Little Rock A&P Keeps Ringgold as Chair, Allen as Commissioner

by James Gordon  on Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2006 3:43 pm  

The Little Rock Advertising & Promotions Commission on Wednesday approved a motion by a 6-1 vote to keep Mary Beth Ringgold as commission chair and Blair Allen as a commissioner.
In addition, lame-duck Mayor Jim Dailey, attending the regularly scheduled meeting for the last time, defended Ringgold, saying he had tremendous confidence in her integrity and that he was sorry to see her come under "personal attack."
"I don't think anything you have done has been in any spirit other than to try to do something that was helpful to the city," Dailey said.
Ringgold has been the subject of a series of articles in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette outlining a lack of oversight in spending by the Little Rock Convention & Visitors Bureau, the public agency under the A&P's governance.
The first article in Sunday's paper reported that local bid laws were broken in order to funnel business to Ringgold, owner of Cajun's Wharf and Capers restaurants in Little Rock, and Allen, whose family owns the Pyramid Park Office Building in which the bureau rents office space.
(Click here to see part two of the Democrat-Gazette story.)
Ringgold described the articles as "misleading" in her opening remarks for the meeting.
"If you can imagine what it is to wake up on Sunday morning, you have got 20 of your family members coming to lunch, and you are above the fold in a place typically reserved for terrorists and cars that have been bombed, it's very unsettling," Ringgold said.
Specifically, Ringgold disputed the number of visitors and the amount of revenue brought to the city by the Omega Psi Phi fraternity's annual convention held in Little Rock in July.
According to an audit by the Democrat-Gazette, the bureau spent $500,000 to bring the national convention to Little Rock. Though the fraternity promised as many as 10,000 visitors, only 1,288 people registered for the event.
But Ringgold said the event actually brought in 6,000 to 7,000 visitors, many of whom she said simply had not registered for the convention. Her estimates were based on the fact that, according to the monthly Star Report, 95 percent to 98 percent of the city's hotel rooms booked the event and that the tax collection on hotel receipts for July were the highest in the city's history.
Commissioner Bruce Bennett, who was a critic of Ringgold's and the rest of the commission in the Democrat-Gazette articles, suggested that Ringgold resign in order to restore public confidence in the commission.
Citing his poor attendance at commission meetings — missing five of the 13 special and regularly scheduled meetings held by the commission this year — Ringgold said, "That's a difficult pill for me to swallow coming from you."
"If you want to be part of the solution, be engaged, get involved and get on the record," Ringgold said.
Stating that "[she] didn't do a damn thing wrong," Commissioner Dean Kumpuris put forth the motion to support Ringgold's continued tenure as chair. Commissioner Jim Shamburger offered an amendment to support Allen as well. The motion carried with Bennett as the sole dissenter.

 

 

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