Mayor Sandy Stimpson’s administration has officially asked the nonprofit board of Keep Mobile Beautiful for roughly $65,000 in recycling center revenue.
In a letter addressed to board president Alberta Richardson, Executive Director of Finance, Paul Wesch, wrote that the money should be under city control, even though it has not been previously.
“It has recently come to my attention that there has existed for many years the practice of the city delivering to [Keep Mobile Beautiful Inc.] KMBI funds paid by purchasers of recyclables through the city recycling center,” he wrote. “In some cases, checks made payable to the city have been turned over by city employees to KMBI. In other cases, the city has permitted purchasers to deliver to KMBI checks made payable to KMBI.”
Under the law, Wesch wrote, the city can’t allow recycling center revenue to be provided to a private entity, like KMBI, without council or mayoral action.
“Please treat this letter as a request that KMBI return to the city any funds that it is presently holding that derived from payments made by third-party purchasers of city recyclables,” Wesch wrote. “Naturally, any KMBI funds received as grants, private donations or from other income-producing activities should remain the property of KMBI.”
Keep Mobile Beautiful is a three-part entity. A city department runs and staffs the recycling center, while two separate boards manage other aspects of the entity. There is a board of commissioners, where members represent council districts and are appointed by councilors, and there is a nonprofit board, known as KMBI.
Differing opinions over who should control the money have split the board, Richardson said.
“We’re in a little bit of a quagmire,” she said. “There are a lot of split opinions.”
The board wants to check whether the administration missed anything in its research of the laws to determine if what Wesch wrote is correct, Richardson said.
“We want to do research to find out what’s what,” she said. “We don’t want to do anything illegal.”
Commissioners’ opinions on the issue appear to be split as well. Catherine Pierce, a longtime appointee of District 6 Councilwoman Bess Rich, resigned as of Jan. 1 because of the issue.
Pierce said the move has “split the board in half.”
“We still don’t have a bottom line on what they want,” Pierce said. “It’s like nobody can get a straight answer from anybody.”
Meanwhile Devin Ford, the commission’s co-chairwoman, said she would be supportive of anything that helps get more people to recycle.
“I want whatever gets us closer to curbside recycling and leads to increased participation in recycling,” she said.
City spokeswoman Laura Byrne said the goal of the Stimpson administration is to make Keep Mobile Beautiful more “efficient and effective.”