It's a corporation riddled with conflicts and secrecy, but we do know it's funded by your tax dollars.
In less than two years, the North and East Lubbock Community Development Corporation will receive $1.2 million from the City of Lubbock, to foster economic development in that area. However, a six month long, KCBD-Sandstorm Scholar investigation has uncovered a web of deception leading all the way up to the assistant city manager.
NELCDC was established in 2004 to help disadvantaged citizens in North and East Lubbock. The corporation is responsible for projects like Kings Dominion, the first housing development in the area since 1954. While its mission is noble, its tactics are raising questions.
Flashback to Sept. 26, 2013. In a 6-1 vote, the Lubbock City Council approved a $251,000 grant to NELCDC.
"I did end up voting for it, but it was giving me some heartburn, even that day," Mayor Pro-Tem Karen Gibson says.
Now, looking back, Gibson believes the council was deceived that day.
"I feel like the council has been misled, totally misled," Gibson said.
Gibson's concern stems from this statement by Assistant City Manager Quincy White, during the council meeting:
"His portion of time that is spent with NELCDC will be reimbursed from the funding that the city is giving North and East Lubbock," White said.
White was referring to Thomas Harris, the Assistant City Secretary, who spends part of his day working as NELCDC's Executive Director. White assured the council, Harris' salary would be reimbursed.
"I asked point-blank that question to Mr. White. The council was told that Mr. Harris' salary would be reimbursed," Gibson said.
White declined our request for an interview, but is now claiming he misspoke.
"I got to checking around, oh, the last couple of weeks, how much time has he turned in, how much of that has been reimbursed. The answer to that is zero and that concerns me," Gibson said.
During the meeting, White was speaking on behalf of NELCDC, but the record does not show he disclosed to the council that he's actually a board member.
We asked Gibson, "When you were speaking across the dais and asking Mr. White these questions, were you aware he was a board member? That Mr. White's a board member?
Gibson said, "No, ma'am."
Our investigation has uncovered that White signed grant contracts with NELCDC as Assistant City Manager, while also signing checks on behalf of the corporation. However, $251,000 is not all NELCDC was promised.
"The council voted to give them proceeds from the oil royalties. I did not vote for that," Gibson said.
In all, the two-year deal is expected to provide $1.2 million. That's about the same amount generated by one penny on the property tax.
"We're accountable for that money. The council is accountable and we can't hold them accountable because they give us these vague sheets and they tell us that we're going to reimburse us for things and that doesn't happen," Gibson said.
We began asking for the financial records back in October, but NELCDC has refused to release its records.
"I am angry, I am upset. We as taxpayers have a right to know where the money goes," Gibson said.
Gibson added that they city's contract doesn't say anything about a salary reimbursement. She trusted the information provided by staff and now says it's a lesson learned.
For more on this story go to www.SandstormScholar.com
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