Pronews 7 Investigates: Transparency in Tucumcari: Part II

Right now, a Quay county commissioner's plea for transparency in Tucumcari is gaining traction.

The Greater Tucumcari Economic Development Corporation, or their local EDC, currently operates with a mix of public and private funds, but when Quay County Commissioner Sue Dowell asked for basic accountability measures, the EDC declined to provide her with basic financial information.

On this edition of Pronews 7 Investigates: Transparency in Tucumcari: Part II, we found out why the EDC is currently operating in the shadows, and what public leaders and local citizens said about this controversy.

Pronews 7 approached Commissioner Dowell, who created waves in her community when she asked the Tucumcari EDC about their finances. Her no vote on the county budget was all about refusing to give taxpayer money to an organization without strings attached, especially when the EDC declined her public records request

"I filed a request for public records with the EDC and I was told that they don't have to adhere to requests for public records," said Dowell. Commissioner Dowell is still in the dark about where taxpayer dollars are being used.

"Opening lines of communication would be an advantage for them," said Dowell. "Help me understand, because I don't understand what they're doing."

John Mihm is an active member of the Tucumcari community in many ways. He's the owner of a small business, Buena Vista labs, and a Tucumcari city commissioner. He told us that the EDC's budget is small.

"Most the budget is absorbed by Pat Vanderpool's salary and operational costs, and I don't know the exact amount," said Mihm.

Commissioner Mihm is new to the commission and still getting acquainted with the EDC.

"I don't know all those numbers or otherwise we wouldn't be here having this discussion," said Mihm.

Local business owner Richard Randals said that as long as he's been in Tucumcari, transparency at the EDC has been a problem.

There are questions like who are the directors, who is the executive committee, and none of this is on the webpage-you can't find that anywhere," said Randals. "That's been a real concern of mine-who's leading who?"

We asked Quay County Commissioner Chair Brad Bryant about he thought about the controversy-his response was "get out of my office." Richard Primrose, the president of the EDC board and the Quay County Manager told Pronews 7 that "he had no comment," and that "he has a longstanding policy of not talking to the media. "

Conversely, the city of Tucumcari was open to interviews and records sharing. Tucumcari Mayor Robert Lumpkin helped Pronews 7 connect with several city leaders who are active in the EDC, and welcomed any questions and discussions about transparency.

"Once that public money is used, I feel the public has a right to that information," said Doug Powers, the Tucumcari City Manager.

"For those new commissioners to begin to ask questions want to know what's going on in all areas of the community including EDC, I think that's very appropriate," said Patsy Gresham, from the Tucumcari Chamber of Commerce.

Patrick Vanderpool, the President of the Tucumcari EDC who was not available for interview, said in a letter to Pronews 7 that "our board is discussing how we can provide more accountability and do a better job of telling our story while maintaining the appropriate level of confidentiality necessary for us to do our job."

Mihm said that despite the controversy, the EDC plays an important role in the community.

"I think it plays a very important role, I think the perception has been that it's been kind of static in the past few years, but so has the economy," said Mihm .

While everyone Pronews 7 spoke with agreed that having an EDC is critical to economic development in Tucumcari, most said that more transparency would be helpful for elected officials, taxpayers, and the organization itself.