In a recent letter to the editor by Peter Samuel titled “Alderman O’Connor dropped the ball in 2013 at crucial moment in hotel project,” Samuel claimed that the mayor and Board of Aldermen, including O’Connor, operated in secrecy making “decision(s) ... behind closed doors” and this casts a “dark shadow over the procurement” regarding the downtown hotel.
Samuel has now filed two complaints with the State Ethics Commission alleging that the mayor and aldermen conspired with the Downtown Hotel Advisory Committee and conducted the hotel selection process in secrecy for years.
There is the saying: “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” One can make a similar statement: “If public meetings were held about the proposed hotel and Samuel failed to show up, were they open meetings?”
Between the first BoA workshop with the advisory committee in February 2010 until November 2015, when the city signed the MOU with Plamondon, there were by my count two dozen open (not secret) public meetings — briefings by the advisory committee, workshops, hearings, and informational meetings about the downtown hotel.
In addition, there were at least four dozen articles in The News-Post (openly read) and other news outlets during that time period. The vocal opponents did not bother to show up at the public meetings where the site selection criteria were discussed, nor the public meetings about the RFP, nor when the TIF financing was discussed, nor when the various MOUs with the county and state were discussed, nor the presentation about the two proposals received, nor the public meeting where the award to Plamondon was discussed.
Samuel and other vocal opponents for many years seem to have been dozing, apathetic, clueless, or failed to keep themselves informed about the progress of the downtown hotel project by not bothering to attend or listening or providing testimony at meetings of the mayor and aldermen.
It has been eight years (February 2010) since the advisory committee made its first presentation to the city in a public mayor and BOA workshop in February 2010, four years (February 2014) since the hotel RFP was issued in an open meeting, and 3½ years (September 2014) since the award was made to Plamondon in an OPEN meeting.
All of the meetings were open to the public (not secret). Samuel just failed to show up — Rip Van Winkle for about six years.