A lot of people are reacting with anger and frustration to the News4 I-Team investigation about flood victims’ money being used for Ascend Amphitheater.
More than $7 million that was earmarked for flooded homeowners was diverted to design and engineering costs for the amphitheater in 2013.
Metro government moved the money, telling the federal government that they couldn't find anyone who still needed help from the flood.
Homeowners in the River Glen subdivision near Opryland were inundated during the May 2010 flood, yet many received no money from the federal government.
"Nothing. Nothing," Carol McEwen told News4.
The Metro councilman who represents the River Glen area heard from a lot of constituents who saw our story and are confused and upset.
"Well, it’s certainly disheartening," Councilman Jeff Syracuse said.
He is asking the administration for an explanation.
"I'm sure there's a lot of us trying to figure out, trying to follow the money," Syracuse said.
The switch was approved by the MDHA board and by Metro Council in 2013.
Three council members who voted for it said they didn't know they were moving money to the amphitheater; that detail was not included in any of the documents they were asked to approve.
"It's not in there at all," Councilman Steve Glover said.
"I'm surprised,” said former Councilman Phil Claiborne, who said he unknowingly voted to move the flood money.
The News4 investigation stirred up anger and sadness for former councilman Duane Dominy, who served during the flood and saw many of his neighbors struggle.
"I watched a friend of mine throw all of his clothes, his furniture in a dumpster, and him and his mother went and found a place to rent," Dominy said.
Dominy told News4 he feels council members were deceived.
"I don't think it would have passed,” Dominy said.
Friday, News4 told you we asked Metro's Chief Operating Officer Rich Riebeling how the decision was made to move flood money to the amphitheater.
On Monday, Riebeling referred us to a newspaper story that was written in June 2013.
The story’s headline read, “Flood aid may go to work on riverfront.”
The article quotes Riebeling as saying: "A significant aspect of the riverfront redevelopment project on the west bank is related to flood mitigation steps to avoid what happened in 2010.”
The story mentions that the plan included public park space that could hold an outdoor amphitheater.
However, none of the official documents Metro council voted on included that description. The amphitheater was not mentioned in the amendment submitted to HUD, nor was it mentioned in the analysis that council members receive describing exactly what they are voting on.
"I don't think it would have passed," said Dominy.
The public was given an opportunity to comment on the changes during a public comment period. No public hearing was held.
News4 asked MDHA, which administers the HUD flood program, how the public comment period was advertised.
MDHA forwarded to us emailed communications between the mayor’s office and MDHA.
Angela Hubbard, the Director of Community Development for MDHA emailed the mayor’s office on June 18, 2013, saying the public comment period begins tomorrow and ends on July 2. The email mentions that a public notice request for public comment was to run in The Tennessean. It mentioned posting the draft amendment to Metro’s Flood Recovery web site.
Hubbard mentioned to the mayor’s office that this is a “substantial amendment” to the flood action plan and that “I met with Greg and Rich on Monday to review the details of the plan.”
No last names are used but Greg could refer to Greg Hinote, who was deputy mayor at the time, and Rich may refer to Rich Riebeling, who at the time was the finance director.
Hinote left the mayor’s office after eight years to work for the Ingram Group as Managing Director, according to the Ingram Group’s web site.
The site said “Hinote brings a proven track record of getting things done.”
The notice posted announcing the public comment period did not mention the amphitheater.
Instead, it said the amendment reallocates funds to “new construction (replacement housing) - multifamily homes, riverfront development, and administrative activities.”
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