Almost a year ago a member of the Patriots inadvertently became aware of the existence of emails between City of Clovis officials, members of the Economic Development Board (EDTAB), and the Clovis Industrial Development Corporation (CIDC) that had not been included in documents provided to the investigation by the Underwood Law Firm of Amarillo and were not mentioned in their 2013 report.
Those emails are from the period of 5-9 December 2011, just prior to the City’s issuing of funds to Brian Sperber for the Beauty Health and Science Innovations, Inc. (BHSI) project. Mr. Sperber was introduced to the City in the fall of 2011 and his planned project was quickly rushed thru all the red tape to approval and funding of the BHSI project in less than 60 days.
At the time there was great excitement over the prospect of over 300 jobs coming to Clovis. BHSI, however, was a new company, and was being formed with equipment and technology from two other cosmetics companies. Therefore, the credit worthiness of the firm could not be used to qualify for the 2 to 3 million dollars in loans/grants that would be issued to establish the firm in Clovis. Only Mr. Sperber’s personal guarantees and resources would be the basis for credit worthiness.
The time period of 5-9 December 2011 is the time after which Mr. Sperber’s credit history was in fact ascertained and before the initial funds were released. The fact that they were not a part of the Underwood investigation and were not included in the documents in that report, indicates that either they were not pertinent, or that there are questions still unanswered about the process of approving the use of City funds.
Recent revisions of the CIDC funding process will bring better results to Clovis in the future. It is noted that the recent acquisition of water rights from J.L. Wall took several months along with in-depth research and negotiations to accomplish. Every aspect of that process was made public, so that there is confidence that the decision to spend the money was made with as much due diligence as possible. The due diligence performed for the BHSI project will not have full public scrutiny until all the discussions that led to the decisions are fully known. Accountability is required in order to keep public officials from using funds for their preferred pet projects that may or may not, in fact, be a wise use of taxpayer dollars.
On January 6th, 2013 an IPRA request for BHSI related documents was submitted to the City of Clovis. Many documents were received a month later in February. However, those documents did not contain the requested email communications prior to July 2012. Therefore a second request was made. The response from the City was that a new email provider had been implemented in January 2012 and City emails prior to that time were lost, yes lost. The transition period did in fact provide for retaining those prior emails, but we were advised that the ones the Patriots requested were not among those retained.
Then a third request was made to obtain the copies of those emails from CIDC as a firm under contract with the City. However, the City Attorney responded that the emails of a private firm could not be obtained using the IPRA request process. It became apparent that those emails are very important to someone. What we expect is that they show is a flawed decision making process which allowed funds to be released on personal guarantee to someone whose personal credit worthiness had not been established.
It is the decision making process which needs public scrutiny in order to hold public officials accountable. Due diligence on the part of the tax payer and the citizen is to be informed, to be aware of how officials make decisions on the citizen’s behalf. That is the reason the Open Meetings Act, based on the premise of open, accountable government systems, was established. It provides the basis for the public’s confidence and trust in local government.
The December 2011 emails have been given to the City by the CIDC and are part of the public record. The High Plains Patriots are requesting those documents again. The last IPRA request was issued on June 3, 2014, so it has gone almost six months unanswered. However, we will obtain those documents, and they will be available for public review in the near future.