WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) - Louise McColl, Co-Chairman of the recent USS Gravely Commissioning, was appointed Tuesday night to a Convention Center Advisory Board by the Wilmington City Council.
Before approving the nomination, Councilman Kevin O'Grady raised concerns regarding McColl sitting on the board. "She did a great job on the Gravely," O'Grady said. "I just don't think she's the right fit for this." He said he felt that because McColl is an event planner, being on the board could be perceived by some as a conflict of interest. "She's in an industry where she may be in a position of competing for use of the convention center and that could put her into a conflict situation where there can be an appearance of favoritism which I just don't want any cloud on our convention center," he said.
O'Grady's proposed naming Eric Rylander to the board instead. Rylander owns three downtown businesses. Council did not approve the proposal.
(To watch the city council meeting, click here: http://wilmington.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=25&clip_id=2419)
Councilwoman Kristi Tomey, Chairman of the Council's Appointments Committee for Boards and Commissions, nominated McColl. According to McColl's website, McColl helped run Tomey's campaign for city council in 2007. (http://www.mccoll-associates.com/campaigns.html)
In September, McColl requested $25,000 from both the city council and the New Hanover County Commission to help pay for the 11-day commissioning party. Both Mayor Bill Saffo and Commission Chairman Jason Thompson approved giving McColl the money, but admit they never asked McColl what she specifically planned to spend the money on and neither asked for a report back on how it was spent.
McColl also helped both Saffo and Thompson run their campaigns.
McColl's committee finally turned over a report on how the Gravely Committee spent $58,000 of the more than $200,000 budget. The report only specified a few purchases though, mainly transportation for the crew, a $25,000 fireworks show that very few attended, as well as plaques and books for the sailors. McColl admits the committee could have cut the event budget when it realized it was $50,000 short, but chose not to. She also admits that the $50,000 in tax payer money was actually thrown into the budget as a whole, and was never earmarked for certain events or projects.
WWAY NewsChannel 3 has learned that McColl has been invited numerous times to visit and tour the new convention center, but has not done so yet.
Ramon has invited McColl to talk with us about the nomination. He also has an appointment with Tomey this afternoon to talk about the perception of a conflict of interest regarding both the nomination (since McColl helped Tomey with her campaign) and in regards to McColl being an event planner and sitting on an advisory board of a group that she could chose to steer business towards or away from. Watch his story tonight on WWAY NewsChannel 3 at 6.