Paducah officials are investigating whether or not the city is required to hold Barbecue on the River Incorporated accountable to requirements listed in municipal orders the city adopted to subsidize its largest downtown event.
Paducah Symphony Orchestra board members, including John Williams, Jr.*, presented a 60-page report to Commissioners this week to outlay their concerns. Williams says he and the other board members were acting as concerned taxpayers, although the investigation did begin with the dispute over the beer garden management.
“It was in doing research to understand how the city interacted there and how all these things together that the information in the report came to light,” Williams said. “But the information in the report and the follow up and so forth is obviously not Paducah Symphony specific.”
At the City Commission meeting Mayor Gayle Kaler said she wants the city to begin writing memorandums of understanding for any entity that receives significant in-kind services for an event.
Both City Manager Jeff Pederson and city spokesperson Pam Spencer say city attorneys are reviewing city documents dealing with the festival. Spencer says officials could also look to other communities for input.
“At this point I don’t think we have reached out to other cities, but it wouldn’t be out of the question for us to ask in how another city handles a situation where they provide in-kind services,” she said.
Paducah provides more than $140,000 of in-kind services to the festival. The concerns listed in the 60 page document are prompting city officials to act on festival organizers for allegedly misusing funds, wrongly identifying as a 501(c)3 non-profit and using another organization’s tax exempt status.
The report also pointed out that Commissioner Carol Gault was on both the City Commission and Barbecue on the River board. She voted on a 2009 ordinance giving funds to Barbecue on the River, but abstained on a 2011 move that gave $20,000 to establish the retail store BBQ & More.
Gault released a statement saying the allegations against her were false and that she has avoided conflict of interest.
The full 60-page report is available here.
*Disclosure: John Williams, Jr. is Chairman of the WKMS Community Advising Board.