Industrial Development Board members leveled blistering criticisms at a special meeting today against Vice Mayor Diane Neighbors, for a letter she sent calling for their dismissal from the board last week.
Neighbors sent out a letter to Metro Council members stating legislation would be filed to vacate the IDB. The board is elected by Council members and serves to issue special financing for public, nonprofit and private entities seeking building projects.
Controversy has swirled around the board following a 2008 audit showing shady accounting practices, specifically around one 2006 lease purchase option.
Neighbors and Metro Director of Finance Rich Riebeling wanted to meet with the board on Jan. 23 to discuss the issues and the audit. But when no board members showed for the meeting, the vice mayor called for their dismissal.
As it turns out, according to all the board members present at a special meeting today, none of them knew about the Jan. 23 meeting. The members said Neighbors should have contacted them besides simply writing a letter, while also saying their reputations were damaged because the letter went public.
“Not only is it embarrassing, I just think it was handled 100 percent wrong,” board member John Hobbs said.
Added board member Aubrey Gregory: “We didn’t deserve what you did.” Col. Robert Whitworth said he felt like his integrity was questioned.
After a long comment without a firm apology, Neighbors was pressed to say she was sorry by Gregory. She finally conceded, “If I have treated you with any disrespect, then I apologize.”
She promised to send out notice to Council that the board members were not made aware of the meeting by their attorney Bobby Davis.
It was Davis who was at the center of the special meeting because the money from the 2006 land purchase option was eventually transferred into his private escrow account. Davis issued a tearful apology, but did not offer an explanation for why the money was in his account.
He then resigned from the board.
“I’m sorry to my family, I’m sorry to my friends and I’m sorry to my God,” Davis said before he added that all the funds he had managed in his 27 years as the board’s counsel were properly distributed to Metro government.
Board member Nick Bailey said the IDB plans to send to the District Attorney General's Office information surrounding the facts of the deposit. Following the suggestion of Riebeling, the board agreed to temporarily use the legal counsel of Metro Department of Law and the accounting assistance from the Metro Finance Department.
The 2008 audit by Parker, Parker & Associates showed the need for a segregation of duties because Davis previously acted as both the book keeper and the handler of the IDB’s funds.
The audit showed that the $150,000 was not transferred to the IDB until after it was uncovered by auditors in October of last year.