Asheville City Council on Tuesday approved giving the Asheville-Buncombe Community Relations Council $18,000 to help the organization pay for “prior year tax obligations, interest charges and other bills. The action was a part of City Council’s “consent agenda,” meaning there was no public discussion.
City Council’s meeting agenda documents attached to this action show that Buncombe County commissioners were also asked to pony up $18,000 and did. The document states that the money – $36,000 total – will help the Community Relations Council pay owed interest “and enable negotiations with the IRS to commence.”
The request for funds came from Don Locke, the interim executive director of the Community Relations Council.
This action follows the sudden departure last year of long-time Community Relations Council Executive Director Bob Smith. His exit was never publicly announced, and has never been publicly addressed by the Community Relations Council, despite my calls to board members and requests for more information.
The stated purpose of the council is to “provide a community-wide approach to the solutions of human problems as they relate to racial, ethnic, religious and class relationships, and to promote progress in Asheville and Buncombe County towards employment.”
So again, questions remain. What’s going on at the Community Relations Council? Why the need to pay off the IRS, and why the need for more negotiations?
Rumor has it that the Community Relations Council is really running scared and has even allegedly played the race card telling city government that if they are not funded the city will be accused of racism! Considering that every executive director has been a minority specifically African American, including the interim who is a contract worker not a salaried employee of the CRC, this is so silly as to be ludicrous! Why has there not been a Latino or Latina or a African American Female or a GLBT director? Why is the current board fighting so hard to prevent the city and or county from requiring a new and diverse organization to replace it? Why after the former executive director was cleared of any wrongdoing whatsoever did their board allegedly refuse to offer him an apology and why is it reported that certain members of the CRC continue to portray the former director as a villain? Why is it also rumored that the CRC still does NOT have an agreement with the IRS about the very large tax debt and lien which has not been addressed or paid? Lastly why is it also rumored that HUD is very nervous about its contract with the CRC? Robin Hood has heard that the only thing the CRC fears more than the IRS is the Media learning of all its problems and doings!
The Citizen-Times is highly unlikely to do this, or any other meaningful investigative reporting on this topic. For a long time, the paper has been a standard Gannett cookie-cutter template with a weak local staff of writers, editors and publishers. I pains me to see how bad things have become. You'll rarely see news or features worth reading, and scant local and state reporting. It's the weak long-timers like Susan Reinhardt and Tony Kiss who seem to hang on. Real journalism is rare in a small Gannett outpost like Asheville. The days when the Citizen-Times was an influential and credible "voice of the mountains" in Western North Carolina are gone.
Dude – not to sound like Deep Throat or anything, but follow the money – and the lack of it as evidenced by unpaid bills. The answer to this isn't that hard to uncover but it will probably take a little more than a phone call and a google search.
Without AshVegas, would there be anyone keeping an eye on City Council spending? Where is David Forbes on this? Should the Citizen-Times be investing more reporter time on "watch-dogging" city (and county) government? A Pulitzer Prize was just "awarded to the Los Angeles Times for its exposure of corruption in the small California city of Bell where officials tapped the treasury to pay themselves exorbitant salaries, resulting in arrests and reforms." Maybe the Citizen-Times could get Cathy Mitchell, who also won a Pulitzer Prize for exposing local corruption, out of retirement and put her on special assignment.
The community is owed an explanation on this. Why was it hidden in the consent agenda, by whom? I hope ACT looks into this type of questionable activity.
Lately a lot of taxpayer monies are going toward paying for what appears to be gross neglect or oversight by those who are being paid to oversee operations.
I believe the story is a sensitive topic and I agree an explanation is needed. The previous ED was in the position for a long time and had deep roots in the community, he was respected and frugal. There were public figures on the board who have since retired, an embarrassment to say the least in terms of their oversight. The work of the ABCRC served the community in an important watchdog capacity and the funding needs to continue till possible other revenues can be found. We are not here to judge only improve the agency moving forward.
I cannot find the City/County appointed list of Board Members. Believe there was five appointments from each. I'd like to know if some of these Board Members were also on other recently failed entities, that the taxpayers support with their money and their trust. I'd like to see minutes of the BOD meetings. Was the BOD doing their job as to proper financial oversight?
Am I alone in thinking that a BOD should shoulder at least SOME if not all, of the financial responsibilities?
AB Community Relations Council is/was a non-profit, so unless they're earning big chunks of Unrelated Business Income, their only tax obligations are likely to be payroll taxes and the like. Their 990s for the last three years are on Guidestar, and it appears that ALL of their income for the last five years or more has come in the form of direct government payments (i.e., the city and county provide space, salaries, benefits, etc. as well as program funding). Despite having no real assets to speak of, they still managed to spend an extra 18k in 2009, 8k in 2008, etc. Could it be that the way they managed some "deficit funding" was just by failing to submit required employer payroll taxes?
Apparently Smith had been the executive director of the group since it was created in 1983, but they've got no web site, and it's not at all clear what they were actually DOING to advance their mission other than attaching their name to partnerships and events. Smith was making 66k in 2009, and all other staff salaries added up to $62k, so that's probably only 2 or 3 other people, but there are a lot of high profile people on the board, which is appointed 1/3 by the city council, 1/3 by the county council, and 1/3 by the other members.
Jason, you are doing a great job uncovering all the shady dealing of our city and county government. Good work. Keep it coming 'cause I'm sure there is a lot more waste and sweetheart deals here.