CMPD spent $17 million for RNC. On what remains a mystery

Updated: Nov. 10, 2020 at 4:25 PM EST
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - A memo from Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Johnny Jennings says the CMPD spent approximately $17 million on the Republican National Convention. The memo does not provide any details on how the money was spent but does include a timeline for releasing more information.

The memo from Jennings was sent to Charlotte City Manager Marcus Jones on Tuesday, the same day as WBTV requested comment from the city for a story on CMPD’s refusal to release any RNC spending details.

Jennings wrote that since the changes to the convention happened so close to the original date, roughly $17 million “was already committed and/or spent.”

Jennings said that several vendor contracts were canceled prior to the convention.

On Tuesday, city officials released copies of 33 contracts that were executed in relation to the RNC. The majority of them have to do with car rentals, hotels, catering, and portable toilets.

Only a handful of the contracts have to do specifically with security and CMPD.

A contract with Atlantic Diving Supply Inc. details CMPD’s plan to implement a “digital Nano bomb detection device” with three of them costing $129,361.20.

There are also two contracts for camera installations for the Charlotte Department of Transportation at a total cost of $746,631.78.

The City spent the majority of the $17 million on insurance needed for the convention, estimated at about $9 million.

However, the released contracts do not show how much money was spent by the city or CMPD.

In October 2019, the ACLU filed a public records request with the City of Charlotte to get information about contracts, expenses, crowd control and equipment the city was acquiring for the RNC. To date, only a few dozen contracts have been released and very few of those have anything to do with CMPD and its security preparations.

“To this day we have received very few records and we will feel the impact of this militarized local police response because of equipment that was purchased for the RNC for years to come,” ACLU senior attorney Irena Como said.

Many other records requests by media outlets, including WBTV, have not been fulfilled more than two months after the RNC held a series of meetings leading up to and to start its convention.

In his memo to Jones, Chief Jennings writes that the grant fund expenditures are currently under a standard auditing process by the US Department of Justice Office of Inspector General. The memo indicates that some records might not be released to the public until the DOJ audit is completed.

“Considering the audit is expected to continue through spring 2021, I wanted to start releasing records as they become available after clearance and approval through the auditing process,” Jennings wrote.

There is nothing in the North Carolina Public Records Act that prevents the records from being produced during an audit and Jennings' memo does not cite any authority for the continued withholding of the documents.

“The city’s timeline for releasing these public records is disturbing and a disservice to the public. There is no good reason to withhold these public records into the Spring of 2021, almost ten months after the conclusion of the RNC and 1.5 years after our public records request was filed,” Como said.

Most of the funds spent by the city will be reimbursed by a $50 million federal security grant that Charlotte city council approved in April.

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