Caulfield responds to allegations of bias
by Staff Writer
Dec. 07, 2010
I appreciate you contacting me concerning my vote so that the information you have is indeed accurate. I know that you may not be able to include all of this information word for word but am asking you to be sure that the intent is accurate and that you please include the sentences that I have made bold.
I will answer your questions in 2 parts. I will give you my researched and thought out reasons for not approving a bonus to HSW and instead voting to use the money to start paying back the 5 million plus that is owed to our general fund. And as you are aware I was not the one that made that motion and 2 other Commissioners voted the same way. And I will also address the personal questions that you have raised.
When I approach what I consider a major decision affecting our town I do not reach those decisions lightly nor do I make those decisions based on what past Boards or Board members have done. I do my own research and I make sure that my decisions are based on all of the facts that I can gather. I have always been one to ask a lot of questions in order to try and understand a matter fully and so this much research on a serious matter is usual for me. Feel free to read my blog concerning my vote in reference to condemnation and you may ask Ms. Pierson about the extra work I caused her in researching all of the past votes and minutes in reference to my decision on the Verhoeff Bridge.
It is sad that no other Boards in the past have required that the 5 million plus that was loaned to this project out of our general fund be paid back. Although it would be my guess that this had been discussed by some in the past as the 2 other Commissioners that voted for it this time were on the Board before. But just because it was never done in the past does not mean that I won't attempt to do what I believe is required from the contract between the Town and HSW and also stated in NC General Statues concerning an Enterprise Fund. And just because past Boards have not used the criteria set forth within our contract does not mean that I won't. I would encourage you to read the full contract between the Town and HSW along with the attachments stating the goals that were to be met, which were made a part of the contract as well as reading NC General Statue 143C1-3 regarding the requirements of an Enterprise Fund.
During a very difficult economic time for many people including Huntersville residents took the decision whether or not to award a bonus to HSW very seriously. However, I was prepared to vote for a bonus if our contract required it knowing full well that it would not go over well with many of my fellow fiscal conservatives. So I did my homework and found out that the measurements that had been set up in the contract had not been met. Not only had they not been met but the stated goal was to get to a place of break even or better (it's been operating for 8 plus years). And the whole reason for an Enterprise Fund is so that one can measure if the project is paying for itself. NC Statue 143C also states regarding an Enterprise Fund b. 'Laws and regulations require that the activity's costs of providing services, including capital costs, be recovered with fees and charges rather than with taxes or similar revenue.' c. 'The pricing policies of the activity establish fees and charges designed to recover it's costs, including capital costs.' So I have to surmise that the 5 Million plus that the town used from our tax revenues to build this facility MUST be paid back. The history is that the Town took out a bank loan for $4,850,000, $2.7 million was given by Duke Energy in lieu of annexation, and $5 million plus was taken out of our general fund.
The condition for a bonus payment in our contract is, 'based upon HSW successively obtaining established goals pursuant to the long range financial plan for the facilities'. One of the expressed goals is to: 'Improve financial results of the project by setting forth a business plan that will achieve break-even or better.' They are also to provide multi-year projections, which I have never seen, and goal #5 is to Increase dollar per member and dollar per non-member collections. I have never seen any data showing that this has been accomplished and aimed at. We pay HSW mgmt. company $153,750 a year to manage the facility and we expect them to stay within the budget that is set, which is over $3 million dollars. A bonus isn't given for staying within one's budget but for going above and beyond and in this case to meet the goal of breaking even or better as well as the other ones stated and this has not been met.
Concerning the personal questions and whether I feel I can make my decision in an unbiased manner...
Yes, it is true that I was employed at HFFA as a Guest Relations Manager. I have never kept that a secret and everyone on our staff and our Board knows this. While I was working at HFFA I read an article in The Charlotte Observer dated May 24, 2009. It was describing how the Town of Huntersville was to pay $250,000 to clear title after already paying $316,000 in reference to Discovery Place/Town Center. I was appalled. Being a real estate broker I knew that this was not the norm, both the high amount of the closing costs or that a buyer would pay to clear title. I had been involved for years in politics and had known at some point I would run. That information is what caused me to make my decision to run for Town Board. So, the decision to run for Town Board was made long before I was let go from HSW, which was around the first week of July, 2009 and my decision to run was based on exactly what this issue is about. I expect a steward over my tax dollars to not make flippant decisions, to take the time necessary to research the matter so that it is based on the facts, and to have the guts to stand up to the status quo and safe guard OUR money.
While I was working at HFFA I spoke to several people about the fact that I was running for Town Board and I will include a couple of their names so that you can be sure that I choose to run for office long before the day I was let go and not because I was let go. Several weeks before I was terminated I had a conversation with Commissioner Karen Bentley. I had asked her advise because I was working at HFFA and felt it would be a conflict of interest to stay there if I were to win my election. Commissioner Bentley had advised me to speak with the Huntersville Town attorney and I had planned to do that but was released before that conversation took place. So, I was already aware that I would most likely have to resign due to a conflict of interest if I were to win. You can confirm that conversation with Comm. Bentley. You may also speak to John Deem from The Lake Norman Citizen. He and I worked together at HFFA and we had many conversations while I was employed at HFFA about the fact that I was going to be running for Town Board.
The day I was let go I was told it was because I was looking into HSW's finances and that it was none of my business. I explained that I was running for Town Board and that I was looking into ALL of the finances of the town and that it was nothing personal and that the records were public record. I also let Ms. Jetton know that I had planned on speaking with the Town attorney to check on a conflict of interest in staying there and had planned to speak with the attorney and her the next week and would have had to resign most likely anyway if I were to win my election. At that point we parted ways.
This past summer while serving on the Board Ms. Jetton had asked to meet with me. I let several people, including our Town Manager know about this meeting, taking my advice from the Bible which states that we should avoid even the appearance of wrong doing. I did not want there to appear anything fishy since their contract was coming up for renewal and so I let several people know our meeting was for personal reasons. We met at Jetton Park over the summer and I happened to see 2 different people that I knew while I was there with her and so that can be verified as well. Ms. Jetton made an apology to me for letting me go before hearing the facts and for believing rumors. I chose to forgive her and have not held it against her as we all have made mistakes As stated on my facebook page over Thanksgiving we can choose to be bitter in life or we can choose to allow situations to make us better, I chose the latter. So, to your question, do I feel there is any conflict in me fulfilling my obligations as a Town Board member and as a steward over the Residents of Huntersville Tax Dollars, the answer is absolutely NO. My decision was based on the requirements of our contract and NC Statue concerning an Enterprise Fund.
And yes, my son, works at HFFA as a life guard and has for over 3 years. We just completed our Ethics class and the questions you raised were gone over. My son has absolutely nothing to gain by me voting on HSW's bonus or contract so there is therefore no conflict of interest. The Mayor's son had also been employed as a lifeguard at HFFA in the past for quite some time and there were never questions raised about it and nor do there need to be.
I have copied Mr. Deem as well as Commissioner Bentley, I will be posting a copy of our email exchange on my Blog, as well as sending it out to my email list. Thank you for wanting to print the truth and not rumors or hear say. Please feel free to contact me should you need clarification of anything. Thank you, danae
Beth 'Danae' Caulfield
Commissioner ~ Town of Huntersville