Sunday, March 7, 2010
Arrogance and Plunder Commission
The Fayetteville Advertising and Promotion Commission meets tomorrow, in case you didn't know, and you probably didn't. I am sure that you have no idea what is on the agenda, even if you were somehow able to find a copy of it. Here's why I am certain of that.
Back in November, just before the A&P Commission funded two more biker events in Fayetteville and a bunch of UA sporting events that were going to happen even without funding from the limited A&P tax dollars, I tried to inform myself about what was going on. I wrote to the City Clerk, who informed me that the City did not have access to A&P Commission records, budgets, or agendas. I spent hours online trying to find the November agenda and the budget that was going to be approved at the meeting. Nada.
Then I heard from Chairman Tim Freeman, who told me, "We don't put our agenda on our website, which is experiencefayetteville.com, because it is primarily geared toward tourists and folks from out of town." If I wanted to see the agenda, he said, “Just go up to the office and get it on your lunch break or something.”
Finally, I did get a copy of the Agenda from Marilyn Heifner, the Executive Director. I had a false hope that this was the beginning of something new in the way of public access and accountability, because she promised, "We are currently working on our website to be able to include agendas, HMR statistics, etc. " Well, that was four months ago, and there is still no A&P Commission agenda, no minutes, and no budget information online. I wonder who is "currently working on" their website, how much they are being paid by the hour, who they are related to, and when we might expect them to be finished.
Not that it really matters, because the Agenda offers very little information to the public, certainly not enough to decide whether it is worth burning vacation time to attend the A&P Commission meetings that are inconveniently scheduled during weekday work hours. For example, at the November meeting, the A&P Commissioners approved all of the grants for the next year. The agenda I was provided gave no hint about who had applied, how much they requested, or what staff was recommending for funding. It merely said, “III. Special project requests – funding distribution.”
Only that night did I learn by reading Ozarks Unbound who were the Lucky Chosen Ones who were on "a laundry list of recipients who were awarded $182,850 today by the Fayetteville Advertising and Promotion Committee." If I had known these were on the agenda, I would have shown up and squawked, and I don't think I would have been alone.
The entire enterprise stinks. It is rife with nepotism and self-dealing. The budget and the agendas are squirreled away in some filing cabinet and not available online in the second decade of the 21st Century. Even more troublesome is the poor advertising of grant availability and deadlines. This allows the Commission and its staff to then hide behind the excuse that no one applied except their friends and organizations that certain staff members sit on their boards.
It is called insider trading, but none of it is illegal in Fayetteville. If the City Council would get serious about conflict of interest ordinances that hold the A&P Commissioners and staff to the same standards as City officials and staff, that would be welcome, and it would be far more effective than me whining on this blog or a three-hour public bitchfest after the fact.