Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Cowbird Cabana Commissioners

Every year for several years now, the Springdale City Council pays the Springdale Chamber of Cowbirds $100,000 from the general fund, $60,000 from the advertising and promotion fund, and $17,000 from the industrial development account. The Cowbirds are supposed to be doing economic development for the city, but they take this government handout and co-mingle it with other funds, then spend the money however they want with no strings attached.

Alderman Kathy Jaycox proposed that the Cowbirds would have to have submit quarterly reports on the services they were providing to the city and include an itemized list of expenditures, then the city would reimburse them for eligible expenses. That idea went nowhere with the captive Springdale City Council, a majority of whom are members of the Chamber of Commerce.

After that, Anita Davis filed a Freedom of Information Act request and discovered a rather curious pattern. During the last three years, the City has given the Cowbirds $531,000 to build their local economy. During that same period, the Cowbirds spent $306,175 on travel and $144,388 on dining, for a total of $450,563. Other than travel agencies, it doesn't appear that local business are getting much benefit from the city's investment, but others certainly are.

Cowbird Executive Board Chairman Brian Moore got a honeymoon trip to Tahiti in 2006, and another excursion to Istanbul, Turkey, in 2007. He said these gifts were "commissions" for his volunteer work for the Cowbirds. Other exotic adventures paid by the Cowbirds included trips to Spain, Mexico, Hawaii, New York, California, Miami, and the Bahamas.

Perry Webb, who had previous been caught avoiding property taxes on the Chamber offices, said, "We're not doing anything wrong." John Lea, a former chairman of the Chamber's executive board, said, “We have nothing to hide and not a damned thing to apologize for. When [Anita Davis] challenged the integrity of the chamber, she challenged the integrity of a lot of people.”

Yep, he got that right.


  1. Ah, Springdale's not that bad?
    There was also a statement in the demgaz about not needing to have a (separate) accounting for public monies received--because the contract doesn't require it.
    That may be so, but one cannot help but wonder what our friends at the IRS would say about all this. Their F. 990 can be obtained from IRS by filing a F. 4506-A ...
    There is financial accounting and then there is accounting for what you have done to fulfill your Mission (attracting and maintaining businesses).
    It would appear that Springdale is worse off on both counts.

  2. According to the Ark. Dem-Gaz: "There [was] no separation of public and private funds". If that's the case, then ALL of the Springdale COC's records should be subject to the Ark. FOIA during the years they received public monies. So the press, if they wanted to, could investigate this matter on their own instead of relying on the words of Anita Davis or officials from the Springdale COC.

    As an aside: Why is there is almost no investigative journalism in NW Ark? Transcriptions of meetings and rewritten news releases are about all we seem to get anymore.

    And finally, I wonder why the "volunteer" salesmen were being paid with travel vouchers instead of cash? To avoid declaring the income perhaps?

  3. The Springdale CoC's 2007 IRS Form 990 can be downloaded from here.

  4. Why is there is almost no investigative journalism in NW Ark?

    Newspaper chains. Soon there will only be ONE, UNO, paper serving NWA and that paper will be co-owned by
    Hussman (WEHCO) and Stephens Media (see here).

    Investigating anything is expensive. Newspapers have programmed their own demise by turning away from it for the pursuit of profit. Plus,it's now all one big club to divvy up the public monies and they're all in on it directly or in WEHCO-Stephens case, indirectly.
    Stephens is your neighborhood friendly bond daddy too. The toes Rusty steps on could get pissed a the Bond Daddy. So Rusty stands still and lets the pigeons shit on him.

    Now it takes a brave citizen like Anita Davis and the support of one truly CIVIC GIANT, Kathy Jaycox to open the cans of worms.

    It was the Cowbirds idea, urged on by self-interested members, to do the Arvest Ball Park. After getting their hands into the public trough it was realized the damn thing won't even pay for its self. I proudly voted against it but had to refuse a newspaper interview about it due to a severe illness in 2006.

    Surrounding landowners were all set to realize huge gains from having the Park located near their properties. That was fine until Cheney screwed the pooch and too much non-intervention got Jeff Collins and numerous others in the Cheney Recession which screwed developers to the ground. The Bubble burst.

    Now it's the fault of "THAT ONE" the Magic Negro in the White House who's taking your country away as if Cheney's NeoCon Gang left something to take.

  5. On line 30 of the Springdale Chamber's IRS Form 990, it shows that $423,808 was spent on Professional Fundraising Fees in 2007.

    If my math is correct, then the Springdale Chamber spent $1.00 for every $0.65 it raised from special events.*

    That doesn't seem very efficient.

    * $273,235 from Line 9c divided by $423,808 from line 30 equals about 0.65

  6. Thanks for that link 4:39!
    A major quibble: Webb sez *commissions* F. 990 (hat tip EMC) sez *professional* fundraising fees. If in fact we are talking about the same expenses (and no other expense category has such a large number; Travel = 0, e.g.)--they have a prob.
    *Professional Fundraisers* are ethically prohibited from working for commission (the reasons are obvious, no?)
    Cf. *Fundraising* on

  7. Wouldn't a 1099 be necessitated by a payment of "commissions" whether it be cash or trips?

  8. I think Fayetteville just signed a $100K contract with the local Chamber. How can we make sure the same shenanigans don't happen here?

  9. Springdale is French for "corrupt".

  10. No comprede! No hable. Sokay, no prolem.

  11. Perry Webb is no Lee Zachary. Lee tried to get me to sleep with him when I did an internship there in college. Perry screws the whole city.

  12. I guess I could offer to join the Springdale C of C for half the travel, but I'd probably have to live in Springdale.

    For that, they'd have to pay me twice the travel.

    Never mind.

  13. Chambers of Commerce, from the national to the local level, are not used to having to be accountable to anyone. Seldom does anyone question their positions and expenses. They resent any criticism, whether deserved or not, because they feel entitled to deference from the rabble. It is dangerous even for members to question what they do, because you will be attacked, discounted, and made to feel unwelcome. I know.

  14. 12:58 you are correct. A 1099-Misc is required for payments for services in excess of $600 per as a way of coercing reporting of income.
    But the larger point is that "professional fundraising" is a very specialized kind of service and perks to unlicensed sales folks (if that is what they were) don't belong in that category.
    Although it might look like a good hiding place.
    Maybe the rabble are getting roused.

  15. 12:58 is also referring to the fact that this commission / reward money, whatever you want to term it,
    should have been declared as taxable compensation by the recipients.

  16. Fox in the hen house....actually, the hen's have been gobbled up a long time ago,'s just all foxes....who's been looking after the books? Is the Board not accountable for this as well?

  17. The Mayor is on the Chamber board of directors - that seems like a conflict of interest to me...

  18. Why are you bringing up Springdale scandals? They are so pathetic it should be beneath the Iconoclasts' dignity to mention them. What do you expect? Well-thought-out scams from chicken pluckers?
    Elwood needs to move to Fayetteville to escape all that.

  19. it's a humble beginning, but here's a new website just getting underway to show where the money goes at the Springdale Chamber of Commerce