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Allegations Against City of Pigeon Forge in Hands of Attorney General

By Jeaneane Payne

On Tuesday, February 8, 2011 the State of Tennessee Comptroller's office sent a representative to Pigeon Forge City Hall to conduct an investigation into allegations that the City had contracted with an outside company to perform work and had not requested bids along with other alleged misconduct by city officials.

Last week, the State Comptroller's office turned their findings over to the Attorney General's office.

pigeon forge city hall

An Executive Called Session had been previously scheduled for the evening of February 8th at City Hall. Council members had met for an hour when City Commissioner Randal Robinson claimed he was asked if he was the one who had called the Comptrollers office. He admitted he had. He indicates he was also asked if he had been taping the session. Robinson stated he was asked to remove himself from office but refused to do so. He indicates that City Manager, Earlene Teaster, then adjourned the meeting and told him to go home. Robinson further stated that he left the building but soon returned and found the meeting had been called back into session and continued for another hour in violation of the Sunshine Law.

Various sources have told the Knoxville Daily Sun that the City of Pigeon Forge is paying companies twice for the same work – that the same services are included under the terms of the contract and that the companies are billing the city separately for individual jobs performed to the tune of $70,000 to $100,000 each. Robinson stated, "When I questioned the city about this, I was told 'Oh, they do a lot of work for us. We just go ahead and pay them anyway.'"

Another source indicated the city has no check and balance system.

Teaster has been City Manager of Pigeon Forge for 29 years. Two of her nephews hold offices within the city; one is the mayor and the other is vice-mayor. Teaster is also related to a city commissioner who is related to the assistant city manager. The city recorder is related to the mayor.

Sources have stated that one of their primary concerns is not only what they believe to be misappropriation of funds, but that the city debt rose from $37 million in 2004 to $80 million in 2006 and that the city recorder, Dennis Clabough, has confirmed that the city is currently $338 million in debt with another possible $49 million to be added to that amount. The City of Pigeon Forge's annual revenue is $37 million.

Thirty percent (30%) of the city's budget goes to BOHAN Advertising, www.bohanideas.com.

Sources revealed that Teaster received a $15,000 Christmas bonus three years in a row yet told the Police Department they couldn't have new uniforms last year because the city couldn't afford to buy them.

The city has plans to build an event center while Sevierville's new event center only has a 40% occupancy rate.

Two of many major concerns of citizens are (1) the building of a water treatment plant and (2) a contract the city has with a marketing firm.

The State of Tennessee informed the city last year that they had to build a new water treatment plant because the one they currently have is not adequate compared to the growth the city has seen over the last ten years. The city has to dispose of 8 milion gallons of sewage per day. They have plans to build a new plant at a cost of $45 milion that has the capacity to dispose of only 5 million gallons of sewage daily.

The city contracted with a marketing company, USDM, www.usdm.net, to redesign www.mypigeonforge.com and market that site. Sources told the Knoxville Daily Sun that company was paid $3.5 million initially for their services and that they are paid approximately that same amount annually to continue those services. They are also paid $35,000-$38,000 per month for management of www.cityofpigeonforge.com.

One source indicated that, according to the terms of their contract, USDM was to sell advertising on www.mypigeonforge.com and give the money collected from those sales back to the City of Pigeon Forge. He stated that USDM has sold approximately $600,000 per year in advertising but, thus far, no monies have been reimbursed to the City by USDM.

USDM is owned by Leah Woolford of Corpus Christ, TX who has also established a number of corporations (most of which are not active) throughout the U.S., including Golf Traveler, LLC, Greatpackages.Com, LLC, Iteam Staffing and Training, LLC, Official Travel Guide, LLC, The Link to Medical Care N.A., Inc, Who's Your Daddy?, LLC, and Woolford Worldwide, L.L.C. Woolford also has operations worldwide.

When asked about allegations made against the city, Teaster stated, "None of these are true. Those people just don't understand how things are done."

It was noted by our sources that employees in the city offices worked feverishly throughout Presidents' Day weekend and on Presidents' Day, February 18th.

Published February 28, 2011

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