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You Paid For It - More About City Cable Sale

Oct 31, 2014

SEMO TIMES has unearthed yet another disturbing instance of former City Manager Doug Bagby’s careless management and costly inattention to the city’s fiscal health.

First, Bagby and his coalition on the council left the new leaders with a $3M deficit in the employees’ health insurance fund.

Next, the taxpayers footed the bill for successfully challenging the clever, but illegal, perpetual contract that Bagby orchestrated.

And now, the most recent instance of manipulation, playing sleight of hand with public money in the sale of City Cable.

Eight months and six days after City Council voted to sell the cable system, Utilities Manager Bill Bach stood before City Council on September 23 and said, “The ZCorum contract was not included” in the cable sale. He went on to say that the city’s agreement with ZCorum had “seventeen months remaining, at an approximate cost of $425,000.”

Bach also told council at the last meeting that ZCorum had agreed to reduce the balance owed by $187,500, as long as the remaining $237,500 was a one-time payment in full.

Bach was correct. On the “Excluded Contracts” list, page 188 of the fully-executed Purchase Agreement, one of the items reads:

Other Contracts which are Excluded Assets:
8. All agreements by and between the Seller and ZCorum…

But, if you look at the Purchase Agreement actually authorized by City Council on March 17, it says nothing about excluding the ZCorum contract.

$500,000

To answer the obvious question: Yes, there were two versions of the Purchase Agreement for City Cable. The one council passed on March 17 containing 192 pages and the one signed and enacted with NewWave on April 1 with 218 pages.

SEMO TIMES finds it alarming that this little tidbit of information regarding a $425,000 liability was kept from the public during the transaction discussions.

In addition to this expense, the citizens were also not informed that the consultant was wired $187,500 by the city after the sale. That’s in addition to the $75,000 paid leading up to the sale. In all, a quarter of a million dollars was paid to the consultant for his work selling City Cable.

Our former leaders and the local Rust-owned daily newspaper continue to loudly criticize the progress of our new city leadership. They particularly cite the need for transparency, fiscal responsibility, and most recently, buying local.

The sale of City Cable is a prime example of how business used to be done in Poplar Bluff –backroom shuffling of multiple contracts, willfully neglecting to mention a $425k liability the city would be on the hook for, and paying $250k to an out-of-state consultant whose payday depended on rapidly closing the touted “now-or-never deal.”

Where were the cries for transparency, fiscal responsibility and “shop local then?”

Only those used to feeding at the public trough would be proud of the circumstances under which our former leaders sold City Cable.

It is embarrassing that months after the city sold all their assets in City Cable, we find out that exactly $500,000 of the $7M proceeds have been used to pay for things not forewarned by our leaders while pushing for the sale.

One thing we can tell you regarding that half-million dollars: You paid for it.