Back in May when the Metro Council's non-profit spending was chugging merrily along, I did not call particular attention to Pam Murray's Resolution No. RS2007-2007 to give $35,750 to a group called NEON (North Edgefield Organized Neighbors), because it was one of a high number of late requests for non-profit spending. Now it appears that, amidst the mud-slinging of the District 5 race reported by Channel 4, Ms. Murray's resolution is classic good-ole-girl patronage, of which I have been warning since the council started spending public discretionary funds on non-profits.
Ms. Murray's close friend, Joyce Stallworth, is on the NEON Board. Ms. Stallworth is reportedly the Secretary of the group. Even if Ms. Murray did not secure the funds based on their friendship, she did not avoid the appearance of impropriety. $35,750 is a lot of money to send to a non-profit, particularly one to which the council member is personally connected. It just does not pass the ethics smell test, in my opinion.
It all stinks. And Ms. Murray's only response to Channel 4 about the ties that brought NEON $35,750 in public tax dollars was to say that she is not using those ties to win the campaign; as if giving $35,750 to one's own pet organization is not problematic in itself.
By the way, Ms. Murray sponsored a passed resolution in 2005 that sent $56,666.66 to NEON. Ms. Murray's current opponent, Sam McCullough was Executive Director of NEON in 2005. Also, there were other Council Members currently running for office who co-sponsored Ms. Murray's NEON largess: in 2005, current Vice Mayoral candidate Diane Neighbors co-sponsored the $56,666 resolution; in 2007, current Council 10 incumbent Rip Ryman co-sponsored the $35,750 resolution. With all of the tax-money going to support a private organization, I would think that NEON ought to be doing well for itself and it need never worry about fund-raising.