Pronews 7 Investigates: Transparency in Tucumcari: An Update

When the commissioner did some research, she found that the county was giving the EDC money -- with no strings attached -- and that the president of the EDC, Pat Vanderpool was unwilling to give her details about the EDCâ??s budget.

The Quay County Commission voted this morning in Tucumcari to approve a new service contract with the Greater Tucumcari Economic Development Corporation. This comes just few weeks after a commissioner pointed out that the county was giving the EDC fifty thousand dollars a year with no contract.

Two weeks ago, Pronews 7 Investigates: Transparency in Tucumcari profiled Quay County Commissioner Sue Dowell, who spoke out about the lack of transparency at the local EDC. When the commissioner did some research, she found that the county was giving the EDC money, with no strings attached, and that the president of the EDC, Pat Vanderpool was unwilling to give her details about the EDCâ??s budget.

â??I had raised some questions about accountability and transparency with our local economic development corporation,â?? said Dowell.

Executive director Pat Vanderpool runs the local EDC in town, and while he told the local press that heâ??s looking to improve telling the story of the EDCâ??s mission he hasnâ??t returned the numerous phone calls from Pronews 7.

Additionally Pat Vanderpool, although he heads a corporation that funded primarily with public money, according to a tax lien obtained from the Quay County Clerkâ??s Office, Mr. Vanderpool owes the state of New Mexico $26,118.21.

The EDC led by Mr. Vanderpool has been the subject of inquiry since Quay County Commissioner Sue Dowell started asking questions about giving $50,000 to the EDC yearly without a service contract. When she asked the director of the EDC about his finances, he told her that he simply didnâ??t have to disclose anything.

â??If youâ??re doing a good job, if youâ??re making positive improvements in our county, then stand up and tell your story,â?? said Dowell. â??How much money from the taxpayers did you get and how did you spend that money?â??

Tucumcari City Commissioner Ruth Ann Litchfield said that Mr. Vanderpool hasnâ??t done anything wrong, and that heâ??s probably surprised by the sudden interest.

â??I think the past commission maybe had never asked Mr. Vanderpool these questions and asked him to be accountable for the funds,â?? said Litchfield.

In a 2-1 vote this morning, the county commission rammed through a service agreement with little notice. Quay County Commissioner Mike Cherry, who voted yes on the new service agreement, didnâ??t make himself available for an on-camera interview, but he released a statement to Pronews 7 saying.

â??When it came up that we didnâ??t have a service agreement, we thought it would be a good idea.â??

While EDCs are not subject to the New Mexico Inspection of Public Records Act, the mayor of Tucumcari is reviewing the events that have transpired and will consider all of this when the cityâ??s service contract comes up for renewal with the city in June.

â??Weâ??re going to look at monitoring very closely making sure itâ??s efficient as we could possibly make it and when contracts are up, we plan on reviewing the success to make it more efficient for the people,â?? said Robert Lumpkin, the mayor of Tucumcari.

Commissioner Dowell is concerned that this newly minted contract is probably not in the best interest of Quay County taxpayers.

â??A few months from now, the cityâ??s contract with the EDC is going to expire and so I asked how smart it would be for us to sign a four year contract,â?? said Dowell. â??If they would happen to choose to get out and not renew their service agreement that could leave the county with a three and half year contract with only the county supporting the EDC.â??

Tucumcari commissioner Litchfield says that this shouldnâ??t be a controversy at all, that the EDC just needs to answer questions.

â??The county commission, the people of Tucumcari have the right to know how the money is being spent, and I donâ??t think it ought to be a big controversy,â?? said Litchfield.

Commissioner Dowell said that the new fast tracked service agreement could mean that some important requirements could have been left out.

â??Maybe haste left some things out of what needs to be in that service agreement,â?? said Dowell.

The EDCâ??s service agreement with the County that was approved today by the Quay County Commission is extremely similar to the one the EDC has with the city of Tucumcari, with some extra provisions. For now, many people we spoke with say Tucumcari is open for business, and theyâ??re just looking for guidance from the EDC on how theyâ??re spending tax payerâ??s money.