During a time when infrastructure needs are at the forefront of public dialogue in Midland, county officials are allocating tens of thousands in taxpayer dollars to lure entertainment acts to the county’s tax-funded event venue, the Midland Horseshoe.
A vote taken by the commissioner’s in March approved the payment of $50,000 from the county’s “promotions account” towards The Doobie Brothers entertainment deposit, who perform this Sunday at the Horseshoe. In 2015, shortly after the promotions account was created, the county spent $160,000 for comedian Jeff Foxworthy to showcase the Pavilion; a new addition to the Horseshoe complex.
The county reportedly lost $80,000 on the gig.
A recent editorial by the Midland Reporter Telegram condemned county officials for the misuse of taxpayer funds stating, “Local Government shouldn’t be in competition with [private] promoters. Government shouldn’t decide what might make more money and what wouldn’t… We expect government to cover the community’s needs. The weekly entertainment calendar is not one of those needs.”
According to minutes from a 2016 commissioners court meeting, the promotions account was created specifically for promoting performances at the Horseshoe complex and is comprised of funds pulled from existing county budgets. After each subsidized performance, fifty percent of the profits from ticket sales go back into the promotions account, while the remainder is deposited into the county’s general fund. Then again, that’s assuming there are profits.
With Midland County Judge Mike Bradford resigning this year, it’s likely this fund will undergo a second look. In a response to an inquiry by the Texas Scorecard, the two candidates in a run-off election for Bradford’s seat – James Beauchamp and Terry Johnson – explained what changes, if any, they would make to the county’s promotions account.
Beauchamp’s response: “If elected, I would eliminate the promotions account. I have already spoken to other officials who have expressed concerns the account expands the role and scope of the county from our basic constitutional responsibilities into the arena of concert promotions and would put the county in competition with the private sector … I would also like to create a dedicated maintenance fund for the facility that is funded through the county’s portion of hotel/motel taxes that are currently being reported back as revenue for the Horseshoe. If a portion of these funds are held back for long-term maintenance of the facility, we can protect property taxpayers from bearing the burden for future maintenance costs as the facility ages and repairs need to be made. This dedicated account would only be for maintenance of the existing facility and could not be used for any type of expansion for the facility. Since the beginning of the campaign, I have called for a complete audit of the revenues and expenses associated with the facility. Having this information will allow the county to make critical decisions related to the expenses, budget, and management of the facility, and should be a priority in the next administration.”
Johnson’s Response: “The Commissioners Court has shown they are not good at making a profit investing our money in the entertainment business and should bow out of that activity as gracefully as possible. The original amount allotted to a “Horseshoe Promotional Account” was $150,000. It was not an arbitrary amount or an amount that had any purpose other than to cover the cost of the first event that was held at the Horseshoe Pavilion, the comedian Jeff Foxworthy at $160,000.00. A complex and confusing arrangement to repay or replenish the monies resulting in a $150,000 “investment” turned into a $70,000.00 balance after the show was complete. Not good business. Now $50,000 is going out as another “investment” in our cultural enlightenment with a complex arrangement of money from a “contingency fund.” Half of any profit is to go back into the “promotions fund” with the other half of any profit to go to general fund. This is nothing more than a shell game with public monies. I would encourage the court to provide a complete accounting of all activities in regards to all monies coming in and all monies going out for this concert within 30 days. I would also encourage the Commissioners Court to refrain from and require Dooley Management to refrain from promoting any type of event that utilizes county facilities in a way that competes with the private sector. I also suggest that dissolving the “promotions account” after this boondoggle be a priority of the court. Although not an illegal act this is a misappropriation of public funds. Government on any level should not compete with the private sector; it is a lopsided competition to use public money against the public.”
As the county’s Chief Financial Officer, it’s imperative that the person assuming the position of county judge be a good steward of the community’s tax dollars – which includes prioritizing the community’s needs over government’s wants.
Midlanders will have the opportunity to elect their next County CFO on May 22.