A City Industrial Development Board (IDB) member who made the motion to approve a controversial $9 million Black Creek Tax Increment Financing (TIF) had not lived in the city for years, City Attorney Wade Hinton confirmed.
Chris Ramsey, a BlueCross BlueShield official, was not present at an IDB meeting on Tuesday morning. Five other board members were.
Citizen Helen Burns Sharp, who has been fighting the TIF, said, "The City/IDB Attorney has confirmed that Chris Ramsey, who has served on the Industrial Development Board since 2002, does not live in the city and therefore cannot under state law serve on the IDB. TCA 7-53-202 and 301 state that members must be electors and taxpayers in the municipality.
"This requirement makes sense. This board approves the 'forgiveness' of millions of dollars in city tax breaks (TIF, PILOTS) to private corporations. The property taxes paid by homeowners and small businesses pick up the tab to provide city services to these companies. These tax breaks contribute to the stagnation of city property tax revenues for other priority projects. This loss of revenue doesn't directly affect someone who doesn't live in the city.
"Mr. Ramsey, the illegal member, played a prominent role in the recent "re-approval" of the Black Creek TIF. He made the motion that the Board ratify their previous approval of Black Creek. He seconded the motion that the Board accept Black Creek as an 'eligible' project under state law. Had Mr. Ramsey not been on the dais, how do we know that another member would have made the motion to ratify and would have seconded the motion on project eligibility? The answer is we do not know.
"Who should be held accountable? What will the City/IDB do protect the interest of thousands of city taxpayers who have a right to expect that the city follow state law? Will they allow Mr. Ramsey on the dais today? Will the City/IDB attorney recommend retroactive action on the Black Creek votes?"
City Attorney Hinton said his office is looking into the situation involving Mr. Ramsey.
Asked if the issue would affect prior board action, he said, "Probably not. Most of the votes have been unanimous. But that is something we are looking into."