Sider Says: Foster, it is time to come clean

A logical look a Foster’s argument

By Neil Siders 

The Chief Rain Maker’s statements don’t make sense
On November 18, 2014, WSMV News Channel 4 aired a report which included an interview with Hendersonville Mayor Scott Foster. In the interview with Channel 4’s Jennifer Johnson, Foster stated that he had on multiple occasions taken a consulting fee from developers for projects in the City of Hendersonville.
The report followed Everything Hendersonville’s publishing accusations launched by former Public Works Director Jerry Horton and several Hendersonville developers that Foster was accepting checks and gifts from local developers in exchange for political favors.
Horton provided an audio recording of one Hendersonville developer, Randy Hoffman, stating that a group he was part of had written a “big ass check” to Foster engineering for projects that had never been intended as real projects.
“Oh yeah, those guys wrote a big ass check to Foster Engineering for work that never got done,” said Hoffman on the audio recording.
Hoffman went on to say later in the recording “”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.”
In the interview Foster said “”I can assure you there’s never been any big check written for no work,” Foster said. “I don’t even know what context that is.”
“There are companies who have paid for work,” said Foster. “B&C Investments, for instance. The exorbitant fee was $10,000, but they’ve got a report that goes with that.”
“They know that, as mayor, I don’t have the time nor the capacity to do that type of report for them on the job,” said Foster. “My other job, Foster Engineering, I make time. Nights, weekends, whatever.”

Looking at Foster’s Statements in Detail

Analyzing Foster’s and Hoffman’s statements demonstrates some clear facts and some serious inconsistencies with Foster’s story.
The first fact this televised interview demonstrated was that neither Hoffman or Horton were lying about Foster receiving a check from a group with whom Hoffman had major connections.
Hoffman’s LinkedIn page states that he is the manager for B and C Investments, the very group Foster listed as an example for why he was accepting consulting fees.
The second major fact is that Foster was claiming he accepted the check to perform the very job he is paid around $96,000 plus benefits a year to perform. The Mayor’s entire justification for accepting the check through his engineering company was that he was promoting economic development by showing B and C a potential location for development.
Foster’s job description as Mayor indicates one of the responsibilities for which he is paid a full time salary is to promote economic development in Hendersonville. So should citizens not be asking themselves why is this man being paid twice for the same job? Why would he have to charge a company an additional fee which he collects personally through his engineering company? If the company was paying for additional services from a City official that falls within his duties as a City employee, should the funds not be collected by City and placed in the extremely low General Fund and not in Foster’s pocket?
On top of the fact that Foster’s job description says he is being paid to promote economic development in the city, Hendersonville also employees Don Long who is officially listed on the City’s website as the Director of Economic and Community Development. Long’s entire job for which he is paid a six figure salary is to recruit and help locate potential business within Hendersonville. If Foster needs someone additional to help in locating a business, should he not have turned to Don Long as he Director of Economic and Community Development?
If the City had utilized Long’s services, would it still be necessary to pay the Mayor of the City an additional fee?
In addition, Foster’s explanation of the services he provided do not fall within the scope of engineering. Foster said he was showing companies property to potentially locate their prospective businesses. But, this task would seem like a job description of a real estate agent and not that of a licensed civil engineer. (Is the Mayor branching out into real estate sales?) What if any engineering took place while he was helping them look at a property?
If the company did hire an engineer to do the work of a real estate agent, the only logical reason they would have made that choice was due to the fact that the engineer was the Mayor of Hendersonville. Ethics policies strictly forbid any elected official from using his position to secure personal gain.
Another discrepancy presented by the Mayor during his televised interview was that B and C Investments would need help locating a piece of property. B and C Investments has been heavily involved in developing the Streets of Indian Lake and property located off the New Saundersville Road. Randy Hoffman is a long time Hendersonville developer and his experience with the City and development dates back to the 1990’s. (Hoffman has worked for South Eastern Building, Halo Properties, and now B and C developments.) B and C Investments is in no way a new company moving into the area who would need special assistance locating property in the Villages of Indian Lake area, as both the company and especially their manager were instrumental in creating the very area where Foster is claiming they needed assistance locating property.
Adding to the ludicrous nature of Foster’s argument, that this was a legitimate business transaction, is the fact he publicly admits that B and C Investments owned the property surrounding the property he was showing them. How ridiculous is it to state that B and C Investments would have purchased all of the surrounding property but would need the Mayor’s help locating a piece of property for which they owned the adjacent property? (If they have eyes they can see the property while looking a the property they had previously purchased.)
Next Foster states with a sarcastic attitude “The exorbitant fee was $10,000, but they’ve got a report that goes with that.”
For most of the Hendersonville, citizens who work in the private sector receiving an extra $10,000 for a job that you are already paid to do is receiving a pretty large amount of money.
For a citizen earning around $50,000  a year, just the check Foster received from B and C developments equaled around 20 percent of their yearly income. For this elitist Mayor and the developers who financially support him, this amount of money may not equal an exorbitant fee, but for the average citizen who pays his $96,000 a year salary with their hard earned tax dollars, this is a significant payment.
Plus, Foster claims there was a report generated in exchange for the money, but when Johnson contacted the City to ask them to provide the evidence, instead of providing the report and any other reports, the City used a spokes person to change their story claiming after Foster admitted to repeatedly performing this type of consulting services multiple times, that in reality this was a one time offense.
Wouldn’t you think in the mist of these type of accusations and the resulting investigations that, if Foster did have a report with legitimate engineering involved, he would have provided the report to Johnson in order to prove he did nothing wrong? Needless to say, Foster’s refusal to provide the documentation only furthers the speculation that these checks had nothing to do with engineering and were simply for securing Foster’s cooperation in using his power to push their projects through the Board of Mayor and Aldermen, along with the Planning Commission that is solely appointed by the Mayor.
Another disturbing quote Foster gave Channel 4 was “They know that, as mayor, I don’t have the time nor the capacity to do that type of report for them on the job. My other job, Foster Engineering, I make time. Nights, weekends, whatever.”
It is hard for any average citizen to see this comment, and not question Foster’s ethics and commitment to the City of Hendersonville. The comment basically reads that for regular citizens and developers whose tax dollars generate Foster’s $96,000 plus a year salary, that the Mayor of Hendersonville does not have time, but, if a company is willing to pay him funds he can personally benefit from, he will make time. This would indicate that Hendersonville has gone well beyond normal Tennessee “good ole boy politics”, as in Hendersonville, it is not what or who one knows, but the deciding factor is how much money can a company pay Foster Engineering.

Conclusions and a Call to Action

Based on the fact that Foster admits to accepting a check from Hoffman, and his justification for his actions making no logical sense, it is hard for any reasonable citizen, who is not personal friends with the Mayor, to see this exchange of funds between the Mayor of a city and the developers who have been allowed to run wild as anything but exchanging funds for political favors.
Even if one does believe Foster’s justification, it is clear that the Mayor of Hendersonville has been hiding a serious conflict of interest and has violated several ethics laws by not disclosing his connections to these developers and using his position to benefit personally.
With developers such as B and C begging to build additional apartments that the citizens of Hendersonville have clearly stated they do not want, and developers such as the one who wants to destroy one of Hendersonville’s nicest neighborhoods by placing a rehab center on the Johnny Cash property, it is time for the citizens of this great city to take a stand. Several citizens have indicated they would like to organize a protest of Foster’s actions and the Board of Mayor and Aldermen’s refusal to take any action. Everything Hendersonville encourages citizens to attend the next couple of Mayor and Aldermen meetings, and let the elected officials of this city know that the people of Hendersonville will not support such corruption from their Mayor or the Board. For the future of Hendersonville, the will of the people must resonate louder than the cash register for Foster Engineering.
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