Barbecue on the River Officials Brief City Commission Amid Financial Scrutiny
Amid public scrutiny regarding financial oversight of Paducah’s Barbecue on the River, the group behind the festival gave an informational presentation to city commissioners Tuesday night ahead of its 20th anniversary event.
Barbecue Inc and the Paducah Symphony Orchestra have recently quieted a public spat over a contract to operate the beer garden, which is one of the PSO’s largest fund-raising events. The public argument has brought to light alleged financial mismanagement and a lack of city oversight of the festival.
In the presentation, Barbecue on the River director David Boggs said the charities and the barbecue teams raised more than $400,000 last year. His organization recommends a minimum of 20% to be given to charity though it is not required.
“Last year $448, 288.22 was raised for over 75 not for profit and charities,” said Boggs. “That was done in several ways. Number one, the barbecue vendors, the contestants and the food vendors, their raising money for charity. Barbecue on the River (also) pays not for profits or charities for service that we can hire them out for.”
He explained the fee scales for participants of the BBQ festival that include booth costs and utility fees for electric, non-potable water dumping and sanitation.
“There’s two different fee scales, there’s a Barbecue contestant fee then there’s a non-barbecue fee,” said Boggs. “The fees for the barbecue contestant are based on the number of categories they compete in as well as the amount of space they feel like they need to prepare the products they are selling. The non-barbecuer booth, it is based on the size of the booth.”
Boggs' presentation also included charts depicting gross revenue for Barbecue Inc. and expenses. In 2013 the festival grossed $138,220 and incurred $108,710 in expenses. In a comparison of expenses between 2009 and 2013, labor was the leading culprit accounting for nearly $20,000 in 2013 compared to nearly zero in 2009. The City of Paducah has also released a financial statement of the relative costs to the city regarding Barbecue on the River which totals $142,000.
The public scrutiny regarding Barbecue Inc.finances involves its non-profit status and the appearance of little to no oversight from the city regarding a 2011 contract for a downtown storefront.
Barbecue officials had failed to file the appropriate IRS form 990 to maintain its 501(c)4 status and lost that status shortly after receiving it. Barbecue Inc. has also been accused of fraudulently using another organization’s tax-id number to purchase products tax free. In addition the city required a 501(c)3 status in a contract with Barbecue Inc. that outlined a city earmark of $20,000 to Barbecue Inc. to open a storefront downtown. The contract also required a limited scope audit be supplied to the city.
In recent weeks the City of Paducah has asked Barbecue on the River Inc. for an audit but did not provide a deadline. Barbecue director Susie Coiner said tax season might cause a delay in preparing the audit. Barbecue Officials have also recently filed the required IRS form 990s.