In a recent letter, I aimed a flashlight into a longrunning "black box" "no-bid" contract the City Council has with the Jefferson City Area Chamber of Commerce (JCACC) for what the contract terms call "economic development services" and took a look around.
I questioned whether the taxpayers actually got anything in return for the nearly $1 million payment to the JCACC called for in the contract. I closed with a promise to get back to taxpayers on the contents of the "quarterly reports" and "audits" called for in the contract.
So I asked the city for four years worth of the reports and audits as a sunshine request.
Imagine my surprise when I received a response from the city informing me that "There are no city records that are responsive to your request."
In a subsequent letter to the city counselor, I asked how this could happen, given the contract terms. The reply was "... each year the Chamber made a yearly report and presentation to the City Council regarding their activities and expenditures and the council was satisfied with that information."
What? There are no records?
There are no written reports or audits available because the JCACC didn't submit anything written and the City Council didn't ask for anything written. This is contrary to the terms of the contract and it stinks. We will never know what services the JCACC provided to the city for the million bucks (of your money) the city handed over to JCACC. No-bid contracts have a long history of devolving into sweetheart deals that do not serve taxpayers. This situation is no different. Without written records, tax detectives like me, are at a loss to figure out what actually happened to our money.
Does the city have so much money stashed in reserve that they can afford to throw a million bucks of tax money into the wind? A prudent City Council would at least keep some records, unless of course there was something to hide. The truth is that there were no jobs created by this contract. The City Council needs to stop giving our tax money to an organization most of them are members of. This is a classic conflict of interest.
In my next letter, I'll offer a way to fix some of this. Stay tuned.