City residents will recoup some of their tax-paying dollars Mayor Mitch Colvin and the current government body spent on their Dec. 4 swearing-in ceremony at J.W. Seabrook Auditorium on the Fayetteville State University campus.
The mayor promised on Dec. 1 to solicit private funds to pay for the post-oath-of-office reception for himself and City Council members Ted Mohn, Jim Arp, Bill Crisp, Larry Wright, Kathy Keefe Jensen, D.J. Haire, Johnny Dawkins, Tisha Waddell and Tyrone Williams.
And Colvin is keeping his word.
“My goal was to pay for the food,” the mayor says, “not the rental fees.”
Colvin says $2,200 of the reception cost of $3,954.66 has been secured in private funds.
“I have raised $1,700 and have a personal check for $500 to contribute to the reception for a total collected of $2,200,” Colvin says, “and another $2,500 in pledges."
That, if all of the pledges come through, would be $4,700, and more than covers the catering cost of Aramark, which prepared foods. There was the cost of linens, too, for $160 that brought the total cost to just shy of $4,000.
The $2,200, Colvin says, does not include $500 that Ted Mohn, the mayor pro-tem, says he asked Cheryle Spivey, the city's chief financial officer, to deduct from his annual council salary of $18,089.54, with the final installments, Mohn says, scheduled for Jan. 26 and Feb. 9.
“Yes, for the reception cost,” Mohn was saying Thursday in keeping with his promise of two years ago that, if re-elected, he would pay that amount after the 2015 swearing-in, also at Seabrook Auditorium, of then Mayor Nat Robertson and council members Bobby Hurst, Chalmers McDougald, Kirk deViere, Jensen, Wright, Crisp, Arp, Colvin and himself at cost of $10,300, including $7,595 for catering services.
“The people of Fayetteville deserve the opportunity to celebrate our democracy without having this celebration become a political distraction when the city is facing other big issues,” Colvin said in the Dec. 1 news release, after he, as the mayor-elect, and the council-elect took heat from critics, including Councilman Crisp and Councilman Arp and the media, about the decadence of the inauguration expenditure totaling $7,530.66, sans $120 in printing cost, but including $3,576 to rent the auditorium.
Punch and cookies, Crisp said, was more than enough, and Arp would take his concern to Doug Hewitt, the city manager, and Colvin in a Nov. 29 email, saying he was not any more supportive of the 2017 swearing-in cost than he was of the $10,300 spent in 2015.
“I am writing to ask that we as a council collectively agree not to spend the amount of money appropriated or planned on for the inauguration,” Arp wrote. “I disagreed with the amount spent on the previous inauguration … and I want to be on the record that this is not an appropriate use of taxpayer money.”
Colvin, in response, said in the Dec. 4 news release that any private funds raised beyond this year's catering cost would be donated to the Bill Shaw Salvation Army Christmas Fund to assist needy families during the holiday season.
Like Mohn, the mayor is living up to his promise.
“I also have additional pledges to pick up for the event,” Colvin was saying Friday. “After this, I would like to move this discussion to more important areas of concern for the city like crime reduction, jobs and stormwater."
A final question, Mr. Mayor.
Who contributed, and how much did they contribute? Political slopes, even with the best of intentions, can be slippery, and city residents deserve to know.
Columnist Bill Kirby Jr. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 486-3571.