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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

More Mystery Police Grant Money Approvals by City Council

Maybe part of the reason the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department is fighting so hard to stop release of financial information is the uncovering of some items in their Department of Justice projects.  The DOJ has very strict rules on what money can be spent, how it must be approved in advance and more.  Council and the Mayor also won't release the information or answer questions.

CMPD Chief Rodney Monroe and his Public Affairs Captain Brian Cunningham, as well as City Manager Curt Walton, City Council, and Mayor Foxx have refused to answer whether the item Council voted through last Monday August 22nd labeled agenda item 22, “Upfit” for the Command Center was actually one in the same with the with the item that is listed under the US Dept. of Justice "HQ Workspace Renovation" item on CMPD's projects which shows $600,000 in approved funds, with a balance remaining of $38,976.93 and an outstanding encumbrance of $55,797.92 as of May 16, 2011? 

If it’s not the same item, it’s a remarkable coincidence in similarity of numbers and location for projects of Department of Justice Funds to be spent.  If it is the same money, there would be a big problem:  Federal law calls for approval of that money BEFORE it is spent, but the balance sheet clearly shows that the money is already out… 

Maybe that explains the relative silence and total lack of discussion at the City Council Meeting.

Maybe that explains the denial of Public Records requests regarding explanation for that agenda item.

Maybe that explains Michael Barnes refusal to explain what his “concerns” were and how they were “resolved” before he recommended the consent vote of this item.

Maybe it’s a completely different $600K spent on renovations at Police HQ, just months ago.  Citynewswatch would really like to know—and would like to know the reason for the secrecy surrounding both projects.

Asset & Forfeiture money—Funds which primarily come from seizures from illegal actions such as drug transactions and similar activity--is used to help law enforcement agencies in specific ways.  There are any number of items in the DOJ Asset & Forfeiture project money (that has been identified) in the CMPD which seem possibly to violate stated DOJ rules for such money, though it is unsure since CMPD refuses to answer any questions about the details of the project categories (Chief Monroe’s “Project Pool” and some other large disappearing amounts are among the other questions submitted).

City Council, Mayor Foxx, please explain what you have approved.

Taxpayers deserve to know.

Save a Life Today

The World Food Programme needs your help to save the world.
And it won't take very much effort or sacrifice on your part--even if things are a little "tight."  You can always buddy-up for the cause.   The United States government released this statistic:   In Somalia, in just 90 days, 29,000 children under the age of 6 died of starvation.  You have to say that at least twice out loud and then divide it up in your head to even begin to process it.  And that's just the under-6-year-olds from one country.  
Part of the problem is drought, but part of the problem is gaining access to give the aid.  Fourteen aid workers lost their lives and the Programme had to stop in 2010, but they are able to deliver food again.  An easy thing to do is dial your phone. 

If you can help even one time with a $10 donation, you can help save a life.  

Sending a text  A-I-D  to   27722   will donate $10 to the World Food Programme which is enough to feed a woman or a child for THREE WEEKS.  Of course, feel free to text as many lives as you can afford.  Or pace yourself and make it a regular thing.  And spread the word to friends.  The World Food Programme is a completely humanitarian organization established 50 years ago to feed people in third world countries.   Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya and other countries in the Horn of Africa are the most widely affected.  Other areas are served as well, including Haiti.

Go to   for information.

Watch WFP leader Bettina Luescher - United Nations "World Food Programme" *Interview (Aug.29/11) with David Letterman on the Late Show discuss the issue:

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

CMPD Blue Hornets "Charity" : $ Hundreds of Thousands Written Off

Citynewswatch would never donate a penny to any organization claiming it’s a charity that won’t disclose Board of Director Members or give a full accounting of their financial practices, even if a relative few dollars went to charity for the effort.  Using the City of Charlotte’s “CMPD” name while the City and the CMPD refuse to answer the same questions is not a good standard to allow.  This is not the only CMPD Charity with an unusual financial profile.

Compound that with the fact PUBLIC MONEY (according to CMPD and the tax returns of the organization) comprises a large component of the donations and operations of the group—total unknown--and a very small amount of money has actually gone to charity (as far as we know).  Only a couple of thousand dollars has been even identified by the CMPD Blue Hornets team as donated to charity.  Donors are unidentified.  There are apparently large amounts of public money funneled into or through this organization, shown to have benefit of tax write-offs for depreciation of hundreds of thousands of dollars against millions in property each year for the President, William David Graham, a Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Officer as well. 

Graham is listed with the Secretary of State as the Incorporator of the company, with two other initial CMPD officer shareholders; however, those shareholders appear to have been removed a few months later, leaving Graham the President and sole Shareholder, which is consistent with tax returns that follow.  See the full form at the NC Secretary of State’s web site:                          
(click on image to enlarge)

You can contact the IRS to see the full form 990 submitted each year for the organization, but this section of the 2010 submission is typical of each year’s submissions.  Specific questions to Zinkann, Graham, Monroe, Cunningham, and City officials regarding the $2,000,000 in property referenced on this CMPD Charity report have gone unanswered:
(click on image to enlarge)

Chief Monroe, Public Affairs Captain Brian Cunningham, Board of Directors Member and named team leader Captain Paul Zinkann (see team web site), and President of the Great Balls of Fire, Inc. Foundation have kept up a wall of silence for almost two months.  The Foundation accepts all donations on behalf of the CMPD Blue Hornets Team.  Again, the only comment was this woefully inadequate and possibly inaccurate statement from Captain Brian Cunningham:

          “Some local businesses and private citizens have supported the team.  Other than that the players have paid their own way to be members of the team. The only other funding source for the Blue Hornets baseball team was the purchase of their uniforms from the CMPD General Fund operating budget.”

There are some references within limited financial statements just accessed to payments for a “teamcharlo”  with dates of 1/13, 1/14, 1/21, 1/24,  and 2/17.  We could guess that those payments have to do with the baseball team, but maybe not?  They total $62,012.  Of course, even if those are charges related to the team—maybe uniforms, that’s before there was one penny of travel.  Who is paying for Travel and Lodging for the trip to Philadelphia, PA and New York, NY that the team is on now?  Maybe it’s the players, as the site and other published articles had insisted…  but the shattering silence from the numerous CMPD officials causes so many more questions. 

Who are the “local businesses?”  What is the reason for the extreme secrecy regarding their identity and amount of their contributions?  What relationships do they have with the police department, police officers, and the City of Charlotte?  It may be perfectly fine, but the lengths Monroe and others are going to in order to avoid Public Record Act requirements are shocking.  The timing of knowing that the players are currently wrapping up a tour in Philadelphia and New York City is questionable, even if we eventually get some sort of answer or excuse after the fact. 

The fact that City Manager Curt Walton, Mayor Foxx, City Council Members, and City Spokesperson Kim McMillan will not give an answer or investigate any of this is extremely disappointing.  If grant money, asset & forfeiture money, or regular budget money is being used for this purpose, it should be approved in advance.  The details of this organization need to be investigated.

Please send a short note to these City Council Representatives, Mayor Foxx, City Manager Curt Walton, and CMPD representatives expressing that you want an explanation for this and all financial and other issues outlined here in CITYNEWSWATCH.BLOGSPOT.COM .  

Email addresses are listed so you can cut and paste them easily into your own send box.

Anyone who wishes to see the entire exchange of requests which has been denied or ask for the financial information yourself as well, you have a right to do that:  Public Records Law is that you may ask for any public information—there is no right to refuse it in this way.  Please make that message clear to our leaders.   Or citynewswatch will be happy to save the City some time and money and post it here.    

You deserve to know how your money and your name is being used.   THANK YOU. 

Sunday, August 28, 2011

CMPD Attorney Warns Police Chiefs Not to Retaliate

Curt Walton, Charlotte’s City Manager just won’t answer any questions regarding hiring, retention, or promotion practices of Rodney Monroe at the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department.  Our Human Resources Representative Cheryl L. Brown decided she didn’t want to, either.  Council and the Mayor determined they could sit this one out as well.  (read full post here)

There were some vague references to CMPD Directives for a couple of positions, and a full vote of confidence in Rodney Monroe, no matter what questions were brought up.   Good news, though:  the CMPD’s very own lead attorney may be a valuable resource for advice on how things are supposed to happen with treatment of employees.

Attorney Mark Newbold heads the CMPD Attorneys Office. He wrote a paper for “The Police Chief:  The Professional Voice of Law Enforcement” about retaliation in the workplace against employees who have been forced to file complaints against employers.

In the 2007 paper, Newbold refers to a Supreme Court opinion about an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) complaint.  He explains that actions taken by the employer against either the employee who filed a complaint or any employee who may have helped them file it, if they cause harm that would “'dissuade a reasonable worker from making or supporting a charge of discrimination,' then the behaviors described above may now be admissible as evidence to support a retaliation claim filed by the plaintiff under Title VII.”

He goes on to say "what to watch out for" after an EEOC claim has been filed, but it seems like good advice of what to avoid before a claim is filed  (see full article link below for full list):

The employee is suddenly subjected to intense scrutiny.

The employee is transferred to a position that is lower in status without an objective need to do so.

The employee’s shift hours are changed for no apparent reason.

The employee is denied opportunities available to other workers such as training or other company perks. These perks might include schedule adjustment to accommodate child care or to attend educational classes.

An immediate supervisor is building a case against a subordinate rather than correcting poor performance.

Citynewswatch would like to add denial of accepting complaints to the list, leaving employees to feel vulnerable and damaged.  The problem is that problems are known and being ignored.  They range from personnel who did not meet the criteria stated in the CMPD Directives and/or were promoted ahead of more qualified personnel with no justification or positions created and paid for which are not in any way identified in CMPD Directives, such as RAC’s and Executive Officers.  Is that a convenient way to make an end-run around following rules or answering for them?  Requests for details of position postings and process review have been denied.

Mr. Newbold was correct in stating the following in his paper in the notes:

“Plainly effective enforcement could thus only be expected if employees felt free to approach officials with their grievances.”

Read Mr. Newbold’s full article here 

Friday, August 26, 2011

Another Week of Silence from Charlotte's Political Leaders

Editorial Staff of citynewswatch has received confirmation that neither Chief Monroe, his representatives, Curt Walton, nor Mayor Foxx or Council has responded to any of the financial concerns expressed directly to them about the Police Department operations as of close-of-business today (Friday, August 26th).  Neither have they responded regarding the concerns about the pressure (intimidation?) and delays from the Office of the Chief.  None has responded, either, to concerns over CMPD claims of complete confusion over the state of Millions of our dollars.

Well, that’s not entirely accurate…  Once citynewswatch made these financial concerns public, (see earlier post here ), there was a very quick mention at Monday's Council Meeting by Councilman Barnes he had some concerns, but they had been resolved.  The problem is, he won’t explain what his concerns were, or how they were resolved (see post here ).

The response from Council was to heave another $600K Monroe’s direction Monday evening (August 22nd), unfunded, and with the expectation that it will be reimbursed from a $55 Million Federal Grant which Mayor Foxx has asked for, but does not have yet.

Even if we had the approved grant, does that mean we should spend money unnecessarily?   Council has declined to supply any detail of the “CMPD Command Center Upfit” we’ll be paying for.   Is “money from Washington” free money?  No.  The country is drowning in taxpayer debt.  Also, if there are legitimate questions that should be investigated and explained concerning the handling of Federal money, is it advisable to overlook them and potentially risk any involvement with the rest of the pending $55 Million Grant and others? 
It is advisable to do so for the sake of giving complete autonomy and secrecy to a public agency and public employee controlling public funds?  No.

More to come on Federal Grants.

UPDATE 9/3/2011:  citynewswatch has received confirmation that City Manager Walton, Councilman Barnes, Mayor Foxx, any other Council member, or any CMPD representative has not supplied any information or response to date concerning the above public information requests or the stated concerns. 

The Charlotte Observer stated that immediately after the August 22nd meeting, City Manager Curt Walton claimed he didn't know the details of the nearly $600,000 item Council had just voted to approve--which is stunning, especially considering that it had been removed for at least a few moments, but that Barnes said all of his concerns had been cleared up.  (see CO article here)

Citynewswatch asks again: Councilman Barnes:  Please state your concerns openly.  Please state openly how those concerns were resolved.  Please publish the items that are included on this unfunded, City-Council-Approved budget item that your City Manager doesn't know the details of... It is the public's right to know.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Charlotte City Council Throws More Money at Chief Rodney Monroe

On the list of agenda items at last night’s Charlotte City Council meeting (8/22/2011) was this item:

“22. Police Command Center Upfit”

There was no Council discussion over the dollar amount of the ”upfit.”  Chief Monroe did not show up to give any presentation concerning what they are calling an “upfit.”  Reports elsewhere are that the amount is $600,000.

Item 22  Michael Barnes had been pulled the item, but when Mayor Foxx asked him why, he responded this way:

 “Mr. Mayor, I pulled that item. I believe my concerns and my initial questions have been resolved so I move to approve that item.”

It was then unanimously approved.  It was all over in seconds. 

Without sounding overly-cynical, unless the public is provided an explanation of how those concerns were expressed and investigated, then resolved, it seems like just a show to justify more payments.   There goes another $600,000 to Chief Monroe’s special projects, to a Police Chief whom they have allowed to continue to operate under his own rules, despite being informed of issues that need to be investigated. Why didn’t any other Council Member or the Mayor ask some questions of Monroe’s boss, Curt Walton?

If Michael Barnes is satisfied about his ‘concerns and initial questions’, how about sharing with the class? 

There is still known (positive) action, or even reply, from any council member regarding the seemingly intimidating way the Office of the Chief/Chief Monroe have behaved when asking for the financial information.  I wonder why?

Taxpayers are out another $600,000 for another “upfit,” just after lower-ranking police officers were told there just isn’t any money for raises.

Chief Monroe didn’t show up last night.

Editor's note:  Use the links to the left to see the Meeting video.  More importantly, use the e-mail addresses to the right to tell Council, the Mayor, and the City Manager how you feel about all of the items here (or anything else you feel they should know about). 

Monday, August 22, 2011

Another Disclosure Delay, Past Tomorrow Night’s Council Request for More Money?

The person who requested financial information from the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department in early July with results outlined in an earlier post Ask about Police Finances, Get Demand for Personal Appearance at Police Headquarters , and also from the City’s Finance Department received a response from Councilwoman Patsy Kinsey dated Saturday evening.  It contained only the forward of a quote said to be from CMPD Attorney Mark Newbold.  The response was forwarded to citynewswatch as well and is below. 

·       Tomorrow, Chief Monroe will go before Council to ask for $600,000 to ask for remodeling money for CMPD facilities.

·       A couple of weeks ago, Chief Monroe wrote that he and Curt Walton were giving a highly-taxed, 1% lump sum compensation to CMPD employees (not a raise) with a letter stating he wished there were more to give…

·       This was just after giving out some big actual raises to the Brass that support the Chief…

·       And City Manager Curt Walton doesn’t want to talk about that, either (see story here )

Dear Ms. Kinsey, with regards to all others,

Thank you for forwarding the quote from Mr. Newbold's response to you.  However, I need to point out that the accuracy of the content of his quote is just not correct.

“Information responsive to (writer’s) first request was forwarded to (writer) on August 2, 2011. Captain Cunningham who oversees our public relations office received another e-mail expanding/clarifying his requests on August 3, 2011.  I anticipate that the Department will respond to his request for additional documentation within one week.”   (Mark Newbold)

A reading of the correspondence between the various police department employees, including the Board Member of a "CMPD charity" receiving public funds, the finance department employees, and the references to conversations during which the requests were extremely clear and which dated back to early in July do not support Mr. Newbold's comments.  I hope that incorrect notion will be corrected. 

It also seems, then, that Mr. Newbold's comments read in isolation as they are here, are intended to both overlook and justify in some way the very inappropriate behavior by employees of the City of Charlotte, including the Office of the Chief of Police, when requesting information about the financial actions of the Police Department of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department.

I still expect to have a response regarding the intimidating demands to provide personal information and a personal appearance at Police Headquarters in order to get a response to questions regarding the financial receipts and spending of the Police. 

The fact that there has been a promise of an about face (and I say promise, because information still has not been provided) does not negate the activities which have occurred prior to this date. 

I also hope that the full Council and Mayor will be discussing the issues of the conduct of the Police Department, the conduct of the Finance department who either chose or was also intimidated into not revealing the information, and the spokesperson for the City who supported all of this.  

I also hope you will take a hard look at the financial information which has been requested, because it seems one obvious conclusion could be there is a very hard push not to let anyone see this public information about how our public money is really being spent.

Thank you for you continued involvement in this matter.

UPDATE:  Upon learning the Police Chief planned to go before Council the evening of August 22nd to ask for nearly $600,000 while still claiming to be so confused they can not assemble what amounts to simple cash flow statements for their department , another letter was sent to all members listed below to enlist their more direct intervention to get to the bottom of what has been going on with all issues—and not to issue any more money for special projects before all other monies and activities are accounted for.  Please join in asking for this accountability.


Dear Ms. Kinsey and all others,
I have been informed that there is a Charlotte City Council meeting tomorrow evening and that Chief Monroe intends to ask for $600,000 to do more remodeling.  This request is immediately following statements of lack of funds to give raises to officers, and of course, claims that no one in the City of Charlotte has a handle on the true financial picture of Police Department activities.  I would add to the letter below that in no way should this additional spending request be approved before all matters cited below are cleared and discussed publicly. 
I would ask and encourage you to use the time scheduled August 22nd with Chief Monroe appearing before Council to ask some deep questions regarding all of the activity and the financials cited below.
Thank you again for your attention.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

CRVA Losses Not the Same as Other Losses?

So, here is the question citynewswatch still has:
Has the CRVA (Charlotte Regional Visitors Association) been reporting losses to Charlotte Taxpayers in a way that makes sense to the average Taxpayer?

Here is some information to help you decide:
Profit & Loss Statements were requested July 27th of Molly Hedrick (Communications Director for the CRVA), then repeatedly after that.  She refused to fill the request, even though the City of Charlotte designated her to give public records information.  Also, even when the writer tried to redirect back to City of Charlotte employees, Ms. Hendrick wrote to say she should be the one to be contacted.  However, nearly innumerable emails later, she still would not fill the request.  
This led to another request to the CRVA Board Members explaining the frustrating refusal of public information release, particularly in light of their newly-avowed transparency.
That letter received a response--not from a helpful, open Board Member, but from an attorney representing them and who stated he didn’t know what a P & L statement was. 

Meanwhile, citynewsatch obtained the Profit & Loss statements for all CRVA venues.  There's a link for you to view them below.  The quest to view this information is documented  in weeks of exhaustive, time-consuming, delaying requests which first put off the release of P&L sheets past the monthly CRVA Meeting with the Press this past Wednesday, and then claimed inability to answer a couple of straightforward questions about accounting terms.  Finally, at close of business on Friday August 20th, a partial answer arrived, but had skimmed over some important points.   In general terms, both the City and the CRVA completely deflected the number one question at the top concerning the real losses and what’s being reported about the amounts and sources of funding.  It seems extraordinary efforts are being made to delay and frustrate any release of information.  Direct questions are rebuffed.

Also, neither the City of Charlotte nor CRVA representatives will give an answer to the following question, which was asked of each entity separately:
“What is the amount and status of the loan to the City for the NASCAR Hall of Fame?” 
with the exception that Attorney Furr, representing the CRVA said this:
“The CRVA does not have a loan with the City for the NASCAR Hall of Fame. The City built the NASCAR Hall of Fame and hence is responsible for the financing plan.  The CRVA operates the NASCAR Hall of Fame under the provisions of the Charter, as amended by the General Assembly.

Is there a way for the City of Charlotte and the CRVA to stop paying attorneys and other employees to avoid answering questions about how they are spending our money?  Could someone please take responsibility to provide straight-forward answers about what is happening downtown? 

"Operating Losses"   "Claims ... lost"
Back to the big question:  Has the CRVA (Charlotte Regional Visitors Association) been reporting their losses to Charlotte Taxpayers in a way that makes sense to the average Taxpayer?  And are numbers accurate?  Reports from local media outlets stemming from the monthly CRVA meeting this past Wednesday were worded in this way:   Eric Spanberg of the Charlotte Business Journal said the CRVA reported thatThe hall of fame finished its first full year with an operating deficit of $1.4 million” and goes on to say “Lack of attendance made those earlier forecasts unattainable. Ticket sales were expected to generate $11.5 million in the fiscal 2011 budget. Sales for the year missed that target by 64%, with total admissions revenue of $4.1 million.” (read full article here)   
And the Charlotte Observer says “the CRVA claims the Hall lost about $1.4 million, its Visit Charlotte branch, which markets the city, lost about $720,000 and other facilities such as Ovens Auditorium and Bojangles' Coliseum lost smaller amounts.”    (read full article here)   
The problem is that the numbers provided by CRVA don’t match the Profit and Loss statements (see FY10 here).
The P&L Sheets show $1,163,073 for NASCAR Hall of Fame box office and ticket sales.  Even if the category “authority sponsored events” turns out to be more ticket sales at $347,275, it still wouldn’t add up to $4.1 million ticket sales as reported by the CRVA, but only about half. 
Their real LOSS BEFORE NON-OPERATING REVENUES is $4,283,027.  It’s only after the infusion of $3,162,659 from the unexplained CRVA Fund Balance that losses are diminished to the neighborhood of $1.4 million dollars reported.  And of course, no one will answer the loan status question.
As for the Visit Charlotte Branch, the real LOSS BEFORE NON-OPERATING REVENUES is $10,172,478.  After the Additional Operating Subsidy of $9,980,822, there’s still a reported loss of $191,656….  Where they came up with $720,000 in reported losses is a complete mystery for now.

Where are those numbers?
Here is the explanation of the two most enormous numbers on the LOSSES for the CRVA venues.  I remind you that the CRVA wouldn’t say prior to close of business Friday (or since) what these numbers represent, and the matrix of funding sources they provided only invites more questions…   
For the Visit Charlotte , both the Operating Expenses and Capital Expenses have Funding Sources defined in exactly the same way:  Collections from an County-wide hotel and motel tax; prepared food and beverage tax; and income from partnership organizations, housing, website income, and Visitor Center.   What partnership organizations?  What housing?  What about the rest?  And how much money for each?  Could we get some straight answers, PLEASE?
For the NASCAR Hall of Fame, the Funding Source is the Operating Surplus Generated by Operations (of which there clearly none at this point); and any deficits are covered by the CRVA FUND balance.  

Thanks for the concert ticket policy change, and cheaper dinners, but…
So, CRVA has introduced some new limitations on spending for meals, on the number of free concert tickets available for CRVA employees, and on whether money could be paid directly to employees from clients.  Of course, even with these introductions, they left themselves some wiggle room on that last item. 
Overall, though, I would prefer if they kept dancing at the concerts and eating out if that’s what it takes to get answers about the millions of dollars of tax and other currently unexplained money going to prop up these venues which the CRVA is operating at a

Note: while labeling seems to have changed, the Fiscal Year ends in June each year.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

City of Charlotte, CMPD Still Won’t Release Police Finance Records

To all citynewswatch readers who have been reading, checking, waiting for
CMPD financial information: 

Expectations were that Mayor Foxx and all City Council Members would be so concerned by news regarding the actions of the Police Department, the City Manager’s office, and Corporate Communications Office:
·       That anyone in any of these offices would do something less than full disclosure of financial dealings of the Police Department,
·       That the sequence of clear request with the appropriate CMPD finance personnel was apparently then urgently funneled to the Public Affairs Captain in the Office of the Chief
·       That the Office of the Chief then insisted on a personal meeting, made other demands for personal information, provided what seemed to be some incorrect information, then refused to provide any information on the basis of a demand for personal appearance at Police Headquarters
would have caused an immediate call for Finances to be open and available to post, but not so.

After initial attempts beginning August 9th asking for intervention of our City leadership to release public information and put an end to activity more fully described here which has been continuing since early July, City Councilwoman Patsy Kinsey kindly responded—copying the rest of Council, Mayor Foxx, and the entire list given below.    Ms. Kinsey said in part, the “City Attorney ... has informed me that Police Attorney, Mark Newbold, is looking into the situation and will notify those on the above e-mail list when his research is complete.” 

The email here sent to all of these personnel received no response, as of close of business today (August 18, 2011):

Dear Ms. Kinsey,
When, out of all the requests to each of the members on this list, you did respond that you had contacted the City Attorney, who informed a Police Attorney to “look into the situation,” I had high hopes that the Public Record Act would be followed, that the information would be released immediately.
However, several more days later after the initial many weeks of waiting, CMPD and the City have persisted in withholding that public information, and I wanted to be sure you were aware of that.
In addition, if there is research underway by Mr. Newbold regarding what happened to cause CMPD employees or other City employees to withhold, delay, or possibly try to intimidate anyone who asks questions about the financial processes conducted by the Police Department, I think that would be a good idea.  However, I do not agree that it would in any way be a reason to keep the public information secret.  As you know, N.C.G.S. 132 states that the public record is the “property of the people,” not to be kept hidden by a select few government employees.
1)      Please, will you release the requested information this afternoon?
2)      If any of you or Mr. Newbold would like to make any comments about what investigation you are conducting into the matter of the improper withholding of the information, then please do so as well.
Thank you very much.

Sent to:

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Ask about Police Finances, Get Demand for Personal Appearance at Police Headquarters

The hard press to avoid answering questions about the money--to state it plainly--ranged from

  • Demands for a personal appearance at Police Headquarters       to

  • Release of what seems like a specially-concocted Excel sheet of dollar amounts      to

  • Complete City-wide silence on the whole matter

What it hasn’t led to is an open release of public financial information regarding the income and spending of the Police Department.

Demands to come to Police Headquarters were first explained “to set up a time that you can come down to Police Headquarters to pick up this information.” The Captain wanted to meet and talk. When it was pointed out that this would be a completely unnecessary use of high-ranking Police and civilian time in order to accomplish e-mailing a few sheets of information, Police pressed further. Requesting citizen asked “Do you have any concerns?” about the request. None were stated. None were expected, since the request had been clarified with the appropriate Finance personnel the week before… Eventually, this agreed-upon desire not to waste time has been filled with many other delays, misdirects, excuses, and what feels like outright intimidation toward the citizen requesting the information.

Later, the same Captain Brian Cunningham of the Office of the Chief, Public Affairs, and others claimed to be so confused by the information which includes basic operating “money in” and “money out” for the Police Department that they demanded a sit-down conversation with the requester in order to proceed. Reading the request and the many additional contacts supplied as police continued to ask questions in seeming delay tactics, and knowing that the entire thing had been crystal clear with Mr. Crystal in CMPD’s Finance division via a phone conversation the week before the first written request... well, none of their rationales make sense. In fact lawyers were called in to claim that the numerous unnecessary e-mails generated by CMPD then constituted a valid reason to deny the information because the writer “has not agreed to sit down with CMPD representatives…” Outrageous.

If the City and/or CMPD sincerely does not know all the Asset & Forfeiture (like drug money seizures), Grants, Operating Budget, and any other possible sources of income to the CMPD, then there is a problem in our City Leadership. If they don’t know how the CMPD is spending all that money, then there is a huge problem.

Continuing to support the Department in keeping books closed to public view is contrary to the reason for the public records law, which is purposefully spelled out in the City Council Code of Ethics.

Some Explaining to Do?

Why is the Public Affairs Captain in the Office of the Chief of Police intervening in a public request to see the “books?” Is there something unpleasant there? When asked two separate times if one Excel sheet sent by Captain Cunningham was made solely for the request, there was no response. If Captain Cunningham’s data was accurate, then someone has some explaining to do:

On the heels of Chief Monroe’s controversial promotions to some upper-level employees (see previous post here ), followed by a letter sent from Chief Monroe to staff explaining lump-sum payments to CMPD staff of 1% of annual compensation, out of the City’s surplus. Monroe says he “wishes there were more to be given.” ( See letter here )

Captain Cunningham reported that the Fiscal Year 2012 Budget contains $175,945,041 for Personal Expenses. How would those expenses break down? Personal Shoppers? Personal Chefs? Personal Security? More trips out of town? Another new car for the Chief (that’s probably not considered a personal expense, but maybe we should check on that, too)? Or do you think it’s more likely Captain Cunningham’s numbers were not the correct ones?

And there’s the Blue Hornets baseball team:

Citynewswatch only found out about possible issues with the CMPD baseball team, the Blue Hornets, by reading, a place where you will find lots of fascinating information on many topics, including the operations of the police. It’s also another place you will find extremely supportive of the majority of CMPD men and women doing the hard and often dangerous work on the streets of Charlotte to keep us safe. Some of these officers spend much of their own time and I’m sure some of their own money to participate in the team. I believe the player’s intentions are great and have produced some good outcomes, ranging from fellowship and exercise to visibility to some donations made to a couple of Charities. Speaking with the director of the only receiving charity listed on the site, however, she stated she had never seen any accounting of the financials of the organization—only received a check from the team’s efforts.

The web site for the team stated that no tax-payer funds are used for the team, that players pay for their own uniforms, and that there are some donors. The site also says that the team raises money for Charities. There have been some slight changes to the site in recent days.

These questions were sent to Major Paul Zinkann, listed as the contact and a member of the Board of Directors (no other Members of the Board are listed):

Are Asset and Forfeiture monies used for the team? Are Grant monies used for the team? Are any other public funds that may not be considered "tax-payer funds" used for the team? Who are the donors? How much do they donate? What are the funds used for? What are all the expenses for the team? How much has been donated to charity? Which charities have received funds? How much? All of this information should be on a Board of Directors Annual report already available. Is that correct?

No answers have been received with any dollar amounts or details during the past month of inquiries. Captain Cunningham replied only in this way (after two weeks of working on an answer):

“Some local businesses and private citizens have supported the team. Other than that the players have paid their own way to be members of the team. The only other funding source for the Blue Hornets baseball team was the purchase of their uniforms from the CMPD General Fund operating budget.” (Editor's note: The web site and published articles formerly stated that team members paid for their own uniforms)

The web site continues to reference a Board of Directors, but no names are supplied. It says to contact Paul Zinkann for details, but Captain Zinkann won’t answer the questions from above for weeks. Though the CMPD will not answer any questions that include dollar amounts or give any response beyond what is quoted above, editorial staff of Citynewswatch has researched the Great Balls of Fire foundation listed as the place to make donations. IRS 990 filings show the corporation to have a current Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Officer as President, and also show hundreds of thousands of dollars of indirect depreciation listed under “election to expense certain property” on form 4562. There is no explanation for what that property is. The officer’s name is being withheld temporarily until he personally has an opportunity to comment on this specific issue. Maybe there is some property associated with the charity?  Is there more than just the baseball team associated with Great Balls of Fire?  There is no way to tell from the available paperwork, and CMPD has refused to tell anything about it.

1% lump sum compensation given to CMPD Staff

These questions were posed to City Finance, but they wouldn’t answer, and said Capt. Cunningham would “coordinate” a response for all the information, while at the same time indicating no response at all was forthcoming…

1) The Chief has sent a letter to the CMPD staff explaining that there was a 1% lump sum compensation one-time payment given to employees out of a surplus from the City of Charlotte operating budget. Would you please tell me how much money that is in total? I assume that is easily known since it's already paid out at one time as bonus amounts which were calculated as a split among employees.

2) Also, was that the only option available to the City on the method to pay it out? (i.e., could they have paid it as a health care cost reduction or raise or some other way with that would have resulted in a lower tax impact for employees?)

3) Did the upper-level CMPD employees who had already just received raises also receive this 1% lump sum compensation?

Keith Richardson in Charlotte’s Corporate Communications Department—with acquiescence from Mayor, Council, City Manager, and the Chief’s Office—state that refusal to answer these and all questions in this post are in compliance with Public Records Law.

I don’t want to see anything that has been “coordinated” or delayed any longer. I just want to see the books. Please write to Council, the Mayor, and City Manager Curt Walton to demand that full financial information regarding the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department is released immediately.

Please tell them not to allow the Police Chief or any of his representatives to demand that anyone produce themselves in person or require personal information when asking about any operation of the Police Department that may tend to be controversial. Please tell them to instruct the other appropriate departments—Finance and others, in this case—to give information when requested. Please tell them to quit making up provisions in the Public Records Law. We have a right to know.

If they would like to be efficient, they can send information to, and I’ll post it here for everyone to review. That would save lots of time and money.