpayer money.

By: JeffF on 8/13/09 at 8:54

Too late, NewnChannel5, apparently the only source for information in Middle Tennessee found another vendor (the hotel consultant) using TAXPAYER money overbilled their contract to the MDHA shadowgovernment by a couple of HUNDRED THOUSAND dollars. Apparently it takes $350,000 thousand dollars to help a staff that does nothing for themselves pick a hotel.

By: Time for Truth on 8/13/09 at 9:34

Ryan and Reibeling reviewing the invoices is laughable. Both are in on this swindle up to their eyeballs. The invoices should be scrutinized by anyone who wants to see them.

When you can get Eric Crafton and Mike Jameson on the same page, you have an issue that needs to be taken seriously. The more we know about this project the more it smells.

Let's get the MCC to a referendum and stop the folly before it's too late.

See all of you at the meeting. Prod will be the one saying "pay no attention to the man behind the curtain".

By: producer2 on 8/13/09 at 11:59

You guys are laughable. As Richard Lawson so eloquently put it:

It’s classic obfuscation of an issue for self-serving interests with a hefty helping of disingenuousness and overreaching. The surprise and concern by opponents on the Metro Council wasn’t shocking, especially since the betting is that someone from that esteemed legislative body leaked the initial story to News Channel 5.
Gas has been poured on the fire and for what purpose? Opponents to the convention center on the Council have been shutdown for some time and pushed into a veritable corner by the support for the project among the city’s business community. They have to pick their spots and lash out when they think they can. This time, the mayor’s office took the bait, at least publicly anyhow, and gave some power back to convention center opponents on the Council by shutting down the MP&F contract.
Where would all of this have been if the Metropolitan Development and Housing Agency had set a public relations budget of $500,000 or more? The answer is simple. Nothing would have happened. In fact, MDHA officials could have played the game in the opposite direction and touted this as an example of how well they are managing the budget. That would have skewered the Council opposition arguments earlier this year about a possible lack of adequate oversight. The lesson here is to shoot high on the budgets, whether or not the numbers are real, and come in under budget so everyone can say how wonderful they are."

You can read the rest of the story at:
http://www.nashvillechatterclass.com/

By: JeffF on 8/13/09 at 12:22

He ignores the fact that the amount is not the only problem people have with this. The line items that showed lobbying efforts were taking place on the TAXPAYERS's dime and time is just as important as the waste of money itself. A council member in the next budget process should propose a reduction in the mayor's staff since there is proof that he was outsourcing those duties as well as paying someone directly.

By: producer2 on 8/13/09 at 1:09

If you read the entire piece he does not ignore it, in fact he talks about it head on and describes "lobbying" as being in the eye of the beholder. Is shaking a council members hand "lobbying" or attending meetings in the council "lobbying" What constitutes lobbying for you? And when did someone from MPF actually do this "lobbying?" Are there actual line items that say "lobbying" I don't think so......
What Richard does point out is the continuance of certain council members to "grandstand" at every opportunity. We keep seeing those same few, Crafton, Evans, Craddock, and the oft "this is going to ruin my political career" Jameson over and over again. Much like the 5 or 6 of you, they only appear when there is some fresh meat to try and make a meal of. They take every opportunity to turn the smallest of issues into a raging inferno because like Lawson points out:
"Opponents to the convention center on the Council have been shutdown for some time and pushed into a veritable corner by the support for the project among the city’s business community. They have to pick their spots and lash out when they think they can. "

By: slzy on 8/13/09 at 8:34

must not have much support by the business community,what there is MP&F told them what to say.

if there were real business support,they would not be trying to swindle the council and taxpayers.

By: nvestnbna on 8/14/09 at 9:43

What Richard does point out is the continuance of certain council members to "grandstand" at every opportunity. We keep seeing those same few, Crafton, Evans, Craddock, and the oft "this is going to ruin my political career" Jameson over and over again. Much like the 5 or 6 of you, they only appear when there is some fresh meat to try and make a meal of. They take every opportunity to turn the smallest of issues into a raging inferno because like Lawson points out: - - - P2

Wonder how many of the MPF invoices will reference Mr. Lawson? Or, maybe he just has lunch with Gail Kerr on a regular basis.

By: Time for Truth on 8/14/09 at 9:49

Lawson is a cheerleader for the development community who now gets paid by them directly rather than writing his cheers for the NCP. His support for the convention center holds as much credibility as Dean's, Ryan's and Prod's. I've never seen Lawson say anything bad about a project involving shovels and hardhats.

Prod, is Richard Lawson the best you have on your side?