After almost two months of negotiations, Senator Andrew Jones (R-Centre) announced a win for the taxpayers of Etowah County and a resolution to the Etowah Mega Sports Complex Authority (EMSCA) funding and mismanagement situation. After concessions on all fronts of the fight, Jones filed a voluntary withdrawal of his motion to intervene in the EMSCA bond validation.
“We were certainly prepared to go as far as necessary to resolve the multitude of issues with the EMSCA, but fortunately agreements were reached to return funding to the Etowah County Tourism Board (ECTB), restructure the authority, and enact stringent accountability measures,” said Jones. “His prior attempts to work out a resolution having been refused and ignored, Senator Jones filed his intervention in the validation court case to get the EMSCA to the negotiating table to work out a solution that benefits the people of Etowah County. That having been accomplished, Senator Jones has withdrawn his motion to intervene,” noted attorney Christie Knowles.
Among the many issues uncovered was the fact that the EMSCA had up to $1.5 million in unpaid bills since December 2020, leading to threats by the contractor and subcontractors for nonpayment of bills. The authority also suffered from multiple oversights in accountability, including allegations that multiple EMSCA members were kept in the dark by a small executive committee that made decisions without consulting the full board. To date, 5 of the original 12 authority members have resigned.
Investigations by the Alabama Securities Commission and Alabama Department of Examiners of Public Accounts noted a failure by the EMSCA to ever have an audit conducted, as well as a failure to follow appropriate accounting standards. Previously, the EMSCA had also been cited for co-mingling public and private dollars in the same account. “Fortunately for this handful of authority members, poor decision-making and mismanagement is not criminal,” Senator Jones noted, “however, it is embarrassing that almost $7 million in taxpayer dollars was spent so recklessly and with so little to show for it.”
In addition to a return of tax revenue to the ECTB, a total restructure of the EMSCA was included in the proposed settlement between ECTB and the EMSCA. The details of this restructure have already been agreed to by the Legislative Delegation, Tourism Director, and Rainbow City Mayor. The restructuring legislation includes requirements for regular audits, terms of office, posting of meeting minutes, and additional accountability measures.
Senator Jones commented on social media with the following: “We look forward to the passage of the restructuring legislation and will keep an eye on all the actions of the EMSCA moving forward. Any refusal to provide requested financial information or documents will be swiftly dealt with. The executive committee, though their days on the board are now numbered, should take note that in the future they can do this the easy way or the hard way. By not agreeing to a pause, this small group of good-ol-boys simply made things worse on themselves, as all of their mismanagement issues eventually came to light. We are watching, and we will continue to hold them to account.”