The first glimpse at the costs of the 2012 MoonPie Over Mobile show the New Year’s Eve event may have cost much more than City Councilors realized.
In October 2012, Events Mobile, Inc., a non-profit, was created so the city could raise money from private businesses for events. The organization did very little of that, but it did spend more than $200,000 on one event, according to an audit of the group’s finances by Nonnenmacher & Clark, Pc LLC.
Events Mobile, Inc. was created to plan city events like Kids’ Days, Brown Bag In Bienville, Beerfest, Market in the Park/Square and the New Year’s Eve MoonPie drop. Events Mobile, Inc. Board President Barbara Drummond, who was also Executive Director of Administrative Services and Community Affairs Division for Mayor Sam Jones, explained on Oct. 30, 2012, the benefits of the group.
“It will allow the members of the Events Mobile board the flexibility to secure sponsorships and grant opportunities,” she said. “It will further serve as tax deductions for said sponsors; and create a board of stakeholders who are accountable for the success of said city-sponsored events.”
However, Events Mobile raised only $36,100 from corporate or private donations, according to the audit of the group provided anonymously to Lagniappe.
The largest portion of the organization’s financing was labeled “government support,” which totaled $207,345. That appears at odds with what publicly was provided by the city. The City Council approved giving Events Mobile, Inc. only $72,345.42 in fall 2012.
“In the past six year or more years, Neighborhood and Community Services, which comes under Administrative Services and Community Affairs umbrella have secured minor amounts from various sponsors — some cash and others through sale of promotional merchandising (i.e.: a percentage of Chattanooga Bakery signature items sale and fees) to enhance city-sponsored events,” Drummond said on Oct. 30, 2012.
At that time Events Mobile was given a performance contract with the city and the $72,345 was transferred from accounts previously used for community events. That money included $62,607.62 for “Kids’ Days activities, etc.” and $9,737.80 for administrative services.
However, the audit of Events Mobile shows there was actually $207,345 provided by the city during that period. So far, no one currently with the city has been able to explain the $134,999.58 boost.
Total expenses for the 2012 New Year’s Eve celebration for Events Mobile, Inc. was $206,446, according to the audit. There was a balance of $73,019 balance left over after the MoonPie Drop because the organization raised $36,100 from public support (private industry) and another $36,020 from proceeds from vendors.
However, the city of Mobile provided police, fire, traffic, etc. This typically costs about $32,000.
The city also spent $18,500 on fireworks for the event.
That means the event actually cost $256,946 — roughly $135,000 more than initially stated by the administration.
Councilman Fred Richardson, who created the MoonPie event, said he is unsure of how the government support grew to $207,345.
“All I know is what was approved by the council,” he said. “I know the group raised money, but I only know about what the council voted on.”
Other council members also were also flummoxed by the audit numbers and unaware how the extra money ended up with Events Mobile.
Comparatively, the city of Mobile gave BayFest, a three-day music festival, $243,000. It has given the music festival as little as $107,000, which is nearly the amount it gave Events Mobile, Inc. in 2014.
Efforts to determine total costs for the New Year’s Eve event ran into a roadblock last year. When asked on Nov. 8, 2012, for a list of expenses, Drummond could not provide the costs of the performers at the announcement, but said Events Mobile would have to file a report since it is a 501(c)3.
“All of the expenses and money raised will be included in the report,” she said.
However, there never was a report filed with the IRS.
Under federal law, non-profits are required to file a Form-990, which annually details the organization’s mission, programs, and finances. Events Mobile, Inc. has not filed the 990 for 2012. Typically an organization still has non-profit status by the IRS until it does not file the 990 for three consecutive years.
The current version of the Events Mobile, Inc. started in May 2012. However, it is actually a revamped version of a 1994 non-profit started by Phillip Kent Baxley, who was a Mobile attorney.
Since the group had not filed its 990 in several years, the new version of Events Mobile, Inc. had to file the form in December of 2012 to keep its non-profit status. The organization did not so the IRS did an automatic revocation of exemption for the group. An IRS official confirmed Nov. 7 that the group no longer has its non-profit status.
With less than 50 days until the MoonPie should slide down the side of the RSA/Trustmark building, though, the board members of Events Mobile, Inc. haven’t met in nearly a year and it appears the organization has lost its IRS non-profit status.
Board member and Communications Director at Downtown Mobile Alliance Carol Hunter said the board hasn’t met since Dec. 19, 2012. More than that, at least two board members have never seen the financial reports from the MoonPie Over Mobile event.
“Ann Rambeau, who is the treasurer, and I were just talking about this, but she has never seen or been given any accounting information from last year’s events,” Hunter said. “I know the city gave Events Mobile $100,000 this year, but I don’t know how much of the initial money (which was $72,345.42) was spent.”
Hunter said the financial information would come from Drummond.
Rambeau said she had the previous finances, but not a budget for this year. When asked, she said she had the basic figures for the New Year’s Eve event, but said she didn’t have the numbers in front of her so she couldn’t provide a figure for what it cost.
While there is not a line-by-line breakdown of expenses, the audit does reveal $85,600 was spent on performers, which included The Commodores, Wet Willie and Grayson Capps, among others. Another $57,471 went for stage production and $26,216 went to hospitality expenses.
Despite the status of Events Mobile, Inc., city of Mobile Chief of Staff Colby Cooper sent a letter to City Councilors Nov. 6 ensuring them Mayor Sandy Stimpson is behind the MoonPie Over Mobile 100 percent.
“On Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2013, the then-mayor-elect met with Councilman Richardson, Barbara Drummond and me. In that meeting, Mr. Stimpson unequivocally stated his support for the MoonPie Drop. The mayor has repeated this commitment to anyone who has asked, and never stated anything to the contrary,” the letter reads. “Contrary to the public naysayers, we have done nothing to impede the event and we will do our part to ensure it is a success.”
Drummond currently remains on the board of Events Mobile. Whether the organization’s lost non-profit status will affect how the event is managed is also still not clear. Efforts to contact Drummond for this story were unsuccessful.