So when last we checked in with the controversy surrounding the redevelopment of the old Knoxville High School, County Commissioner Amy Broyles had just hosted a very testy meeting, Family Pride was planning to host community design charrettes, and Commission had put off a vote until November.
Well, it's November. Comission is set to discuss the matter at its work session tomorrow -- held earlier than usual because of Thanksgiving -- and a vote on the RFP could come next week. Meanwhile, Family Pride hosted one meeting last Thursday (that we weren't able to make) and is planning another one this Thursday at 5:30 p.m. at Central United Methodist Church (which we do hope to attend). Finally, the Fourth & Gill Neighborhood Organization will have a big discussion about everything tonight after their monthly community pot-luck.
However, this morning Broyles sent out an e-mail that could make the entire discussion moot. Included in the message was a memo from the county's Chief Deputy Law Director David Buuck that says if the county doesn't accept Family Pride's RFP and rebids the process, it's opening itself up to a lawsuit.
Here's the memo itself, which is unfortunately formatted in a way that makes it impossible to cut and paste:
While we are not lawyers, we do find it interesting that Buuck didn't bother to proofread the memo before sending it out -- or maybe he just doesn't understand how typing and grammar works? There are all kinds of crazy spacings, city of Knoxville Director of Redevelopment Bob Whetsel's name is misspelled, and there are more than one sentences/fragments that barely make sense. But, you know, details aren't important in legal matters ...
However, those aren't the only inaccuracies in the memo, as Broyles takes pains to point out in her e-mail:
Neighbors -Attached is a legal opinion I requested of the Knox County Law Department, regarding a few issues surrounding the RFP process and Historic Knoxville High School. It was prepared by Chief Deputy Law Director David Buuck.There are three areas where I feel I need to comment:1. Near the top of page three, it states: "It now appears that Dewhirst properties in conjunction with the "Fourth and Gill Neighborhood Association," are urging the award to go to Dewhirst properties." Although there are individuals within the Fourth and Gill Neighborhood, and possibly on the Fourth and Gill Neighborhood Board, that are asking the Commission to award the RFP to Dewhirst, I have seen no evidence that the Neighborhood Association is acting in such a manner, in their official capacity.2. At the top of page four, the cost of the RFP process is broken down. This is helpful, but to get a clearer picture one must add in the length of time it takes for the RFP process to run its course. After consulting with the Finance and Purchasing Departments, I'm comfortable estimating the process to take an average of 60 days. So if the Commission votes to scrap the first RFP process and re-bid it, the cost to the taxpayers would be approximately $15,000. This would be in addition to the initial $15,000 wasted on the first RFP, bringing the total to $30,000.3. As specified in footnote 1 on page 2, the only two methods for surplussing the building are "sealed bid RFP" and "absolute auction." If we scrap the first RFP process, will we be obligated to use one method or the other for the second attempt, or can the Commission choose freely between the two methods?Does anyone have questions or comments? Please remember this is only one legal opinion. However, the opinion of the Knox County Law Director tends to carry a lot of weight with the Commission.Amy
Whatever discussion happens tonight, tomorrow, and Thursday, it still seems likely that Commission will vote next week (unless they put it off again) to take the cash up front instead of choosing a plan that, according to at least one metric, would bring in a whole lot more money in the long run, because we all know Commission doesn't think that way. But we'll keep you posted.
UPDATE: A reader suggested we update the post with the response the president of the Fourth & Gill Neighborhood Organization sent to Broyles. Here it is:
Fourth and Gill Neighbors/Friends . . .As a neighbor and a current 4th and Gill boardmember, without board consultation, I comment for myself:I am surprised an elected official, especially our councilmember, would post innuendo like that found in Ms. Broyles' first comment.The board has worked extremely hard to keep this issue transparent and ethical.I defend their hard work, ethics, and passion for all of Fourth and Gill.I know of no boardmember who has contacted council. If, however, they did, they have the right as a citizen to an opinion.Finally, including by name any businessperson in this innuendo is regrettable. It implies misconduct on that person's part. I know of no improper contact between board members and businesspersons in relation to this issue.Regards,Judith Neff, Neighbor and Current President4th & Gill Board of Directors
UPDATE 2: Broyles contacted us and asked that we post her response to Neff. It reads as follows:
Judith, I'm afraid we may be having a misunderstanding. In your email, you are referring to the following statement, correct?"It now appears that Dewhirst properties in conjunction with the "Fourth and Gill Neighborhood Association," are urging the award to go to Dewhirst properties."That statement was made by Chief Deputy Law Director David Buuck, not me, as part of the legal memo he drafted regarding questions I had about this particular RFP process. In Mr. Buuck's defense, I don't consider that innuendo - it was a pretty straight-forward statement - nor do I think he was accusing either David Dewhirst or the Fourth and Gill Board of anything improper or unethical. However, in my opinion it wasn't completely accurate either, as reflected in my statement immediately after:"Although there are individuals within the Fourth and Gill Neighborhood, and possibly on the Fourth and Gill Neighborhood Board, that are asking the Commission to award the RFP to Dewhirst, I have seen no evidence that the Neighborhood Association is acting in such a manner, in their official capacity."My comment was in defense of your neighborhood and your Board.Yes, residents of the Fourth and Gill Neighborhood, and perhaps some that are currently serving on the Board, are contacting Knox County Commissioners and asking that the RFP be thrown out and rebid, or that the top proposal be removed and the bid awarded to the second-place proposal, David Dewhirst's. Again, there is nothing improper or unethical about that kind of contact; in fact, I have been encouraging your residents and Board members to contact the Commissioners about this issue. Many have, and I hope more will continue to do so over the next week.I think we all have worked very hard, from every angle, to keep this process and discussion as transparent and open as possible. That's why I posted Mr. Buuck's Legal Memo to the listserves - I want to make certain the residents of this area have access to all the same materials the Commissioners are using as we deliberate and come to a resolution.This is an important moment for our community. The decisions that are made, and the reactions to those decisions, could have a tremendous impact on us. I am very proud of our neighborhoods, and our community leadership, for how well a potentially volatile issue has been taken up and worked through. I hope you feel the same way!