ONLY ON 3 INVESTIGATION: Bring It! Downtown misuses public money throwing party

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Submitted: Sat, 05/04/2013 - 3:59am
Updated: Mon, 05/06/2013 - 1:15pm

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — A task force launched to market Downtown Wilmington misused public money, throwing a party last week that included more than $1,000 worth of alcohol, according to a member of a board overseeing the group.

The Wilmington City Council formed Bring It! Downtown last year. It's overseen by board members from Wilmington Downtown Inc. and the Downtown Business Alliance. Joan Loch, owner of the downtown store Crescent Moon, chairs the group. According to a source close to the situation, Loch appointed herself to be chairperson. Loch refused to do an on-camera interview for this story; however, she did provide a statement.

The party was held to premier a new video Bring It! Downtown produced with a local production office, Blueberry Fusion. Documents show Bring It! Downtown paid more than $5,000 for the video. According to an employee of Blueberry Fusion, it also still holds the rights to the video. Loch didn't bid the project out to other local production offices or the four television stations in town to see if she could get a better price.

Originally, Loch paid the Hilton Wilmington Riverside $3,602 for food, 12 bottles of white wine, 18 bottles of red, and three cases of beer, according to a receipt we requested.

In exchange, Loch secured $2,700 of in-kind advertising from "Wilmington Magazine," which has been resurrected by a publishing firm in Mt. Pleasant, SC. After we began our investigation, we learned that Loch was instructed to get the money back from the Hilton.

"On paper it appears that the city is paying for the money," said city spokeswoman Malissa Talbert, who also said the city was unaware of the issue until WWAY began looking into it. "Then they were made aware later after the fact that that was not appropriate and they needed to change the bookkeeping to make it very clear that public moneys were not used for that purpose."

Records now show that "Wilmington Magazine" paid the $3,602. A call to the publisher has not been returned.

In all, receipts and purchase orders show Loch spent almost $10,000 to produce the video and host the party. That's almost a third of the public money the Wilmington City Council earmarked for Bring It! Downtown for two years.

In an email written a few hours after our original request and addressed to Bring It! Downtown members and city officials, Loch admits she made a small mistake, but contends the video and the party fulfilled the mission of marketing Downtown Wilmington.

"It was a mistake," Loch said in a statement to WWAY Friday. "Mistakes happen. We have made the city and their attorneys aware of the situation and have taken corrective measures to fix it. We felt that the in-kind advertising with Wilmington Magazine would fit the bill, however there was an accounting error. Wilmington Magazine has paid for the party at the Hilton, and we have reimbursed them for the advertising. The city's attorneys have approved this plan as have CPAs."

The three-and-a-half-minute video focuses mainly on a mother who lives downtown with her husband and kids, as well as a downtown business owner. It skims quickly over downtown parking but doesn't address the ongoing fear of many that downtown is not a safe place to visit.

We have reached out to Mayor Bill Saffo's office for comment but have yet to hear back.


  • dean bailey says:

    its about time we overthrow fed/ state and local gov. its not working for us,

  • Guest Reply says:

    Let’s back up a smidgen…OK?
    Lately, all the attention in the “Election Officials” realm has been directed towards…none other than…Mr. Brian Berger himself. Ya got it!
    It’s like my late Father used to say for years and years, a WWII Veteran pilot that watched the corruption of elected officials way longer than I…and we. And I quote:
    “Once we turn all of our attention to everyone elses business, other than our own at home, the Eskimo’s will come down and take over by invasion”. (I agree).
    Just maybe Mr. Berger “does” have the goods on some of these elected folks after all…and in their retaliation and their smoke screen is… using Berger’s mental attitude as a diversion to their own wrongdoings. Worth a thought with morning coffee isn’t it? Council has you right where you want them to have you…looking outward instead of inward.
    I asked myself the other day…”Why hasn’t Saffo been in the news lately?”…then I read this “Oooops…we spent taxpayers monies the wrong way” article…and who is at the helm? Correct…Oh No…Mr. Bill!
    This world won’t help a soul unless those are willing to help themselves…and as we all sit reading articles every now and again about Council spending tax dollars foolishly (our tax dollars)…the majority of taxpayers here go on getting poked… prodded and raped.
    Don’t let the Eskimo’s continue to ruin your lives…and they will…and laugh at us from now until they break our bank accounts…as they quietly fade into the grey.
    Corruption was put into place by a “check mark” on a ballot. Corruption can be removed by numbers. This is still America…as much as we believe it’s melted away…we can rekindle the fire folks :-)
    The End!

  • Guest1971 says:

    If public money was being used they should get at least 3 bids/proposals before selecting a vendor.

  • Vog46 says:

    Video production services are limited in this area.
    A 3 bid process would have probably included WECT, WWAY and a few smaller organizations as well.
    In THAT case WWAY would NOT have turned down the money and why should they?
    Of course Blueberry Fusion is located downtown, so this organization probably would have not included WECT as they are not located down town?
    It’s also interesting to note that WDI is a member of the DBA.

    Look, I’m all for the marketing of down town and honestly? I don’t think the city should be involved in it monetarily.
    Why? Well, if the city is doing the right thing – providing good infrastructure, a safe environment to conduct business, and encouraging business start up by having lower taxes then businesses should be attracted to here.
    But what the city is doing is telling downtown businesses (headlines from te last year or so) – you want extra police protection when the bars let out? Pay for it.
    You want events down town like fireworks? We’ll set up a special tax district.
    You want a Convention Center in the hope sit will drive business down town? We’ll set up a special tax district whereby that tax pays for eh CC. In other words – pay for it.

    Now that this story has been brought out these organizations, like DBA and WDI should come under increased scrutiny because they are too intertwined and too cozy. The city should end all funding for all marketing organizations related to down town for two reasons. First the marketing is ineffective IMHO, and second when things like this happen, the city won’t be involved.
    These organizations have lost any credibility they may have had and have become an embarrassment to the city.
    Now Council, on the other hand, created this mess but the real issue is how Council treats down town. They encourage business development but then hamstring businesses with taxes, and regs like Historic Preservation. Council has also demonstrated, by their actions, that they are always on the lookout for more taxes – ANY TAXES to fund some of their spending ideas. Charlie Rivenbark has PUBLICLY stated that forced annexation was good for the city because the tax base would increase. Laura Padgett (and others) want Hamilton to re-word her proposed legislation, so that the city can tap into beach sand pumping funds so that the city can maintain River Walk. The County had no say in the development construction and benefit of River walk yet Council wants a county fund to pay for maintaining it!!!!
    The entire council needs replacing.

    Every wonder why the ballpark was put out as a general property tax increase for ALL city residents? Yeah, down town merchants WANTED the ball park but when you’re looking at $54M in costs over 20 years that’s a hefty tax to impose a small “special tax district”. In order to minimize the impact, Council decided to go city-wide property tax increase to make the tax increase numbers “look” smaller. And failed.
    Like marketing of down town – has failed.
    And funding for that marketing – has failed.

    Yet Mayfaire (“the new down town” according to the SN) is full. Even the proposed Phase III is already spoken for. Yet empty spaces are seen down town.

    Go figure

  • Vog46 says:

    State law says no recall of elected officials in this state.
    We are one of 12 states that does not allow recall of any officials

    so you can try to help yourself all you want but it won’t work

    The end


  • Guest2020 says:

    In this instance the people who are getting “poked… prodded and raped” gave the offenders permission to do so when they re-elected them.

  • Guest CommonTater says:

    for much longer…. Best place I have ever lived from a people and location standpoint. The dumbest a-holes ever running the place!!

  • Guest, Just Another says:

    Maybe I’m simple, but who the heck is going to sit and watch a video of downtown Wilm? Where would the avg “mother who lives downtown with her husband and kids, as well as a downtown business owner” find this video to watch, and then discuss with others?

    What a ridiculous waste. Thanks local government, why not make a rap video and show how great the section 8 housing is? You’d get more airplay.

  • Rick Wilson says:

    It is the Mayor and City Council that waste these funds. They do not have to fund these self-serving, self-indulging groups. The tax payers need to require an independent audit that shows down to the penny how all tax dollars are spent. I would love to hear the excuses from the Mayor and Council as to why they would be unwilling to do this. With the upcoming elections, the people have the power to remove the wasteful spenders in office now. It is my sincere hope that the 70% that said no to the baseball fiasco will now send the the politicians behind all this waste to the unemployment line.

  • SurfCityTom says:

    is county; this is a City issue.

    On another note, the voting public can remove the weasels and self serving elected officials at the voting booth.

  • Vog46 says:

    This is the poster child of the so called public/private partnership that is so rampant in city politics these days.
    They take SOME city money as support for their organization and combine it with member dues monies. When they do a project like this they are under no ordinance to require 3 bids because the money is not ALL the city’s money. they cannot apply a city requirement on this.
    Don’t kid yourself. This was a down town project using down town vendors and the costs were not going to the lowest bidder no matter what. And the boards that were overseeing this organization are so cozy with each other that when Hinnant fires up a stogie the DBA complains of second hand smoke.
    The city wrote a check and said promote down town for us.
    No oversight, no concerns – no nothing.
    In the Mayor and council’s case it’s Know Nothing……..
    See no evil? yeah you get the drift……


  • Guest Reply says:

    You’re right about 12 selected states…my bad Vog. You all should try and get that changed for NC if you are going to remain a citizen here. If they believe they can do it to Berger locally…maybe there’ll be a choice down the road to Oust city politicians here by long time residents…one could only hope.
    The part about helping ourselves is working for us thank you…we are leaving in 2 months/9 days/16 hours :-)
    The Beginning

  • Vog46 says:

    Good luck


  • guesty says:

    Good luck with what?

  • Vog46 says:

    “we are leaving in 2 months/9 days/16 hours :-)”

    Got a deadline?


  • justin says:

    Video production is FAR from limited in this area – especially with all the downtime generated from off-production work at the film studios. A simple Google search for “Wilmington NC video production” yielded 18 individual, LOCAL video production companies. I’m sure expanding the search to southeastern North Carolina and the Triangle would have offered pages more.

    As a marketing and communications professional, I regularly use local and regionally-based video and marketing production companies to film for clients. But, hosting a “kegger” for your stakeholders and friends isn’t marketing – it’s misuse of public funds. Plain and simple.

    More important; producing, approving and airing a four minute video that only highlights and interviews white residents of our culturally-diverse community is a gross misrepresentation of our our community’s demographics. There is one, very brief segment in the video that shows an African American man playing the saxophone on a street corner like a panhandler – is that how we really want our community to be represented? We should just rename the video, “Welcome to WHITE-ville”

  • guesty says:

    That wasn’t my posting, that was Guest Reply. Slow down Vog.

  • Guest-of-the-day says:

    There has been no marketing until the video is somehow used to promote downtown. (and showing it via a link to news articles about buffonery/incompetence/wastefulness of said marketers does NOT COUNT).

  • Guest2020 says:

    I am so glad I don’t pay taxes in Wilmington. The whole council and their cronies are just one big joke.

  • Guest22 says:

    Where’s iron man when you need him?

  • Justin says:

    “…Loch didn’t bid the project out to other local production offices or the four television stations in town to see if she could get a better price….”

    Was she required to bid the video production out?

    Sounds like the television station has an ax to grind. Wanna bet if WWAY’s commercial production folks had been hired to shoot the video, they wouldn’t have turned the money down?


  • Guest444 says:


  • guesty says:

    I’m seeing a trend, Bring It! Downtown using tax money for a party for themselves. At least WDI isn’t using tax money to buy cigars and groceries. Oops, I forgot Hinnant did.

  • Guest 1948 says:

    I agree that downtown businesses should pay for their own promotional “marketing.” If local government wants to encourage downtown patrons, I have a simple solution: REMOVE ALL THE PARKING METERS! A typical waste of taxpayer’s money by the “in” crowd that rules our local government.

  • Wilmington Observer says:

    Why do governments continue to use MY (tax) money for anything other than for those purposes in which governments are formed??

    If the downtown businesses want to “market” the downtown area, let THEM pay for it. If I want to help the downtown businesses “market” the downtown area, I will spend money (voluntarily) in those businesses.

    Wilmington Observer

  • Guest1971 says:

    After watching this video I was not sure if I should pack up and move downtown, open a business downtown or what?? It really did not call to me to visit the downtown merchants.

  • kelli says:

    I watched the video by Blueberry Fusion and thought they did a superb job. The video is a timely and artistic piece that would likely appeal to the younger professionals and families more than the traditional onslaught of commercial type marketing. The focus on the young mom and Female business owner relayed a message of security and comfort. The Baby Boomers amongst us may long for simpler days and look forward to leaving the rat race behind. The gentle music and lovely scenes conveyed a sense nostalgia of days gone by that I for one have found in Wilmington. In my humble opinion, I would say this video was money well spent!

  • SurfCityTom says:

    Mayor’s statement?

    He must have taken a strong wiff of hair spray in a small, enclosed area.

  • Vog46 says:

    “The Wilmington City Council formed Bring It! Downtown last year. It’s overseen by board members from Wilmington Downtown Inc. and the Downtown Business Alliance.”

    The “cigars and groceries” were overseeing this organization.
    Funny how this works eh?


  • Common Sense says:

    What the hell is wrong with people? Gross incompetence.

  • Vog46 says:

    For no city involvement in things like this

    Good grief


  • SurfCityTom says:

    this makes the purchase of a few stogies and family groceries seem like a small purchase on the corporate credit card in comparison.

  • Guest78937 says:

    Top notch investigative journalism! Great Job WWAY. (Sarcasm).

  • ChefnSurf says:

    … what did WWAY miss or what would you have done differently?

    Hey, I get on WWAY’s case lots of times, mostly because they send their cub reporters out into the field with their training wheels still on and don’t edit their work, but what did they miss this time?

    Sarcasm’s cool but you’ve got to back it up. So tell us what you would have done.

    (Of course, not responding will make you look less than stellar.)

  • justcause1 says:

    Surprise, Surprise!!

  • Vog46 says:

    WDI oversees this
    As does the Wilmington Downtown Alliance

    And who is Secretary of the Down Town Business Alliance?

    Joan Loch – and her husband Mike is Treasurer

    Makes me wonder……well, no it doesn’t.
    These organizations are intertwined and no one on Council asked questions about that?
    So Joan works for an organization that oversees her work on Bring it Downtown?
    I find that………..”odd”


  • Guest CommonTater says:

    “I find that………..”odd””

    should read…

    I find that………….”crooked”


  • nofaithnlaw says:

    This is just hilarious!
    Typical poltical & social BS that comes from the City of Wilmington!

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