Thursday, February 24, 2011

February 24, 2011 Millennium Project Bid Postponed To April 5, 2011

Bidding on the Downtown Millennium Project has been postponed to April 5, 2011.

Click herehere, and here, for background on the many conflicts within this project.

This all started with awards to the City of $1,200,000 of federal grant money for historic preservation and well as improvement and development of the Morristown College site.  Click here.

Four and one-half years later, historic preservation and improvements to Morristown College were left behind.

The City transferred the entire $1,200,000 of federal grant money to the Millennium Partners for improvements to their Main Street property--including "approximately" 22 rooftop parking spaces (atop the private retail shells below) that make the project eligible for grant funds since the City is going to consider this as parking for a "greenways trailhead."  

The lease for the parking deck allows the City, if it desires, to designate two of the parking spaces for  "greenway purposes" and two for handicapped parking. The remaining 18 or so spaces are just standard downtown public parking.

The Millennium Partners include the City auditors (Hiram Jones, son Tom Jones, daughter Mira Craine, and son-in-law James Craine) as J&C Partners; Morristown businessmen/contractors (David Wild and Tim Wild) as D&T Partners; and Dr. Sid Boyd. Businessman Bill Young may still be a partner. 

This is not the first time that the City has transferred grant funds to the Millennium Partners. 

When the first Millennium building was built downtown about 9-10 years ago, the City amended a 1988 UDAG (Urban Development Action Grant) grant in order to give the Millennium group $105,816 of unused funds from that grant. 

[The first Millennium building contains the offices of the City's auditors Craine, Thompson & Jones; of Wild Building Contractors, Inc.; and of Community National Bank).]

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

February 22, 2011 How Did Morristown College Grant Money End Up With the Millennium Group?

Just how did $1.2 Million in federal grant dollars get moved from needed work at and around Morristown College to the downtown Millennium Partners retail shell space/rooftop parking project?  [This is a follow-up from yesterday's post on conflicts of interest in the Millennium grant process.]

In 2005-2006, federal grant funds of $1,200,000 were received and were to be matched with local funds in a public-private partnership at Morristown College. The goal was preservation of the many historic buildings on the College property along with construction of a Community Center and pools, etc.

Ironically, Todd Morgan, who has been pushing the Millennium project, nominated Morristown College for inclusion in East Tennessee's Endangered Heritage just weeks before Morgan put a plan before the City Council to move the Morristown College grant funds to benefit the Millennium group.

Click here for a post on Morgan's nomination of Morristown College for inclusion on a list of endangered historic buildings and here for a picture of the Laura Yard Hill Administration Building and the full News-Sentinel story.

When the public-private partnership fell through, Mayor Barile signed a contract with TDOT in 2007 changing the scope of the Morristown College grant to construction of a greenway connector trail into the Morristown College site and a trailhead at the Fred Kyle Park with parking spaces.

The new scope also included a perimeter walking path around the College site and 2-1/2 miles of sidewalks with street lights and curbs on parts of Branner Street, Blair Street, Buffalo Trail, Carriger Street, Panorama Drive, E. 6th North, James Street/Daisy Street, Terrace View, and Morristown Cemetery Trail. Drainage problems would also be addressed.

The purpose of revising the plans for Morristown College, as stated by Mayor Barile in her letter to TDOT in 2007, was: "[T]o increase the safety and well-being of the people that live in this area."

After signing the 2007 contract with TDOT,  the City sat on the grant and did nothing. Why? The City was broke and couldn't come up with the local match to access the $1,200,000 of federal funds. Former City Administrator Jim Crumley was hiding a financial mess, and the Mayor and Council either didn't know why the grant work was not starting or did know but were concerned that it all reflected badly on the City, Mayor, and Council.  The Morristown College site continued to deteriorate. 

Mayor Barile, who signed the 2007 grant contract for Morristown College and spoke of the health and safety of area residents, didn't have a clue. According to the Mayor, she didn't know until early 2010 that the City was broke. Click here for the day the Mayor and Council woke up to the financial nightmare that she and the Council have presided over.

Instead of taking care of the city's finances and using the grant funds for the preservation and improvement of the Morristown College site, Mayor Barile and Council spent time and money stamping brick designs on roadways, placing islands in the middle of East First North (that have now been removed), and wailing about "light pollution." 

Morristown College was slowly falling apart. And the City's answer to the deterioration was to take the $1,200,000 of federal grant money that could have been used to preserve and improve the Morristown College site and transfer all that money to the downtown Millennium Square Partnership group, composed of local businessmen and the City's auditors.

Some of the most beautiful buildings at Morristown College have now burned. The historic area continues to deteriorate.  Residents of the area have asked for help as property values decrease and concerns for safety increase. They may get the City to mow the area and do some clean-up.

But the money that was available for the Morristown College area from as far back as 2005 was transferred to downtown businessmen (Millennium Partners) for a project where the City ends up with a 25-year lease for 22 rooftop parking spaces, a bike rack, a stairway, and a sign designating the rooftop parking as a greenways "trailhead."

$1,200,000 for safety, historical preservation, parking, sidewalks, lights, and curbs, OR 22 rooftop parking spaces? The City chose 22 rooftop parking spaces.

Monday, February 21, 2011

February 21, 2011 TDOT: Wild Building Contractors Can Not Bid on Millennium Project Due to a Conflict of Interest

Neil Hansen with TDOT (Tennessee Department of Transportation) apparently informed the City of Morristown on 1/26/11 that it is the position of TDOT's legal counsel that Wild Building Contractors (WBC) can not bid to perform the construction work on the Millennium Project because of a conflict of interest. [Click once or twice on the e-mail at left to enlarge and read]

Hansen summarizes TDOT's position: WBC can not act as a subconsultant to the City's Architect (BIF) and then turn around and bid on the construction contract for this same project. [Click on the above page from BIF's Letter of Intent to enlarge and read]

Click here for a previous article with links to prior posts.

City Administrator Tony Cox did not inform council of this development during his Administrator's Report at council's 2/1/11 or 2/15/11 meeting. Todd Morgan has said nothing publicly. Nothing has been reported in the "news"paper.

The City filed a response last week, attaching a letter from Wild's Attorneys (Woolf, McClane, Bright, Allen, & Carpenter, PLLC) who in turn attached a letter from the Architects Brewer, Ingram & Fuller and other exhibits.

TDOT's position should not be surprising to potential bidders on the Millennium project. In addition to the conflict cited by TDOT, these contractors see many other conflicts of interest that unfairly tilt the bidding process in favor of the Wilds who are partners in Millennium Square Partnership and who, as MSP partners, are ultimately footing the bill for the Architect's fees.

At least two contractors who paid for plans and who initially planned to bid (Ed Hale Construction of Morristown and Inland Construction) have cited conflicts of interest involving WBC/David Wild/Tim Wild as the basis for pulling out of bidding on this Project.  I'm sure that these contractors and others who took out plans could provide a lot of additional information on conflicts of interest and appearances of impropriety in the pre-bid and post-award process.

Why is the Architect (BIF) trying to get Wild back on the bid list? Perhaps it is because the Wilds are partners in the Millennium Square group that is paying the City to cover the Architect's fees on the project.  

Now it is a waiting game to see if the City, BIF, and Wild can convince TDOT to reverse itself and decide that (1) when BIF asked Wild to prepare cost estimates, this was not a conflict of interest and (2) when BIF prepared its Letter of Intent and said that Wild was a proposed Consultant for Estimating, this was an "error," and (3) when Wild prepared estimates and/or helped with design suggestions, there was not a conflict because WBC never had a contract with BIF and never was a "paid" consultant on the project.

What could happen if Wild insists on bidding?  There are several possibilities. A prospective bidder could seek an injuction to stop or delay the bidding pending a determination by a court of the legality of Wild's participation in the bidding.  If the bidding proceeds and the construction contract is awarded to WBC, this could result in a lawsuit by an unsuccessful bidder. 

From the City's perspective, the worst possibility would be that Wild or even someone else gets the construction contract and there is a later finding of bid and/or post-award irregularities that could result in the City being required to reimburse TDOT for all state and federal funds expended on this project.

With the City's current financial mess, it certainly couldn't afford to pay back $1,400,000 + or - in grant funds. Right now, the City is not even certain that it will be able to buy a garbage truck by year's end.

A $1,400,000 + or - money trail leads to a lot of conflicts and a lot of switching money around.

The "Millennium money" was originally intended for Morristown College, not once, but TWICE!

Tomorrow, I will post on what the money was initially supposed to be used for and how financial mismanagement at City Hall prevented the money from being used at Morristown College as originally intended and led to the transfer to the Millennium group.  [UPDATE: Click here for the history of the Morristown College to Millennium money switch.]

Friday, February 04, 2011

February 4, 2011 District Attorney: TBI Investigation of David Purkey/Tennessee Highway Patrol: Reprimand of Purkey's Special Friend Trooper John R. Jones

After my post of December 30, 2010, many people asked me to post the actual letter from DA Steve Bebb to Criminal Court Judge John Dugger that was mentioned. Some people claimed it didn't exist. Some said that David Purkey would never lie to the "news"paper or to the public about anything. Others said if this was really true, the "news"paper would have reported it.

Well, the letter is posted above. You can click on the image to enlarge it and read it or print it out.

What brought about the TBI investigation and the DA's letter was a 2006 election-eve Purkey campaign postcard that said it was "paid for by John R. Jones" but did not mention Purkey's involvement with the postcard.

DA Bebb's letter states that the TBI investigation of former Hamblen County Mayor David Purkey found that Purkey apparently violated the election laws of the State of Tennessee.  Bebb then adds that he won't charge or prosecute Purkey because it might be costly and it might be difficult to seat a jury in Hamblen County--assuming Purkey would ask for a jury trial.

The postcard that the TBI investigated was a last-minute mailout by the Purkey campaign that did not acknowledge that Purkey was involved in the mailout or endorsed the message on the postcard.  For his part, Purkey, when questioned about the postcard by local "news"paper reporter Bob Moore,  denied any involvement in the mailing. [See newspaper article below and click on it to enlarge and read Purkey's comments at the end] 

Despite Purkey's very public denial of any involvement with the postcard, the TBI investigation found that Purkey was indeed involved and thus committed a Class "C" misdemeanor. Strangely, the DA stated nothing about the involvement of a friend of Purkey--John R. Jones, a Tennessee State Trooper. No mention of John R. Jones and no charges against John R. Jones.

Kind of funny how the local "news"paper reports a public official's denial of any involvement with a campaign postcard that was received by many people across the county but the same "news"paper never follows up and reports that a TBI investigation found that the official WAS involved with the postcard but the DA decided to give Purkey a "pass"!

In my December 30 post, I mentioned that the person whose name was put on the postcard (John R. Jones) happens to be a "special friend" of Purkey. While the DA didn't mention Jones in the letter to Judge Dugger, the THP investigated Jones' involvement and issued a written reprimand to Jones. [Click on the reprimand above]

So...the "news"paper refused to report that DA Bebb sent a letter to Judge Dugger stating that Purkey apparently committed a crime. The "news"paper refused to report that DA Bebb was not prosecuting Purkey because of Purkey's position, the difficulty in seating a jury, and to save money. The"news"paper refused to report that the person whose name was put on the Purkey postcard was Purkey's special friend Tennessee Highway Patrolman John R. Jones.

The "news"paper did report Purkey's denial of any involvement in the last-minute postcard. Then silence.  Apparently, it is "news" when the official says he isn't involved in the crime. But it isn't "news"---and it isn't reported at all---when the TBI investigation is over and it is discovered that the official was lying and covering up his involvement all along. 

And now David Purkey, who violated election laws, who lied to the press and public to cover up his involvement in violating election laws, and who got a "pass" from the District Attorney, is Assistant Commissioner of Homeland Security for the State of Tennessee.

Purkey's official crime was a misdemeanor.  The unofficial crime was that he lied to the press--and to the public--when he denied his involvement with his campaign postcard and even failed to admit that he knew the John R. Jones whose name was listed on the postcard.

And the cover-up continued as the investigation was ongoing. After he was caught in the violation of election law and after he had lied about his involvement with the campaign postcard, Purkey filled out a campaign financial disclosure form that said that [John] Rick Jones of Murfreesboro made a "loan" of $850 to Purkey's mayoral campaign on October 23, 2006.  Now there may be a check to the Purkey campaign from John Rick(y) Jones in October 2006 but you have to ask WHY would Jones be sending a check to Purkey's mayoral campaign over two months AFTER the postcard mailout and over two months AFTER the election? Purkey didn't need any loan AFTER the election was over. 

One reason Purkey may have reported the "loan" from Jones would be to avoid financial disclosure problems that could occur if he didn't report Jones' postcard/loan to the campaign. Click on the Financial Disclosure form below to enlarge.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

February 3, 2011 County Commissioner Paul Lebel Running for Morristown City Council?

Hamblen County Commissioner Paul Lebel may be running for the Morristown City Council at-large seat.
Lebel picked up a petition to run for the at-large seat earlier today.

There are at least three others who have picked up petitions for the at-large seat: Charles Cook, Ann Harville, and Luke Pack.

UPDATE: Another person who picked up a petition to run for this at-large seat is the incumbent Frank McGuffin.  Actually, McGuffin took out TWO petitions several weeks ago. One petition was for this at-large seat AND the other was for Mayor. Since taking out both petitions, McGuffin has waffled for weeks about which seat he would run for although every indication was that he was going for Mayor. 

My guess is that Frank waffled all this time because he was waiting for Lebel---or someone else whom Frank considers the right kind of person---to pick up a petition for the at-large seat. Now Frank is free to announce that he running for Mayor. 

[Lebel does not have to resign from his seat on county commission in order to run in the city election.]