Behind closed doors

What the council says in secret.

City Councilwoman Donna Halstead: Assuming that the public is going to be made aware or has been made aware about the existence of this study, I think it was critical that we immediately respond very strongly to the fact that an employee under the due direction took it upon herself to spend $50,000 of the taxpayers' money to do something that was not authorized. That the public is going to be quite upset in any way they see or feel that the city manager is not acting decisively and very strongly in dealing with an employee (unintelligible). A city employee paid this contribution with the public's money without direction from senior management and once it was completed, not sharing this information with senior staff. It's incredible, it's unforgivable.

Ware: (Unintelligible.)
Halstead: Is there anything in this document which I have not read, and I've told you that I've only looked at it? Is there anything in this which contradicts any of the studies which had been done up to now by either the Crawford group or the studies that we have paid $450,000 [for], or that order of magnitude?

Ware: I think that particular document, it takes a look at the sites without regard to the master plan problem-fundamental issue as opposed to (unintelligible); that's a fundamental difference.

Halstead: Does it contradict anything in those studies?
Ware: It makes a case for the placement of the arena on that particular site as opposed to the [site recommended by] Ellerbe Becket. It really didn't address it because of the direction.

Halstead: Well, I didn't remember from the Ellerbe Becket information that they focused on a specific site. They gave us a range of options to allow us to make the decision.

Ware: But we agreed that the Ellerbe Becket study wouldn't pay a lot of attention to that particular site because of the existence of the Convention Center Master Plan.

Halstead: But we do not have [a] situation where JPJ and Ellerbe Becket are contradicting each other.

Ware: Look, I can't say, no, it doesn't exist because it just--I don't think so.

Halstead: John, you're not answering my question. I don't want to read a column that Laura Miller has written next week that says--you know she's been playing amateur architect in some of her columns--and I don't want to read a column that says, in fact, this study by JPJ contradicts the study that we paid $450,000 for and jeez, all it took was one city employee breaking every rule in the book and spending $50,000, unauthorized, to get the information that we needed in the first place.

Ware: I don't think there is any significant difference.
Halstead: No significant difference?
Ware: No, but you can't compare the two because they have two different missions. And that's why you cannot say this one does not conflict with this one because of the two different missions.

The purpose behind that one was, if you'll recall, when the Crawford group first got started, we weren't sure what they were doing--or where they were going, and as Cliff indicated he was drafted in[to] putting that group together, and JPJ was asked to take a look at what the impact would be on locating on the Convention Center expansion site, and what it would look like if it did. And Ellerbe Becket was to take a look at sites in general in the general business district, and then they were also told that we have a master plan for Lot 1Site 1 and that conflicts with the placement of an arena. It's hard to answer your question the way you asked it.

Halstead: I have a real problem with the ASAP study being done. As far as I'm concerned, that employee took it upon herself to attempt to circumvent the will of the council by creating documents that steered the process of (unintelligible) and I'm very concerned about what it's going to do to the public when Laura Miller or other columnists (unintelligible)...

City Councilman Donald Hicks: No. 1, you don't make $50,000 expenditures unless somebody knows about it. No. 2, has the $50,000 expenditures--did it go through the same process as all other expenditures go through? Did the people have the authority to go ahead and do the work?

Ware: I don't understand the question.
Hicks: Did the people doing the work, submitting the report, did they have the authority from your office to do it?

Ware: Yeah, they were still under contract from the Convention Center expansion.

Hicks: To do that? And somebody tied this into the Convention Center.
Ware: Correct!
Hicks: I don't think we are going to get anywhere by trying to give you any time to come up with some kind of deal to disclose this thing and act like it's insignificant. And if it's already out of the bag, I tell you what we need to do is to drop the blow, cut our losses and step up and say that it was an error in authorization--while technically, nothing was wrong, strategically it might have been an error and I would move to correct that or something like that.

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