Hendersonville Developer Claims Bribing the Mayor

By Neil Siders  /  Everything Henderson County

On Thursday September 18, 2014 Everything Hendersonville obtained an audio tape of a former top ranking HALO Reality, Inc. official stating that a group he was part of had allegedly paid Hendersonville Mayor Scott Foster’s engineering firm a considerable amount of money for non existing engineering projects, in order to secure Foster’s cooperation.

In the recording, Randy Hoffman states that the group he was part of had paid Foster Engineering for projects that were never intended as real projects in order to secure his cooperation.
The audio was provided by former Public Works Director Jerry Horton. Horton was terminated by the City relating to a TOSHA investigation regarding Horton’s hiring of a female employee.

Horton recorded the conversation with Hoffman on his cell phone.

Horton said the group Hoffman was referring to at the time was HALO Realty, and that project they were discussing involved a $250,000 Planning Commission and Public Works note for road improvements that HALO was relieved of in 2011.

In the recording Horton states “Well, I mean you were part of that group over here that supported Scott.” Horton said, as he questioned Hoffman, he pointed to the section of road that Halo had been obligated to provide funding for road improvements.

“Oh yeah, those guys wrote a big ass check to Foster Engineering for work that never got done,” said Hoffman on the audio recording.  According to meeting minutes and press coverage Hoffman attended the February 1, 2011 meeting of the Hendersonville Planning Commission demanding the note be removed.

On the recording Horton then asks, “Well, it looks like he would remember that?”

“He doesn’t care, He doesn’t care, that was it,” said Hoffman.

“It’s what you have done for me today, ain’t it?” said Horton.

“Yes, yep,” said Hoffman.

“And you’re not in a position to help him right now?” said Horton.

“No,” said Hoffman.

“Back when I was getting all of his projects done, and paving everything I could, he was as nice as he could be,” said Horton. “But today, I swear I think the guy hates me, and I don’t know why.”

“I am in the same boat,” said Hoffman.

The conversation went on to detail problems Hoffman was having with Foster in getting a project, Waterford Crossing, approved and Foster’s refusal to discuss the situation.

“I honestly think he is trying to blow the deal (Waterford Crossing) up,” said Hoffman. “I think there is almost resentment with you and resentment with me, like we are the old guard and he has to take a new path.”

“It’s like he is reinventing himself,” said Horton.

“Let me tell you something, those guys will shift backward on him in a minute,” said Hoffman. “And you and I are loyal to a fault, but the problem is you and I have a lot of shit on him, and so he has to remember that.”

“I don’t think he does, I don’t think he cares, that is the weird thing, it’s almost like, he’s like, just come at me,” said Horton.

*Reader and listener discretion is advised. This audio includes vulgar language and some adult situations.*

The $250,000 Planning Commission and Public Works note Horton referred to obligated HALO Inc. to provide the funding to install traffic signals and stripe the bridge crossing 386 (Vietnam Veterans’ Boulevard).

Several Aldermen objected to releasing HALO form the obligation during the February 22, 2011 Board of Mayor and Aldermen Meeting.

Everything Hendersonville confirmed with three separate Aldermen that the Mayor stated the reason HALO was being relieved of the obligation was TDOT was initiating a project that would install the traffic signals and road striping at no cost to the City.

The Mayor repeatedly stated that the TDOT project was 100 percent funded and would result in no cost for the City.

The subject of HALO’s release from their obligation was covered in the Hendersonville Star News by reporter Tena Lee. In the article Foster again stated that the project was funded 100 percent by TDOT and Federal Stimulus funds.

In 2014, while Horton was still employed by the City, he received a bill from TDOT for approximately $300,000; included in the bill was a request for $100,000 the City owed TDOT for the striping and signalization of the bridge.

Horton provided copies of the TDOT bill to Everything Hendersonville confirming that the City of Hendersonville did owe TDOT $100,000 for the project.

Link to a PDF of the Bill and invoice

Stated in the by line on the letter received along with the invoice state “Interchange at Indian Lake Boulevard in Hendersonville.”

“Dear Mr. Minnicks” states the letter, “Enclosed is a Statement of Progress Cost for the above referenced project along with a copy of the invoice that summarizes the amount due. This billing is in accordance with the agreement dated March 26, 2010 between the City of Hendersonville and the State of Tennessee Department of Transportation. Please send payment of $100,095.41 made payable to Tennessee Department of Transportation. Please send payment at the following address.”

Attached with the letter is an invoice showing TDOT’s $199,999.94 contribution to the project and again lists the $100,095.41 as Hendersonville’s contribution to the project.

Horton said he was asked to find funding to pay the bill without notifying the Board of Mayor and Aldermen.

Horton said at the time he objected to the Mayor’s request as he was aware that any expenditure over $5,000 must go before the Board. Recently Hendersonville changed the requirement for Board notification to expenditures over $10,000.

Horton also provided copies of a contracts Foster signed with the TDOT, stating that TDOT would fund the project up $200,000 and the City was obligated to generate the rest of the funding required for the project.

The Mayor and City Attorney signed three separate contracts with the State of Tennessee. The first two contracts stated that TDOT would provide two separate $100,000 payments for the project. The last contract combined the first two stating TDOT would cover up to $200,000 for the project.

Original projections of the cost of installing traffic signals and striping the bridge were between $250,000 and $300,000.

The result of Foster allegedly removing the note in exchange for a payment from HALO Inc, cost taxpayers $100,000 that HALO was obligated to contribute in exchange for the right to further develop the Streets of Indian Lake.

Furthermore, Horton said he could confirm the rumor that Scott Foster was utilizing City equipment to operate Foster Engineering and Energy. Horton provided a list of projects which he had personally witnessed the Mayor working on while at City Hall.

Horton said that several of Foster’s engineers were also employed by HALO Inc. and that Foster was utilizing HALO’s offices to house the employees and send and receive materials.

Horton said that the use of HALO offices further demonstrates the unethical connection between HALO and Foster Engineering.

According to state law, governmental officials accepting a bribe or someone attempting to bribe a government official are a Class B felony. If the accusations are proven true the actions would also violate Hendersonville’s ethics policy.

In an interview, Hoffman attempted to deny making the statement. Following Everything Hendersonville’s reporter playing the recording for Hoffman, he stated that he was speculating that another group may have attempted to pay Foster Engineering.

During the interview Hoffman contradicted himself.

Before Hoffman heard the actual recording he said “What I do say is I honestly can not tell you today, if I was on the stand, I do not know of any situation where HALO properties wrote Forster engineer a check. I am not saying they didn’t, I don’t know because I did not handle the books, I have said that before,” said Hoffman.

After hearing the recording Hoffman said “I will tell you because of the investigative work and the forensic accounting when the lawsuit occurred, I have been though all of the checks, I don’t recall seeing a HALO check, Indian Lake Village, Indian Lake Village West check, or any check from the accounting stuff going to Foster Engineering.

After being asked about his contradicting statements Hoffman said “I can’t tell you (if HALO ever wrote Foster Engineering a check). I did not handle the money for HALO properties. If you are asking me if I am aware of any payment to Foster Engineering from HALO properties or any of its companies I will say definitely no.”

Other discussion on money changing hands

Horton said Foster allegedly stated after meeting with two developers that the meeting was a $10,000 meeting for him.  Horton said at the time he was not sure what the statement meant.

The meeting involved two developers who were discussing the repairs of Mansker Farms and the possibility of release of the $1.6 million in bonds the City holds to ensure the development was finished and met subdivision standards before being accepted as City Infrastructure.

Horton said during the meeting he was asked to approve a settlement that stated the repairs to the neighborhood would only cost $200,000. Horton said after he refused to sign off on the agreement as the Public Works Director, both the City Attorney John Bradley and Foster became aggravated and confronted him relating to his refusal to sign off on the agreement.

Other Information included on the Audio recording

Also included on the tape is a description of Hoffman transporting Foster home after having too many drinks at a nonprofit organization fund raising event.

“Remember before the divorce (from his ex-wife Wendy Foster) he was almost at the point were he was trying to get busted, whoring around and drinking” said Hoffman. “I took him to a Make-a-Wish-Foundation thing, and he literally fell out of my car, threw up, we stopped at a car wash and I sprayed him off with the hose at the car wash. Returned him back to Wendy butt naked with one of my golf shirts on he had no underwear or nothing. I just put him on the f***king door step and rang the door and left.”

“The behavior back then was almost bizarre because you would be up here at what-you-may-call-it and he would be mooching on women and shit, and he was married and you’re like, Scott back off. And I was actually getting to a point when I stopped being around him because I did not want it to impact my marriage. I was really worried, I was buddying up with him and all of that other stuff, but he was whoring around like nobody’s business. And I just saw the self destructive behavior and I backed away. And that was kind of when a lot of things started going down hill for him and for me.”

Hoffman closed the recording by saying he felt Foster was returning to a pattern of self destructive behavior.

During the interview Hoffman refused to comment on the incident with the Make-A-Wish Foundation fundraisers.

Horton said that not only did Hoffman’s commentary demonstrate the Mayor’s personality, but also demonstrated that Hoffman and Foster had a very close relationship during the period in time in which HALO,  allegedly paid Foster Engineering for non existing projects.

Horton’s Involvement in the investigation

Horton said that, during his time as Hendersonville Public Works Director, he was, on several occasions, asked to perform tasks he deemed as illegal or unethical. Horton said following his refusal to participate in several of the illegal or unethical incidents, his relationship with Foster and City Attorney John Bradley had become strained, and thus placed him in a bad position with his employment.

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