City withholds records on how city manager spent $23M with new-found purchasing power

City withholds records on how city manager spent $23M with new-found purchasing power

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - WBTV is committed to tracking how your taxpayer dollars are used but our questions about more than $20 million spent in the City of Charlotte went unanswered for two months.

Last December Charlotte city council gave the city manager and department heads permission to spend up to $500,000 without their approval as long as the funding was covered in the respective department accounts. Before then anything costing more than $100,000 required council approval.

Councilman Braxton Winston was one of two members who voted against it.

“If you limit the type of information we get, that limits the ability of us as elected officials to do our job in my opinion,” Winston said.

Winston says he doesn’t have an issue with the $500,000 dollar limit. He says just wants council and the public to be informed about how their money is spent.

As an example he said he and other council members raised serious questions about a $29,000 contract for veterinary medicine that was slated to be awarded to a company facing multiple lawsuits related to the opioid epidemic.

“I’ve seen a lot of value in taking a look at $29,000 contracts because there’s principles involved with those,” Winston said.

“So my whole point is we have to create some type of process where we’re able to do our jobs as legislators and able to have oversight of how tax dollars are spent and understand the underlying policies that guide those.”

WBTV submitted a records request asking for records showing how much the city manager and his designees had spent since the new policy took effect.

From January through June more than $23 million has been spent with the new $500,000 limit.

19 of the purchases were over $400,000 and one was $499,999.

But the information provided in the records request was limited. A spreadsheet provided by the city only showed the name of the contractor, the dollar amount and the general purpose of the contract.

On August 16th WBTV asked for the request for bids the city submitted before the contracts were awarded.

The city did not deliver the requested records until two months later on October 15th. That’s despite multiple emails requesting the records in a more timely fashion.

“Is that the kind of concern you’re talking about?” a WBTV reporter asked Winston.

“Yes, absolutely,” Winston said.

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