Berger: "’s really abominable and disgraceful.." - WECT, weather & sports Wilmington, NC

Berger: "’s really abominable and disgraceful.."

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) – WECT is continuing its investigation into the local government spending on the events surrounding the USS Gravely commissioning. 

On Tuesday, New Hanover County Commissioner Elect Brian Berger raised questions about the lack of transparency and reasoning behind the city and county's funding decision. In September, both allotted $25,000 to the USS Gravely Commissioning Committee. 

Now that the ship has gone, WECT has requested both government agencies to provide a line-item budget of how that money was spent. The money was pulled from "contingency funds," usually reserved for emergencies or unforeseen spending. 

Both city and county officials said that there was no requirement for budget documentation in order for the committee to receive funding.  In an email to WECT, City Manager Sterling Cheatham said:

"On Sept 21 the City Council by resolution approved the payment of $25,000 from the City Council contingency for support to the activities associated with the commissioning of the USS Gravely.  That payment (check), was subsequently made to the Friends of the Battleship to support this effort.  That is our documentation.  Hope this helps."

WECT was referred to Louise McColl, the committee chair. While she was not required to report back on the committee's spending, after repeated media requests, she notified the New Hanover County budget department that she would provide documentation.

From: Louise McColl []
Sent: Tuesday, November 23, 2010 9:16 AM
To: Griffin, Cam
Subject: Re: gravely

It will be at least 3 weeks. I will let you know what the 25000 went toward. Have them contact me/Dave

Phone calls to McColl were not immediately returned. Late Tuesday night she replied that she would not be available for an interview until all invoices had been returned. She briefly discussed the large expense that putting on such an event incurred and promised that her company, McColl & Associates did not "make a penny" off of the event.

Future Commissioner Brian Berger is concerned that some of the $50,000 went towards the various entertainment activities for local politicians and social figures.

"I think it's really abominable and disgraceful that $50,000 was used to throw a big party for the community's VIPs and elite, while so many people are struggling just to stay in their homes right now," said Berger.

Until McColl's itemized budget comes in, no one can be sure, specifically, which activities and expenditures public money was used for. At her city council presentation, McColl listed a variety of activities such as fishing, the pub crawl and volleyball for the sailors. However, various other expenses involving transportation, food and security could also be on the list.

Berger says that when he finally takes office, he promises to use more discretion when allocating taxpayer's money and provide more immediate feedback about how such funds are used.

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