Tape shows minutes of IDB meeting may have been altered

Tuesday, February 24, 2009 at 1:00am

The audiotape from an October 2008 Industrial Development Board meeting shows that no action was taken on the land purchase option that has sparked controversy and a potential district attorney investigation.

An audit performed by Parker, Parker and Associates last year showed $150,000 missing from a 40-year-old land purchase option that was exercised in 2006. Auditors questioned attorney Bobby Davis, who was contracted to represent the board for more than 20 years, about the issue.

In the ensuing weeks, Davis produced meeting minutes from the Oct. 14, 2008 meeting allegedly showing the IDB authorized an intent to exercise the land purchase option.

However, the audiotape, reviewed by The City Paper, of the Oct. 14 meeting shows the board never voted on the land purchase option. Board members have maintained they had no idea about the land purchase option or the missing funds.

The $150,000 was transferred from Davis’s personal escrow account to Metro in late October of last year, documents show. Davis resigned earlier this month, but did not explain why the funds were in his account.

The meeting minutes and other materials have been forwarded to the district attorney for a potential investigation.

Discrepancies in IDB operations, raised by the audit, frustrated Metro officials, including Finance Director Richard Riebeling and Vice Mayor Diane Neighbors. It was Neighbors who fired off a letter earlier this month stating the board should be reconstituted.

But board members maintained they had no idea of Davis’s actions surrounding the land purchase option or even that an audit was being conducted.

At a special IDB meeting on Feb. 13, Davis apologized for his actions, but was otherwise vague regarding his own responsibility in the matter, before resigning. It was at the same meeting that IDB members blasted Neighbors for calling for their dismissal. Several members claimed she knew they were cut out of the loop by Davis and sent her letter to Metro Council members any way.

At-large Councilman Ronnie Steine said he was exploring the option of filing

legislation that would ask the IDB to make semi-annual presentations to

Metro Council on its activities.

"That will add an accountability that's missing at this time," Steine said.

The IDB audit by Parker and Parker stated the need for the board to separate its bookkeeping and account management responsibilities, which Davis had complete control over for more than 20 years.

IDB members are meeting again today to discuss moving forward, including whether to utilize legal representation from the Metro Department of Law to replace Davis.

Filed under: City News