Auditor will review spending for new convention center - WKRN News 2

Auditor will review spending for new convention center

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Nashville Mayor Karl Dean announced Monday that the city will be hiring an independent auditing firm to conduct a full review of the communications contract and related spending for the new downtown convention center.

The news comes on the same day the public relations firm hired to work on the Music City Center project resigned.

The firm McNeely, Pigott & Fox recently came under fire for exceeding the PR budget for the entire project.

The original contract for the PR firm was for $75,000, but the group billed Metro $458,000 for work.

The firm stepped down at a special Metro Council meeting Monday night.

Mark McNeely, of McNeely, Pigott & Fox, said, "We are proud of the work we've done with MDHA, and we don't have any apologies for what we've done for every single one of our clients for the last 22 years."

Metro councilwoman Vivian Wilhoite doesn't blame the company, but rather the Metropolitan Development and Housing Agency, which is in charge of the convention center project.

Wilhoite said,  "For you to sit here and say that you don't know that it was going to be higher than the amount, knowing, going in it's gonna be higher than that amount, it's just,  to me, I think it's unacceptable."

MDHA Executive Director Phil Ryan said, "In hindsight, believe me, if I had any inkling that it would've caused this kind of concern for you and others, I would've done differently. All I can say is we've learned a hard lesson."

"Questions about spending on this project are valid and deserve to be answered," Dean said in a release issued Monday. "When you're dealing with public money on a public project, the public deserves to know how every dollar is spent.  Music City Center is the largest development ever undertaken by Metro.  It's vital to our city's future economic growth. We need to move forward with this project in a way that allows the public to have full confidence in how it's being managed." 

In addition, Dean's administration filed legislation last week to create a Convention Center Authority.

The authority will provide strong public oversight through a nine-member board appointed by the mayor and confirmed by the Metro Council.

The timetable for construction on the Music City Center was also discussed during the meeting Monday night.

When complete, the $635 million Music City Center will sit on 15 acres downtown, stretching from 5th Avenue to 8th Avenue, and from Demonbreun to Korean Veterans Parkway. 

A 40-story, 1,000-room Marriott Marquis with 100,000 square feet of meeting space, ballrooms, restaurants and retail areas is also planned for the area and will sit adjacent to the convention center.

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