Mayor Admits to Taking Money from Developers

The investigation to this point

By Neil Siders   /  Everything

On October 14, 2014 Everything Hendersonville published an article detailing a developer in Hendersonville claiming he paid Mayor Scott Foster’s engineering company money for projects never intended as real projects.

On November 18, in a interview with  Channel 4 News’ Jennifer Johnson, Foster admits to receiving checks from several developers in Hendersonville. Included in the companies Foster alluded to having worked for during his time as Mayor, he stated he did accept a check from  B and C Investments.

B and C Investments is managed by Randy Hoffman, the developer Everything Hendersonville caught on tape stating the Mayor assisted with his project, due to the fact that a group he was part of paid Foster a “big ass check.”

“There are companies that have paid for work,” said Foster in the Channel 4 interview. “B and C investments for instance. I showed them two pieces of property in 2012, one surrounded a piece of property they owned. This exorbitant fee was $10,000. They got a report that goes with that.”

Aldermen responses

Alderman Arlene Cunningham was also interviewed by Johnson. Cunningham said she had no clue that Foster was utilizing his position as Mayor to solicit checks from developers.

“I think, as the Mayor of Hendersonville, that is part of his duties as Mayor to encourage economic development in the City, encourage business to relocate to Hendersonville, to create jobs,” said Cunningham. “Just the appearance of it is pretty discouraging and disappointing for the City.”

In addition to the Mayor’s job description stating he will encourage economic development, the City also pays Don Long a six figure salary to be the Mayoral Assistant and Director of Economic Development. Long’s job description also includes encouraging businesses to locate in Hendersonville.

In an interview with Everything Hendersonville, Alderman Mark Skidmore said he agreed with Cunningham.

Well, I was disturbed by it, after I watched the video,” said Skidmore. “I  definitely think it is an ethical issue at this point. From what I know at this point,  it seems to portray something similar to influence peddling.”

Skidmore said Foster’s statements raised more questions than answers.

“One of the questions the Board has to be thinking about is how many other businesses has Foster Engineering done business with,” said Skidmore. “There has never been any disclosure on subject, and it raises serious questions about if there was a conflict of interest on several votes relating to development.”

Skidmore said, to his knowledge, a Mayor accepting consulting fees was unheard of in this area.

“I know a lot of City mayors from Sumner County and the surrounding areas, and I feel pretty confident in saying Hendersonville is the only city where a Mayor is accepting consulting fee’s to help a business locate in the area.”

Alderman Rosa Long said she agreed with Skidmore and Cunningham.

“It is down right despicable,” said Long. “I am fed up with the lies and misinformation.”

During the August 12, 2014 meeting of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen, Long directly asked Foster if his company had done work with developers in Hendersonville. Foster said, during the August 12 meeting of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen, that he had not done any work within Hendersonville.

“He is nothing but a lair,” said Long. “He mislead the entire Board when he responded to my question that he had not done work for companies in Hendersonville.”

Everything Hendersonville attempted to reach several other Aldermen who either failed to return the phone call by the time of publication or refused to comment.

Everything Hendersonville will continue to attempt to reach the Hendersonville Aldermen and include any additional statements in an editorial that will be published Friday, November 21.

Result of previous investigative articles

Following Everything Hendersonville receiving the  Hoffman tapes, the organization filed several open records requests and obtained several contracts in which Foster committed the City to paying around $100,000 for a road project HALO Inc. had originally committed to funding due to an agreement with the Hendersonville Planning Commission.

HALO was relieved of the debt when the Board of Mayor and Alderman voted to approve the Final Master Development Plan for the area. The Board of Mayor and Alderman would not have had to approve the Final Master Development Plan if major changes from the Preliminary development plans, including the relocation of apartments and relieving HALO of the financial commitment, had not triggered a need for Board approval.

Following the release of the report on Everything Hendersonville, the Mayor stated in an interview with a local news organization, that former Public Works Director, Jerry Horton, who had worked with Everything Hendersonville to obtain the recording of Hoffman, was responsible for around $1.8 million in unpaid bills. Foster indicated that the majority of these bills was associated with Tennessee Department of Transportation  bills dating back till 1999.

In a meeting with TDOT, officials from the State provided documentation that Hendersonville was not past due on any of their financial obligations to the State. TDOT said that the City only had around $350,000 in current bills.

During the November 11 meeting of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen, Alderman Rosa Long and Arlene Cunningham questioned the mayor about the reports and the fact he had accepted checks from developers.

The Mayor did not answer questions related to accepting checks from developers, but he did state the Board had never voted on the release of HALO from the financial commitment.

Despite Foster’s comments, due to the major changes to the Final Master Development Plan for the area, in order for the plan to be implemented, the Board was required to approve the changes. Thus, the Board did vote on the issue, and Foster’s statements were false.

Following the confrontation, Everything Hendersonville published a follow up article in which a high ranking member of HALO denied the company’s involvement in paying Foster and stated that B and C Investments might be responsible for the payment, and  also paid for an all expense paid trip to China for Foster.

The HALO member said that B and C investments did hold a small percentage of the Sam’s Club property, and Hoffman was severely in debt to the company owners and B and C Investments did have a vested interest in ensuring the property sold.

Everything Hendersonville has posted a link to the Channel 4 report on it’s Facebook site.
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