NEWS 8 INVESTIGATES
IRVING — Irving City Council members are calling for a full investigation into questionable expenditures brought to light in a News 8 investigation.
At issue: Thousands of dollars for consultants' meals, travel and expenses, being paid by the city for a massive entertainment project that may never be built.
Brenda McDonald, Irving's Director of Real Estate Development, is the top city official in charge of paying the bills for the proposed Las Colinas Entertainment Center.
In case after case of questionable consultant invoices paid by the city, McDonald had few answers for expenses such as a $850 limo ride in Los Angeles; a $1,100 hotel room and a $2,000 round-trip airline fare to New York.
"I don't approve specific invoices," McDonald explained. "We rely on our owner's representative to do that."
The "owner's representative" is Bob Kuykendall, a consultant with The Beck Group, which is paid $645,000 to monitor project development and expenses.
While Kuykendall has disallowed some expenses, he has allowed hundreds of thousands of dollars in questionable bills for mystery consultants, their meals, travel, air fare and hotels.
He declined to answer specific questions about why certain expenses were allowed.
"The mayor is the spokesman for the City of Irving," Kuykendall said. "I'm not the spokesman for the City of Irving; I don't work for the City of Irving; I don't approve the bills."
News 8 showed some of those bills to former Irving Mayor Joe Putnam, who is a long-time opponent of the Entertainment Center project.
Putnam said the $2,000 per month payment to Billy Bob Barnett's personal driver confirms the fears he's had from the beginning.
"What it indicates is a gross lack of oversight on the part of the City of Irving and their representatives," Putnam said. "They never should have allowed these expenditures to get out of hand to the extent that they are."
Current Mayor Pro Tem Rose Cannaday said she began questioning invoices back in the spring. She said the News 8 investigation has her concerned that some expenditures could possibly violate the state law allowing public funds to be used for a private venture.
"The Brimer Bill is very specific and how the money we use is spent," Cannaday said. "So if the Brimer funds have been misused, it will be dealt with — I assure you that."
Cannaday and other Council members are now calling for an outside audit of the entire $22 million spent on the Las Colinas Entertainment Center project over the past three years.