Johnson City Press: City manager says Trump rally invoice for police sent in error

City manager says Trump rally invoice for police sent in error

David Floyd • Jun 28, 2019 at 5:39 PM

When President Donald Trump visited Freedom Hall Civic Center in Johnson City on Oct. 1, 2018, the city billed the Trump campaign about $38,760.

City Manager Pete Peterson said because the city had agreed to take a provision out of its Freedom Hall rental contract that the campaign would reimburse the city for security, the campaign ended up paying back less than half of that figure.

“In the Freedom Hall rental contract that both parties agreed to and signed, it plainly states that they would not reimburse us for security,” Peterson said.

Although Peterson said it stated in the contract that campaign would not be obligated to reimburse the city for security, the city did end up sending the campaign an invoice that included the cost of police services and other labor expenses.

“I had either forgotten or didn’t realize that we had agreed not to bill them for security, and when we got ready to send the invoice, I made the comment to [the finance department], ‘Bill them for everything. The worst thing that can happen is they’ll say no,’” Peterson said. “I just felt like we needed to ask for the payment, and [the campaign] referenced back to the contract that everybody signed and said, ‘No thanks. We didn’t agree to pay for security.’”

The campaign agreed to pay the cost of renting the facility and information technology labor and equipment purchases, which together totaled $15,192, but Peterson said the campaign did not reimburse the city for the $23,572 cost of labor for employees in several departments, including about $20,118 in labor for the police department.

“Lessor recognizes that the U.S. Secret Service shall operate in connection with the event and that U.S. Secret Service shall solely and directly coordinate any law enforcement services necessary for the event,” the contract says. “As such, no law enforcement cost shall be coordinated by Lessor, charged through Lessor to Lessee or shall otherwise be reimbursable expenses in connection with this agreement.”

In a standard Freedom Hall contract, Peterson said the promoter agrees to reimburse the city for the cost of security, but in negotiations with the campaign, he said the city agreed to take that provision out of its contract with the Trump campaign.

Peterson said the he was out of town during this period and wasn’t involved in the negotiations, so he said he doesn’t know why the city agreed to take that provision out.

“I’m not sure what the logic behind that was other than it’s a presidential visit, it’s a high ranking political dignitary (and) it’s customary that we’ve provided security for these types of folks in the past,” he said.

The city said 83 officers worked that day, but including work put in during the time period leading up to the rally, an invoice sent to the campaign accounts for 121 police department employees.

Peterson said it’s his personal opinion that the organizers of all events at Freedom Hall, regardless of the type of event, should reimburse the city for incurred expenses.

He said the city has regularly hosted Tennessee governors over the years and that the requested level of security has varied from governor to governor. To his knowledge, Peterson said the city has never received a reimbursement from the state for providing security.

Excluding events involving high ranking government officials, Peterson said that “99% of the time,” the city receives a reimbursement from event organizers for law enforcement and EMS services. He said officers are also compensated by the organizers of local road races, like the Turkey Trot, for blocking of streets.

The police department had a budget of about $15 million for fiscal year 2019.

“We’re stewards of the local taxpayers’ money and we need to be sure it’s spent wisely and in appropriate ways,” Peterson said, “and we always try to recoup all of the costs that we can possibly recoup.”

The Trump campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A June 14 article by the Center for Public Integrity found that the Trump campaign has not reimbursed up to $840,000 for the cost of providing security at rallies held in 10 cities across the U.S.

Peterson said a sitting president always requires “extraordinary” security measures, which can be expensive, but questioned whether it should be up to city governments to cover those costs.

“You’ve got to kind of wonder, ‘Should the local governments be paying for security for something at the national level or not?’” he said. “I don’t know the answer to that.”

Trump Invoices and Freedom Hall Contract by David Floyd on Scribd

Johnson City Press Videos