In the past 2 years, Lynda Lee Smith, Chairwoman of the Johns Creek CVB (Johns Creek Convention & Visitors Bureau) has AGGRESSIVELY advocated and earmarked nearly $100K, possibly more, on art projects for Urban Catalyst Lab (UCL). All without any competitive bidding or seeking artists from Johns Creek… This includes the art tunnel & gateway markers.
The current contentious project Gateway Markers was to be under "forced choice" voting.
CVB originally requested $40K for 2 designs, then $64K for 1 design. Mayor Bodker thought it was a good value and advocated for UCL.
Councilmembers Stephanie Endres, John Bradberry & Chris Coughlin voted against this initiative.
The CVB is currently seeking another $55K second gateway markers for next year.
Why is Lynda Lee Smith continually pushing Contracts for Urban Catalyst Labs?
Perhaps the reason is Lynda Lee Smith works at Habitat for Humanity with the UCL Co-Founder Ruxanda Renita and Secretary, Courtney Greathouse. According to the CVB website, Lynda Lee Smith is Habitat's Senior Director, Corporate Relations. Ruxanda Renita’s role is a Corporate Partnership Support Manager.
Is this Corruption?
Corruption is the misuse of public power (by elected politician or appointed civil servant) for private gain.
Is this Cronyism?
Cronyism is the act of hiring someone because they are a friend. Both nepotism and cronyism are damaging not just to departments, but to entire workplaces.
Johns Creek CVB spent a total of $62K on the art tunnel project. Kent Altom Johns Creek City Council Candidate’s employer, the Gilroy Firm, reviewed the UCL contract. Urban Catalyst Lab was paid $25,696 to paint the Tunnel under Medlock Bridge Rd. UCL hired an artist from New Delhi, India to paint large letters in the tunnel. Within the contract “The CVB will also provide two local artists as volunteers to assist the lead artist”. The volunteers, all UNPAID, were from Johns Creek.
If the purpose of the CVB is to “serve as an economic catalyst”. One would think, using Johns Creek businesses would be a top priority as vendors and for the contracts.
The total cost to paint and light the Johns Creek Art Tunnel was nearly $62,000. Not one vendor was from Johns Creek. Likewise, Not one artist hired was from Johns Creek. Not a single business utilized was from Johns Creek.
Well, except 2, both affiliated with the CVB Board. The Hyatt Place (Manager is a CVB Board Member) was paid $367 to accommodate the artist flown in from India. $32 was spent at Seven Sister Scones (director also on CVB Board).
If indeed these CVB dollars are meant to benefit the residents and businesses of Johns Creek, where are they? You would hope that electricians, photographers, food items, and other expenses would be sourced from Johns Creek where possible, and they did not.
Precision Landscaping was paid nearly $33K on lighting for the tunnel that is owned and maintained by GDOT. Why wasn't GDOT financially responsible for this expense? Precision Landscaping was also paid $8K for graffiti sealant. Why wasn't it put out to competitive bidding? Are there no johns Creek painting businesses capable of this job?
Or are the businesses in Johns Creek so expensive that they cannot compete on price? If so, then we need to continue to look at the business taxes. This includes eliminating the CVB hotel/motel tax, and other unnecessary tax burdens on small businesses.
Councilwoman Stephanie Endres & Councilman Chris Coughlin attempted to reduce business taxes, and in 2017 eliminate the CVB hotel/motel tax. Mayor Bodker staunchly opposed both efforts.
Kent Altom Johns Creek Council Candidate has been aggressively campaigning against Chris Coughlin for Post 4. In addition, Kent Altom has received campaign donations from both Lynda Lee Smith and her husband.
Lastly, have you seen our video tour of the Art Tunnel?
Source: City of Johns Creek & Johns Creek Convention & Visitors Bureau