Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Election-Year Patronage: Watchdogging Charlie Tygard's 06-07 Private Organization Earmarks

Besides the $50,000 that at-Large candidate Charlie Tygard leveraged out of the Mayor's June 2006 Budget for Habitat for Humanity (now paying PR dividends), between June 2006 and June 2007, he had around $48,000 in discretionary funds to request for either public services or private non-profit organizations. His discretionary record indicates an overwhelming preference for non-profit earmarks: he secured over two-thirds of the $43,710 that he requested for private organizations.

With the latest ethical problems concerning non-profit patronage to help Charlie Tygard with his election campaign, we need to keep an eye out for other private associations that benefited from Mr. Tygard's discretionary funds just in case other unethical endorsements (or the appearance thereof) surface before the polls close on August 2.

Here is the list of tax dollars to non-profit organizations that Mr. Tygard leveraged (all were approved by the Metro Council with no debate--with the exception to the Bellevue Exchange Club request, which was delayed for several months after Metro Finance learned that Mr. Tygard was an officer of the club--and signed by the Mayor):

  • $1,000 to the YMCA

  • $10,000 to the Bellevue Exchange Club

  • $1,460 to the Nashville Child Advocacy Center

  • $9,000 to the YMCA (Bellevue)

  • $1,000 to the Nashville Humane Association

  • $1,000 for Youth, Inc.

  • $2,500 for Operation Stand Down Nashville

  • $5,000 for the Jewish Community Center
The most fortunate beneficiaries of our tax dollars were the Bellevue Exchange Club and the YMCA, each of whom received $10,000 from Mr. Tygard (the Bellevue YMCA also received $9,000 from Mr. Tygard's fellow Bellevue Council Member, Eric Crafton, who co-sponsored the discretionary resolution with Mr. Tygard).

Only as one of his final earmarks did Mr. Tygard designate funds for a public service: $12,750 to Metro Parks. That small amount constitutes less than one-third of the total disposable tax dollars that Mr. Tygard earmarked. If you count the $50,000 that he leveraged for Habitat Nashville, then the $12,750 is less than one-seventh of the spent funds over which Mr. Tygard had some control. I am left to wonder whether such a relatively piddling percentage is due to the fact that ethics ordinances prohibit and bureaucratic situation limits Metro Parks from helping Mr. Tygard pitch his campaign for an at-Large seat on Metro Council to voters.

Non-profit earmarks are a powerful tool in an election year, and we should watch very closely whether the tax dollars that Charlie Tygard made available for the private sector help promote his campaign.

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