Foxtail Fest cost Wilmington more than $18K

By Tom Lehman 2:51am, October 1, 2013 - Updated 7:51am, October 1, 2013
Testimonies from Monday night's meeting.
Wilmington City Council further investigated the use of public resources during last month's Foxtail Fest during a marathon joint-committee meeting Monday night.

According to documents released at Monday's meeting, the City of Wilmington spent more than $18,000 on the for-profit festival, which was co-organized by the son of Mayor Williams' former Chief of Staff, Velda Jones-Potter. The hearing lasted over six hours and involved testimony from
more than 10 employees and city officials.

Jones-Potter was dismissed from the administration last month, but she maintained during the hearing that her attendance and representation of the music festival at city meetings was done as a private citizen and not as a government official.

However, multiple city officials said that her presence at those meetings often came across as if she was acting as both roles.

John Matlusky, Mayor Williams' Chief of Staff, said Jones-Potter should have recused herself from anything to do with the festival and consulted the city solicitor.

"Clearly there was a conflict or the appearance of a conflict and I think had that happened at the beginning, we wouldn't be here tonight," Matlusky said.

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City code says employees may not represent or assist any private enterprise on any private matter being considered by Wilmington's government.

Wilmington police officials also said they decided to have more than 20 officers present at the festival because of security concerns raised on the day before the event was supposed to take place.

However, it was unclear from testimonies exactly whom authorized overtime for officers used at the event.

At the conclusion of the meeting, City Council President Theo Gregory characterized Jones-Potter's actions as a misstep.

"We do that in life. We're human beings, we're not ants. We're not rabbits, where everybody know where they're supposed to go. We have choices and we make errors as human beings," Gregory said.

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In her closing remarks at the meeting, she was critical of the hearing and the "convolution" surrounding the testimonies given by city employees and officials.

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"I believe it has been fraught with error, and I believe this has created a considerable amount of miscommunication among the various parties involved in the process," she said.

She also expressed displeasure that people whom she had requested to be present at the meeting were not offered a chance to testify. Among those who she mentioned was Mayor Williams, who did not attend the hearing.

The Williams administration issued a statement Monday regarding the hearing, recognizing City Council's effort to "do their due diligence."

"Issues involving fairness, integrity and the public trust are significant for all of city government. It is important that the city moves forward free of distraction, in order to execute Mayor Williams' and City Council's share goals of economic, neighborhood and youth development."

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