A local event organizer said he felt “disrespected” during Monday’s city council meeting while seeking donations to his upcoming event.
Not given permission to speak, Joe Thomas Jr. said he felt “muted” during the board meeting even though he was on the agenda to discuss his Back Home Event.
But some board members said they were not against supporting Thomas’ event. But they wanted more detailed information and to locate where in the city’s budget the donation would be collected.
“I felt very disrespected by how the meeting was conducted,” Thomas said. “I was clearly on the agenda and was not given the chance to speak even though the questions being asked, I could have answered them.”
The discussion was first brought to the board’s attention when Alderman Aubry Brent Jr. made the motion to donate $1,000 to the Back Home celebration, which is slated to be held on May 26-28 at a local park.
“I don’t think many of us realize the significance of this Back Home event,” Brent said. “We have a lot of good things happening. It is going to be an economic boost for us.”
Brent said the event is under the umbrella of a local radio station that has a 501(c)(3) certificate.
“I think we can get into trouble when we have other organizations that are going to put on functions in the community for the benefit of the community, and we don’t address their request,” Brent said. “With the number of people coming…these folks are going to spend a lot of money which will translate into sales tax which also translates into the city getting some of this money back. I just can’t see where we don’t have the money for this.”
Alderman Gregory Robertson then seconded Brent’s motion to donate $1,000 to the event.
But Alderman Dr. Jack Varner said he would like see more information surrounding the event, including a budget for the celebration and who would be receiving the donation.
“Did we ask these other organizations for a budget,” Brent asked.
“Yes, I see them all,” replied Mayor Diane Delaware.
Lilli Evans-Bass, board attorney, said the city can donate to a 501(c)(3) to advertise resources and promote the city.
“Most organizations we give to, we budget for,” Delaware said. “We see their budgets. We know what they are doing. They come to us far enough in advance. This event was scheduled some time ago. I know nothing about it. I can’t tell you anything about it. I don’t know if any of these people are booked.”
Thomas, who was present in the audience, attempted to speak at that time during the meeting.
“Just a moment, don’t get out of order,” Delaware said, to Thomas. “We expect organizations to be financially responsible. I have no money anywhere in the budget for this event. I don’t know where you are going to get it from. I am not suggesting that you don’t do it. But somebody has got to find the money.”
Thomas then began to raise his hand to speak but was not given permission.
“I am presiding the meeting,” Delaware said. “I will let you know when it is time.”
“Where are we going to get the money,” Delaware continued to ask.
Delaware added that there is no slack in the budget to make such a donation. She also had concerns on whether Thomas had entered into a formal contract with the Yazoo Parks and Recreation Commission to even hold the event at a local park.
Bass-Evans also serves as board attorney for the parks and recreation commission. She said the commission approved the event pending certain conditions, including securing liability insurance, entering into an appropriate contract with the Yazoo recreation commission, giving a detailed list of all activities and events held in the park, and security.
Thomas said he could answer those questions.
“If you continue, I will call you out of order,” Delaware replied. “I told you I will call on you.”
Robertson said Thomas could not have approached the city during its budget process because the event is just now starting to be established.
“Pass over paperwork of items you will present to parks and (recreation),” Delaware said, to Thomas. “That is all I want you to do.”
“Are you going to mute the agenda,” Thomas asked. “I’m on the agenda.”
“We don’t normally call people up to talk during our meeting,” Delaware replied.
Evans-Bass said the information provided by Thomas still needs to show a certificate of insurance, and licensed, bonded security.
“This will suffice for a list of events to include in the contract,” Bass-Evans said.
Delaware then amended the motion to donate $500 to the Back Home Event. She said she would find the funds within her budget by not purchasing another item she had intended.
Varner, Brent and Delaware approved the $500 donation.
Brent said he felt Thomas was being “discriminated” against. But Delaware said it was nothing against the event. She simply had concerns over finding funding.