The February 27, 2012, CCVB Meeting: Most Everyone Changed Seats, But the Craziness Remained the Same

February 29, 2012

Columbus, MS, MS, News, Politics

Monday’s Columbus Convention & Visitors Bureau (CCVB) Board meeting started off with a chance for redemption, but only for a moment.  In a peculiar situation, almost everyone on the board had changed seats around the board table, in order for some odd “physic voodoo” to take effect.  Clearly an attempt to change the “vibe” of the meeting, the feel-good newness only lasted for a few minutes.

Before peace, harmony and love could settle in, the sticky problem of the City’s “Bridge to Nowhere” reared its ugly head.  The fiasco officially known as the “Old Highway 82 Bridge Restoration Project” is the bad idea that will not go away. This time it introduced itself as the “Monster That Ate the $50,000 Windfall from the Taxpayers”(The extra greenbacks were the result of higher- than-expected receipts from the restaurant tax.). Overall, the CCVB will “fork over” $133,000 to the bridge project.

Bart Wise, Treasurer of the CCVB, advised that this money would be needed to help pay for the structure that should draw tourists from as far away as Caledonia to see its marvel.  Much to the surprise of Bernard Buckhalter, the CCVB had not budgeted any money for the project, this fiscal year.  However, Mr. Wise felt the CCVB was obligated to ensure they had the money to pay their fair share of this Mayor-driven project.

This left some board members stunned, as this was the first they had heard of the plan to spend the $50,000 on the bridge.  This is a recurring theme in which many board members do not see what is being presented at the CCVB meeting until meeting time. True to form, Mr. Buckhalter was not impressed and stated so in about 5,000 words.

As the torture continued, the “Great Credit Card Debate of 2011-12” waged on in its next chapter of ineptness. For those of you who just moved to Lowndes County or just found this site, many members of the community believe that the holders of these cards, over the past several years, have had the discipline of a drunken hobo digging through a trash can.

On cue, the raging of alarms went off, and excitement filled the room.  Somewhere, some place, at some time, audits have been done and, it appears, during the past couple of years, over $20,000 has been charged, in one month, on the credit card, for a variety of reasons.

Now, it is hard to get a straight answer, because the meeting breaks down to personal grudge matches, where people who obviously hate each other’s “guts” lose their minds, as well as their dignity.  And, make no mistake about it; right, wrong or indifferent, the table is set…with Whirllie Byrd and Bernard Buckhalter on one side; Bart Wise, Mark Castleberry and Rissa Lawrence on the other side; and all of the other board members just wishing they could go home.

Through all of this confusion and psychosis, here are some of the highlights:

  • Just under $20,000 of credit card charges that were originally characterized as “undocumented” and “unsubstantiated” are now being referred to as an “accounting error”.
  • Over a protracted time, the CCVB paid its bills online, with no receipts or records kept.  This includes insurance premiums and credit card bills.
  • And somehow, some way, $35,000 was paid to three employees for doing some type of cleaning and moving.  And, guess what?  It’s unclear as to whether proper payroll records were maintained for these employees.  They hunted two of them down to sort out the mess, but the other one refused to give his social security number.  The CCVB is perplexed as to what to do now.

Can anyone say “insanity”?

But, it’s alright boys and girls.  Bart Wise reported that the auditors said the CCVB is doing much better now.  Of course, he forgot to mention that the only way you could do worse is…oh, sorry, there is no way to do worse.

Meanwhile, Nancy Carpenter made the obligatory “just cut up the credit card” speech, and Bart seconded the argument…but then lamented that the CCVB could not do business without one.  This all occurred while Mr. Buckhalter  repeated that he did not want to see the credit cards abused again, at least 93 times.

After much weeping and gnashing of teeth, the board agreed to limit spending to $1,000 per purchase without board approval.  So that means you could buy 20 items, at $999.99 each, and run the bill up again.  But, why spoil the party with a little simple math?

And, just when you thought the bowels of hell could not get darker, they did.  They hired a lawyer. Or tried to do so.

This part of the meeting can be summed up in 17 words.  Does anyone on the CCVB Board have a clue as to what time of day it is?

First, Mr. Buckhalter wanted to give the contract to the lowest bidder, like the CCVB was building a spaceship.

Second, Mr. Castleberry questioned Wil Colom’s credentials to serve as the CCVB attorney.  Note to Mark:  Go ask the “W” for their opinion of his credentials.  I am sure he would get a begrudging “A+.”

Also, during this discussion, Rissa Lawrence brought up Nadia Dale’s relationship with Scott Colom.  Because of this complaint, Dale recused herself from the vote.  No word yet on how Rissa Lawrence feels about the Mayor and a certain bail bondsperson.  I am sure she will mention it to him, when the CCVB gives him the check for the bridge.

Last, but not least, the winner was Chris Latimer, a partner of the Mitchell, McNutt and Sams law firm.  Whirllie Byrd thought this was a conflict, since there was litigation against the law firm over money paid to David Sanders in 2011. Nancy Carpenter wanted to hire Mr. Latimer because he would be receptive to her needs.  Not that she had ever worked with him, but it’s okay – Mark Castleberry had.  Surely Nancy and Mark never talked about it.

The subject of race now became a concern.  Nadia Dale stated she believed it was a good opportunity to hire a minority; Mr. Buckhalter echoed that sentiment, but to no avail…the goose was cooked.  Mr. Latimer is the new CCVB attorney.

But, it’s okay.  He won’t be at meetings…just when they need him.  No one could make this stuff up.  It’s scary, but true!

Now, the party really “got to” rocking…it was money time.

The two water-boarding victims, on Monday, were Amber Brislin and Leroy Brooks.

In a bizarre twist, The CCVB and staff decided to cut Market Street Festival’s grant allocation from the $20,000 they received last year, to just over $11,000 this year.  Citing the usual “we don’t have any money” theme (except for special projects and bridge debacles), they slashed the event.  But, wait – it gets better. Stand by for this logic….Rissa Lawrence was adamant that, since the Market Street Festival had been fiscally responsible over the years and had saved, “seed money,” of just over 13,000 dollars for this year’s event, they did not need to be funded at the level requested.

That’s right, campers; in “Rissa’s World” you should be punished for being fiscally responsible.  Dewitt Hicks hit the nail on the head when he said, “If we don’t fund this festival, we will look like we don’t know what we are doing.”

Several votes were taken, with George Swales finally switching his vote and the Market Street Festival did receive $15,000.  As Ms. Brislon stated, “Giving Market Street only $9,000 would be a disgrace to the tax payers.”  The board  did save some face by giving $15,000.

But, just when you thought the board couldn’t look any more impotent, they did.  Harvey Myrick joined the fray, at the last moment, and announced he would not vote, since he was late. However, he then anointed himself as “de facto” president of the board, by saying he would vote only if there was a tie, and then he eventually voted.

Yep, and George and the board did…..nothing.  They let it happen.  And, guess what -Leroy Brooks and the Juneteenth organizers got $14,000 for their festival.  Earlier in the evening, Leroy Brooks had stated that if his organization could only get $9,400 dollars that the board proposed, he would not take the money.  His event would be cancelled.

When voting time came, he received $14,000.  And why?  Because Mr. Myrick was the deciding vote.  If Myrick had been at the meeting, from the beginning, would the CCVB have another attorney? Would Market Street have received all 20,000 dollars?  We don’t know, but we should know this: if a member misses the vast majority of the meeting, he should not be allowed to vote.  It was wrong and it was insane, or as you know by now, it was business as usual.

Once again, it was a night of which the board should be ashamed, but they are not.  They left the meeting, acting as if they had accomplished something other than tomfoolery, and they are wrong.  The only real question to ask now is, “How long does the community allow this absurdity to continue?”  The answer is, “It should have been over months ago!”

Watch for the next installment of “It Came From the Planet CCVB.”

Note:

Ms. Byrd asked for a State Audit of the CCVB’s finances.  She could not even muster a second to the motion.  Hmmmmmm…Wonder why?

Joseph B. St. John

MR. MoJo Rising

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11 Comments on “The February 27, 2012, CCVB Meeting: Most Everyone Changed Seats, But the Craziness Remained the Same”

  1. Susan Shelton Foster Says:

    This all makes my brain spin and then when I regain my balance, I just want to slap sense into all of them.

    Reply

  2. sam Says:

    Can’t ya’ll see “its the city againest the county. Harvy is a loose cannon! The link is trying to control and call the shots. Leroy is out to get his fair cut. Market street is the only true festival. All the other crap is just that CRAP. The bridge to no where is a total waste of time and money. MDOT gave 1 mil, the city, county and CVB gave another mil. That is all that should be spend on the stupid bridge. 2 million dollars on a bridge to no where. Get real. We are driving on streets that are way beyond their time. School system that are broke and a city that is hanging by threads. The CVB is a total disgrace and should be redone or dismantled. Look at who is on this board. Someone has said it was set up to fail. I think they are right on!

    Reply

  3. John Dorroh Says:

    Thanks, Joe, for the coverage. Even though things don’t seem to be any better there, at least you are letting the public know what is happening (to our money).

    You raised even more questions about money that can’t be accounted for. Each time I go out and eat in Columbus, I feel bad that even a few cents of my bill is going to such. It’s somewhat like taxation without representation. Tea anyone?

    Reply

  4. charles divel Says:

    All good points here. Thank you Joe for the coverage. Market street has made some money, how bout Leroy and his festival? The bridge will probably bring more moneyin,why people will come from as far away as Caledonia. Leroy’s constituents are well served.

    Reply

  5. sam Says:

    Who in their right mind would put Harvey on ANYTHING? He has been a screw up all his life. Get real people. Leroy is what he is. He would not have the so call festival if he could not skim off the top and the botton. Can you say “bottom feeder”? Well well well – Mr Buckhalter has pulled out the “R” card. Now that is a suprise move. He beat Leroy to it. Question: Is Mr Buckhalter still employed with Windy’s? Come on can the rest of the board not handle Whirlie (the bird) and Buckhalter? Oh I forgot they have Harvey and Dumwitt on their team. And who put them on the Board? Why the city of course. Remember like Sam said this is a tag team match. City vs County. No winner here. What about the people you say? Well we (the tax payers) just get in their way. People – This is all funded by your taxes YOU pay when you go out and eat. There is a 2% tax on your bill EVERY TIME YOU EAT OUT. This is OUR DAMN MONEY these clowns are fighting over. It is not the CVB board, Leroy’s, Main Street, City or County’s. Why do we have to put up with this MESS? If we don’t vote in good leaders this is what you get. LOOK AT WHO IS RUNING THIS TOWN. WE CAN DO BETTER. WE MUST DO BETTER! Call your City Councilman or County Supervisor and deman THEY get this mess straight. What do you think people that are in this Town on business think when they read this. If you want better retail stores then you have to clean up this mess. Do you know who wins from this CVB meeting? Starkville, Tupelo and other cities near by. This has gone on long enough. “GET MAD” make those calls.

    Reply

  6. samandy Says:

    Hey Sam, Right on Man !!!! I am going to start calling now. We eat out a lot. I may drive to Starkville or else where to eat if they keep this up. I wonder what the Restaurant owners have to say about this. Joe, why don’t you interview some of them and get their reaction on this. Keep us in the loop Joe.

    Reply

  7. david Says:

    Ya’ll should have let Leroy walk out. To give him as much money as Main Street is crazy. where is all the money the ccvb use to have. I agree that there should be an audit. The credit card should have a $100 limit. I bet there wil be more $200 meals put on it. Someone should have said no spouse can eat free. I also agree that there are 3 or 4 board members that should not be on any board. It does look like it is a stacked deck. Too many jokers. Also why is mr Buckhalter taking over. I thought Mr Swales was the chairman. If it had 3 rings it wiuld be a real circus. What a shame. Thanks Joe for letting us know what is going on with our money.

    Reply

  8. tommy Says:

    Poor old Harvey. He wants to play with the Big Boys. What a worm. I can’t believe they picked him of all people to be on a board that handles money. I wonder who thought he would vote for their side – Robert or Harry?

    Reply

  9. bigjohn Says:

    Tommy, The word is looooossseeerrr. Looks like Mr Brooks is the big winner here. Do we pay 2% for this bull $lll. I’ll stay home and eat.

    Reply

  10. charles divel Says:

    It seems illegal to me for brooks to be a supervisor and also try to wrangle money for his festival. I fear since they don’t have enough money to go round they will try to add 2 percent tax on groceries and gas.

    Reply

  11. robert Says:

    Thanks to the mismanagement by the CCVB board there will never be anymore add on tax like this. If it was sent to Jackson for approval anytime soon it would not pass. I was told this by the Senator from Lowndes County. This was a good idea but the wrong board members running it. This board will never get it together – like the City Council. Eat at home and save your tax money. A shame.

    Reply

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