Peachtree City government gone awry
I have a suggestion. The Peachtree City Council can spit in the face of taxpayers by forming a special corporation to dole out more than a half million dollars of hotel-motel tax receipts with little accountability. The council can register the new corporation with the Secretary of State as a “non profit” making it appear harmless.
City Manager Bernie McMullen can be designated as the registered agent and the city’s Director of Finance Paul Salvatore will be the chief financial officer of the corporation.
McMullen and Salvatore are honorable men and dedicated public servants who will resist the scheme. They can, however, be persuaded if their employers vigorously twist their arms.
The City Council will have the benefit of appointing political cronies to the board of directors while really sticking it to the taxpayers. The imaginary corporation will operate under its own by-laws and rules can change as the corporate directors see fit.
Once established, the officers of the corporation will sign a lucrative contract with the City Council to expend hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars to avoid the hassle of public scrutiny. The corporate veil can’t be pierced so business dealings can be as secretive as the CEO and corporate directors choose.
This arrangement can be the spendthrift’s utopia. They can write checks without the burden of silly public hearings and embarrassing disclosures. They can even pay their friend, Lauren Yawn, an annual salary of $92,000 to oversee the dirty trick.
Those who think this can’t happen in Peachtree City are dead wrong! The situation exists today and it is called the Peachtree City Tourism Association, Inc. This untouchable corporation is a thorn in the side of the new mayor and City Council.
Readers can check the Georgia Secretary of State Corporations Division website and review the filings of the Peachtree City Tourism Association. The record shows that the association was incorporated in 2004 and Bernard J. McMullen, city manager, is the registered agent. Lauren Yawn replaced Paul Salvatore as chief financial officer and doubles as the chief executive officer.
Chief Executive Officer Lauren Yawn resigned from her post last Friday. Her resignation is effective March 5 and not a minute too soon. She had the solid support of the tourism board but was under considerable pressure from the mayor and council for reasons which will not be discussed in this column.
Yawn did little to justify her large salary except dole out grants after the previous council took management of the amphitheater and tennis center away from the tourism association. These changes were necessary primarily because of ineffective oversight of the two facilities.
Yawn’s hurried departure is the first step in resolving the government gone awry problem facing the council. It is now time to disband the Peachtree City Tourism Association and replace it with an entity better suited to oversee the expenditure of hotel-motel tax revenue.
Unfortunately, it appears that the arrogant members of the tourism board will thumb their noses at the council and attempt to replace Yawn immediately. They should not have the power.
Most local public authorities such as the Development Authority of Peachtree City were created by an act of the Georgia General Assembly at the request of the City Council and can be disbanded by similar legislative action. Other local entities such as the Peachtree City Recreation Commission are created by city ordinance and can be eliminated by majority vote of the City Council.
Incorporation of a city-funded authority, commission, or association such as the Peachtree City Tourism Association is unusual but not without precedent. A few development authorities and convention bureaus in Georgia are incorporated for liability purposes but the elected officials creating them retain control. This is not the arrangement in Peachtree City.
It is unfortunate that the Tourism Association, Inc., has legal standing and powers seldom awarded local government entities. The only requirements set forth in the articles of incorporation are that a budget is presented to the City Council annually and meeting minutes be placed on file at City Hall.
The council doesn’t even approve the budget and there is little control over board members once they are appointed.
In January, this writer made a strong case for the elimination of the Peachtree City Tourism Association. There was the expected resistance from the board and the general feeling is that the duly elected mayor and council don’t have the authority to dissolve the corporation or disband the group. The corporation can, however, dissolve itself by majority vote of the directors.
Council member Doug Sturbaum has represented the City Council on the tourism board since January. He is diligently working behind the scenes to deal with the problems of overstaffing, excessive salaries and bad attitudes. He should receive kudos for his efforts.
The members of the Board of Directors of the Peachtree City Tourism Association, Inc., are Bill Bexley, Kai Wolter, Joe Magennis, Veronica Ross, Kim Westwood, and Mark Ballard.
They hold the power to dissolve the corporation but don’t hold your breath until this event occurs. It is doubtful these political appointees have the appetite to follow Lauren Yawn out the door and relinquish their power.
It will require considerable public pressure to prevail in this sorry situation! This writer encourages citizens to contact the above corporate board members and demand that they schedule a vote to dissolve the corporation.
You will be astonished at their resistance to helping solve the government gone awry problem in Peachtree City.
[Scott Bradshaw, a resident of Peachtree City, is a real estate broker and residential real estate developer. He may be contacted at email@example.com.]