EYEWITNESS LOCAL NEWSOfficials Can't Account For How Festival Money Was Spent
from Eyewitness News Online
Reported by: Dan Matics
Web Producer: Heath Harrison
Reported: Sep. 29, 2013 10:50 PM EDT
Updated: Sep. 29, 2013 10:56 PM EDT
Huntington , Cabell County , West Virginia
There are many fall festivals for people to enjoy this time of year, but one local festival from last year is stirring up some controversy.
Swinefest in the Guyandotte neighborhood of Huntington usually gets $4,000 from the Cabell County Commission.
The festival receives taxpayer money because of tourism and business it brings to the area, but as of now, it looks like the festival won't get another dime from the commission.
"Help us understand how your money was spent," Cabell County administrator Chris Tatum said.
The Cabell County Commission gives thousands of dollars to Swinefest, as it brings business to the county, but for this year, the money has been cut off, following complaints that checks bounced for vendors after last year’s festival and a lack of proof as to where the money went.
One item bought for the festival was a power scooter. Former Swinfest president Rick Simmons said many people used it.
But Simmons, who had just got out of the hospital and had trouble getting around, can be seen on Facebook riding it.
A similar scooter can run from $1,000 to $3,000. In years past, the Cabell County Commission has donated $4,000 of taxpayer money to Swinefest.
When asked where the scooter went after the festival, Simmons replied, “My garage.”
He said it is just being stored there, and that a state reimbursement fund approved the scooter.
"I don't think the allegations are warranted,” Simmons said. “There was nothing done wrong."
Simmons there was “miscommunication on where the money went,” but would not elaborate.
“I don’t want to point fingers," he said.
While Simmons prepares for an audit, he said even without the county's money, Swinefest 2013 will roll on.
"If I have to take a hit, I'll take a hit," he said.
Simmons has stepped aside as president for this year's Swinefest. When asked where the scooter will go, he said it is up to the board to decide.
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