Charlotte City Councilman Tariq Scott Bokhari called into question the factual statements of a fellow council member, Dimple Ajmera, following her public opposition to the city hosting the 2020 Republican National Convention.
On Friday afternoon, Ajmera said she opposed the city hosting the event because a contract she had reviewed earlier in the day, she said, would require city taxpayers to be financially liable for a portion of the event’s expenses.
“Taxpayers will be on the hook for the potential liability, unknown risk and exposure,” Ajmera wrote in a statement outlining her opposition to hosting the event.
But minutes after she released her reasoning, Bokhari took to Twitter and called Ajmera’s claims “patently false.”
Councilwoman Ajmera’s statement, in its entirety, is patently false. Taxpayers are not on the hook. I sat in the same clean room when she reviewed the contract today and made this statement to which the city attorneys tried to correct her and she wouldn’t listen.— Tariq Scott Bokhari (@FinTechInnov8r) July 13, 2018
“Councilwoman Ajmera’s statement, in its entirety, is patently false. Taxpayers are not on the hook,” Bokhari said on Twitter. “I sat in the same clean room when she reviewed the contract today and made this statement to which the city attorneys tried to correct her and she wouldn’t listen.”
Two Democrats on the City Council also took to Twitter to criticize Ajmera and her characterization of the contract on Friday night.
First, Councilman Larken Egleston tweeted.
“I and other council members were in the same #RNC contract discussions today, and this is in no way what was said to us by the city attorneys. Facts still matter, and this is fiction,” Egleston tweeted.
Then, Councilwoman Julie Eiselt, who said she has not yet read the contract, also responded.
“I’ve yet to read contract but GOP leaders up thru our senators know that I would not sign if there is financial liability to the city for the security grant. They agreed to protective language. Council member Ajmera is looking for an easy out,” she said.
The back-and-forth between Ajmera and Bokhari prompted City Attorney Bob Hagemann to send a memo to councilmembers and Mayor Vi Lyles clarifying what the contract would do.
Here is Hagemann’s memo in its entirety:
I have become aware of a statement released by CM Ajmera that invokes me. While I don't typically comment publicly on private conversations between me and any one of you, I do feel the need to clarify something about the contract we are working on if the City is awarded the 2020 RNC.
Since 2004, the federal government has provided each city that has hosted a national political convention $50 million to cover security costs, an amount that has proven sufficient for every convention. That said, it is important to consider what would happen if costs exceed the grant amount.
Under the contract as drafted, if the grant proves insufficient, the City would be responsible only for assets that the Chief and City Manger decide to retain for post-convention CMPD law enforcement purposes. Beyond that, the Host Committee would be responsible for cost overruns. Stated more directly, tax payer dollars would be used only to the extent that the City decides to spend more than $50 million, and then only for those items the Chief and Manager believe are useful to CMPD for future law enforcement purposes.
Separately on Friday, Hagemann and other Charlotte city officials refused requests from WBTV to release a copy of the contract, citing a portion of the North Carolina Public Records Act that allows government agencies to withhold economic development documents if the document’s release would frustrate the secret process of luring that project.
An attorney for WBTV sent an email to Hagemann late Friday afternoon challenging the city’s refusal to release a copy of the contract, specifically pointing out that the city’s attempt to land the convention is not a secret and, therefore, efforts to keep the convention under wraps would not be frustrated by the release of the contract.
Hagemann had not responded to WBTV’s attorney as of the writing at press time.
Councilmembers will vote on whether the city would formally accept the 2020 Republican convention at a specially-called meeting Monday afternoon.
The meeting and vote was called by Lyles on Thursday following more than a week of opposition from some Democrat members of the city council and other progressive activists.
More than 130 people have signed up to speak at the meeting, which will be held in the council chambers on Monday at 2 p.m.
Each speaker will have one minute to voice their position on Charlotte hosting the 2020 Republican National Convention.
The Republican National Committee is expected to formalize its decision of where to hold its quadrennial event when it meets in Austin, TX next week. The RNC Site Selection Committee is expected to vote on Wednesday morning.
WBTV will be in Austin and will have live reports starting Tuesday night.
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