Since taking office in May 2009, Morristown Councilmember Gene Brooks has endured constant attacks from local "news"paper reporter Bob Moore. On Tuesday, August 16, Brooks apparently had had enough and decided to set the record straight on at least one matter-the Downtown Millennium Square project.
[In a nutshell, the Millennium project is where the City took Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) grant funds of roughly $1.3+ Million that had been intended for street, lighting, and drainage improvements around the Morristown College area with a greenways trailhead and parking at Kyle Park and moved that money to the downtown Millennium Square Partners group for the construction of a privately-owned retail shell and storefront. To get TDOT to go along with this, the City/Millennium group decided that the roof of the retail space would be called a "greenways trailhead" and have 22 or 23 parking spaces leased to the City. Click on the label Millennium Square at right for past blog posts on this topic.]
Brooks was responding to a July "news"paper article where Bob Moore allowed David Wild, one of the principals in Wild Building Contractors and a partner in the Millennium group, to attack Brooks and all the others who saw illegalities and violations of federal law in the Millennium deal.
Moore quotes David Wild as saying: "If it had not been for the unwarranted involvement of two or three individuals, this project would have already been finished...."
Translation: "I hate those people who raised valid legal questions about our nifty sweetheart deal. Councilmembers who try to protect City grant funds and make sure that everything is done legally don't have any right to do that."
David Wild was reacting--not too kindly--to the fact that Brooks had pointed out the core conflicts of interest in the Wild/ Millennium Square/Brewer, Ingram & Fuller connections to TDOT and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).
David and Tim Wild wanted to wear Millennium Square Partners hats to get the $1.3 Million taxpayer-funded TDOT grant to build their MainStreet retail storefront/rooftop "trailhead' parking. Then David and Tim Wild wanted to put on their Wild Building Contractors hats to submit a bid and collect all the money for building their own Main Street storefront/rooftop "trailhead" parking.
Brooks got the big guns riled up. Brooks was attacked and made out to be the bad guy who was messing everything up. Todd Morgan with the City wrote to TDOT. Dan Brewer with the project architects Brewer, Ingram & Fuller wrote a letter to Todd that also went to TDOT. Knoxville attorney Robert Noell with Woolf-McClane represented Wild Building Contractors and tried to refute Brooks' allegations in a lengthy letter to TDOT, claiming that there were no conflicts.
After all the dust had settled, TDOT found that Brooks's core allegations of conflicts of interest were, in fact, correct. TDOT disqualified Wild Building Contractors (David and Tim Wild) from bidding on the Millennium Square Partners (David and Tim Wild and others) Downtown project.
In the video (above) Gene refers to Bob Moore's July 2011 article where Moore stated--falsely--that Wild had submitted the low bid on the project. MOORE: "Wild Building Contractors submitted the low bid earlier this year, approximately $600,000 less than the second-place bidder."
Brooks points out in the video that Bob either made this up or was given false information. Wild never submitted the low bid on the project. Wild never submitted a bid at all because Brooks was able to prevent them from illegally bidding on the project.
Brooks's remarks end by making the public and the other councilmembers aware that had Wild been allowed to submit a bid and, by chance, had Wild gotten the contract, then TDOT could have made the City pay back ALL the grant funds that had been received for allowing an illegal bid and award.
In the City's current financial mess, the City could not have absorbed a $1.3 Million dollar hit for improperly handling grant funds.
Gene Brooks was not only right, but he showed great courage in standing up to months and months of criticism by very powerful people in order to ensure that an illegal bid was not submitted and that the City did not end up having to pay back $1.3 Million dollars of grant money.
1. The "news"paper has yet to correct Bob's front-page error on the Millennium project. [Usually, the paper runs a correction on Page 2 after incorrect statements have been made and pointed out.]
2. The "news"paper has yet to report anything about Gene Brooks's statement at the council meeting about Moore's biased--and even false--reporting on the Millennium deal.
3. The "news"paper has yet to report that Brooks's actions not only stopped an illegal bidding but saved the City $1.3 Million +.
So what did Moore do after Brooks's statement? After the meeting, Bob Moore headed straight for Brooks. Moore did not say that he would check the article again for accuracy and correct any errors. Moore did not mention his incessant attacks on Brooks over the past 2+ years. Moore did not apologize to Brooks for the reporting error.
Instead, Moore first asked who Brooks's lawyer is---because Brooks had said he would be glad to meet Moore to discuss Millennium but that Brooks would bring his lawyer to this meeting. Then Moore started asking Brooks about the Hearts of Christ Ministry which Brooks supports and with which Brooks's wife and sister-in-law are involved.