published Saturday, September 25th, 2010

Private business run on city time


by Cliff Hightower
Audio clip

Missy Crutchfield

Two city employees — one a highly paid administrator with the Department of Education, Arts and Culture — are running an online magazine on city time and using city resources, the Times Free Press has learned.

Missy Crutchfield, who earns $103,442 as an administrator, conceded in an interview Wednesday that she and department spokeswoman Melissa Turner spend part of their work days marketing Be Magazine.

Turner, who earns $35,911 a year, was present at the interview but did not speak.

The Be Magazine website is registered with the state as a for-profit, limited liability company under the brand name Be Communications LLC. While some limited liability companies can be nonprofit, Be’s registration specifies that the website is a for-profit venture.

Crutchfield called the online site — bemagazine.org — a “communications partner” for the Education, Arts and Culture department, but she didn’t say what such a partnership entails. She said the magazine does not make a profit or receive city money but is used as a marketing tool for the department.

“It’s just a great way to celebrate wonderful people,” she said. “It’s my hobby.”

On Saturday, Crutchfield and Turner posted a message on their site saying they had "come under scrutiny" for using a "powerful communications tool to enhance our marketing and communications for our day jobs."

They said they used their own time and money on the project and none of the cost fell on the city.

In an e-mail exchange earlier last week, Crutchfield said she got permission from the city to launch the private venture. A city official denied Crutchfield’s assertion.

“Be Magazine was cleared for partnership with [the department] before being added on the [web]sites/newsletter, etc.,” Crutchfield said.

She said she talked to Richard Beeland, spokesman for Mayor Ron Littlefield, and Information Officer Mark Keil, who handles the city’s information technology. Her direct supervisor is the mayor.

Crutchfield said she was never told she could not put up the website.

“I assumed everyone was fine with it,” she said.

Beeland said she did not report to him or Keil and that they didn’t know she was forming a private company.

“We didn’t give her permission,” he said.

Beeland said there is a policy against working on personal projects during business time.

“You’re not allowed to work on other things,” he said. “That’s frowned upon.”

He said he did not know if the administration would look further into Crutchfield’s and Turner’s use of public time and resources to pursue a private business.

“It was not a wise decision,” he said. “But it was done, as far as we know, as a marketing tool.”

Littlefield was in Washington, D.C., last week. On Friday evening, he responded to a cell phone message seeking comment by referring the call to Beeland. The spokesman called the Chattanooga Times Free Press to say the mayor had no further comment.

facing blowback

Though Crutchfield called the venture a partnership with the city, City Attorney Mike McMahan said Thursday such a relationship would require a contract. City records show no contract, and state law forbids city employees from having financial relationships with their employers.

McMahan said the relationship might be acceptable because the city was not supporting the magazine financially. When told Crutchfield and Turner used city newsletters to advertise the magazine and that they included Be Magazine in advertising for their department, he said he did not realize the extent of the relationship.

“I haven’t been asked by the city to research the matter,” he said. “That’s all I can give to you.”

Responding to the newspaper’s queries, a city councilman Friday called for an in-depth look at the venture.

“I think the council needs to conduct an investigation, and I’m going to ask the Audit Committee to look at this further,” said Councilman Peter Murphy, who heads the council’s Legal and Legislative Committee.

Murphy said he has several concerns.

“They can have a magazine and it can be profitable, but they better not be doing it on city time,” he said.

April Eidson, spokeswoman for Hire Here, which lobbies the city to hire local workers and contractors, said she found it unbelievable that Crutchfield and Turner can use city support to promote their own agenda, especially without a council-approved contract.

“They are advertising an LLC on the city’s newsletters, the city’s website and using the city’s resources,” she said. “They are using city resources and being shameless about it.”

HOW IT WORKS

Crutchfield, the daughter of former state Sen. Ward Crutchfield, a Chattanooga Democrat who pleaded guilty in 2007 to bribery charges, met Turner at an Education, Arts and Culture conference in 2005 and launched the magazine on Nov. 11, 2009. Crutchfield said she made it an LLC on the advice of attorney friends.

The lines between the Department of Education, Arts and Culture and Be Magazine have been consistently blurry, records show. A series of recent department advertisements in Enigma magazine to promote “Legally Blonde: The Musical” includes a small ad for Be Magazine.

Enigma Publisher Dave Weinthal said this week he donated the space for the musical’s advertisement, but never signed off on advertising Be Magazine.

A March 2010 copy of the Education, Arts and Culture newsletter, Connect the Dots, has an advertisement for Be Magazine and includes its Web address.

The newsletter thanks the department’s partners, including Allied Arts of Greater Chattanooga, AT&T, McKee Foods and the United Way, along with Be Communications LLC.

Be Magazine’s Facebook page, along with Crutchfield’s and Turner’s Facebook pages, shows a series of items about Be Magazine that were posted during normal working hours. A Be Magazine Twitter feed also includes magazine promotional messages sent during business hours.

Crutchfield said that because she and Turner are salaried employees, the line between when they work and don’t work is fuzzy.

“Some [work on the magazine] is during work time; some is not,” she said.

Crutchfield maintains she never intended to make money off the venture and that she has no departmental marketing budget. She said she found the website to be a cheap way to get the message out about good things going on in Chattanooga.

On Friday, the Be Magazine website carried some local items, such as a story about the mayor possibly having a Kid’s Day, one about Councilman Russell Gilbert’s son and one about Crutchfield’s radio program. The website also includes contributions from “Be Bloggers,” who voice some opinions not related to Chattanooga.

Crutchfield said some people build model airplanes as a hobby. She likes to communicate.

“It was fun for us at the end of the day,” she said.



ONLINE MAGAZINE

Check out Be Magazine at www.bemagazine.org.



STATE LAW

“No officer or employee of the city shall have any financial interest other than the common public interest in the profits of any contract, service or other performed for the city; or personally profit directly or indirectly from any from any contract, purchases, sale or service between the city and any person or company.”

Source: Tennessee Code Annotated

31
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crimshaw said...

STATE LAW

“No officer or employee of the city shall have any financial interest other than the common public interest in the profits of any contract, service or other performed for the city; or personally profit directly or indirectly from any from any contract, purchases, sale or service between the city and any person or company.”

Yikes, this seems to be State Law. Maybe they will not be able to use the City Charter to weasel out in this issue.

I don't really see the issue here, being that this is how the City normally operates. They don't have to listen to us and the rules and policy does not apply to the City Controllers.

People please wake up and see what happens in this fair City. Take an intrest and say what's on your mind, if not they will just continue to run the City as they see fit and also to continue their own agenda at our expense.

Just Say " NO " and stop being Consumers.

September 26, 2010 at 5:59 a.m.
crimshaw said...

"CHATTANOOGA CITY NIGHTS" the saga continues. Communicate that.

September 26, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
fairmon said...

The mayor has no further comment although he had made no earlier comment? Raise your hand if that surprises you.

If you think that is the only example of poor use of work time in city operations please attend an auction of that famous bridge located in Brooklyn, NY.

A council member called for an in depth look at the venture. Right out of the congressional "how to respond" play book. Make Your response vague, avoid conclusions or opinions and specifics such as who should do what, when. Remember, the media and public have short memories, buy time and the issue is soon forgotten.

Can you imagine the mayor without a direct report at $103,000 per year plus benefits with a support staff and other resources to assure the erection of sculptures around the city, displays of crafts and other cultural events a few people might enjoy. The city simply could not progress without this essential service. Some citizens may consider this a "nice to have" expenditure but they are misinformed. This position and others like it must be funded and retained regardless of the economic conditions citizens and businesses are coping with.

Those with modest incomes, on fixed incomes, unemployed and under employed or experiencing the reduced annual income seen in the city need to just suck it up, quit complaining and cough up the recent increases in taxes and fees the mayor and council consider modest and necessary.

Next question please?

September 26, 2010 at 7:45 a.m.
harrystatel said...

If Truth-In-Advertising Were Required for Politicians.
http://wp.me/p10KwY-6H

Brought to you by the letters BE LLC.

Harry Statel http://harrystatel.wordpress.com

September 26, 2010 at 8:06 a.m.
rosebud said...

As long as Ward's daughter continues to make six figures as a Littlefield political appointee, it's hard to take the mayor seriously. Although not many people actually do.

Every police officer, firefighter and public works employee should be calling their city council member demanding that Missy's position be abolished, with the proceeds split among people who actually work for the city.

September 26, 2010 at 8:36 a.m.

This is one of many Littlefield Follies and the reason I signed the recall petition. Farmer's Market/Homeless Shelter debacle, Walnut Street/Dale Mabee property giveaway, stormwater debacle, annexation debacle, recycling debacle, McKamey Animal Center debacle, brush pick-up debacle, on and on and on.

Thanks Ron, just thanks.

September 26, 2010 at 9:05 a.m.
fairmon said...

Let's see if we can clear this up:

Be Communications is registered as a for profit LLC but it was never expected to make any money or be profitable.

Be Communications is a partner for the Education, Arts and Crafts department.

Be communications is a marketing tool for the Education, Arts and Crafts department.

Be Communications has not made a profit. It is a good way to get information out about the city.

Some work time is used publishing Be Communications and it is advertised it in city newsletters but there is no cost to the city.

It is not always clear when salary employees are working or not working.

Be communications is a hobby like building model planes might be for others.

It was fun at the end of the day.

In summary: It is a for profit LLC that is a hobby that is fun and not expected to be profitable but to serve as a vehicle for publicizing good things happening in the city.

That should clear things up for any concerned tax payer?

"Except" for a few wonderments: Are city information technology manpower and resources used?

Would the city share in any future profits? What does the partnership contract with the city say?

What is the cost for a subscription to Be Communications or is it supported by advertisers?

How is it distributed to subscribers?

How does one know when a hobby becomes work or when work becomes a hobby?

Is it appropriate to register a hobby that is not expected to be profitable as a for profit LLC?

September 26, 2010 at 9:09 a.m.
mike68 said...

I don't understand why Missy Crutchfield continues to be a target. It's rediculous!!! She and her department do a lot of great things for our city. If you take a look at her budget, she operates with very little. There's no sponsored advertisements on the Be website whatsoever, and its an additional way for her to market what's going on with Education, Arts & Culture. I see this website being a great partnering tool to assist in getting the word out & assist in marketing EAC programs.

I don't see what the big deal is! Don't we have serious issues to worry about?

September 26, 2010 at 9:24 a.m.
fairmon said...

mike68. Could you itemize some of those truly great things?

You obviously have a much greater value for the Education, arts and crafts department than those who can't afford the money grab by the city in higher property taxes, sewer fees, storm water fees, inspections and permit cost, EPB rates, pending water rate increases and other less publicized ones seen primarily by local businesses.

She is probably a very nice lady and I do admire her father. But, what is the rate of return on the budget you consider meager? Any well run business will know what an investment will return and how it will pay for itself.

The EAC department certainly doesn't fall under the essential services umbrella like fire and police protection and other critical services tax payers expect and deserve.

September 26, 2010 at 10:08 a.m.
slr3 said...

Think about it. Us taxpayers paying for nonsense like this isn't fair. It is also why our property & stormwater taxes / fees have gone up. Besides Mayor (and I use the term loosley) Littlefield we can thank councilmembers LADD,ROBINSON,BERZ,RICO and BENSON for passing along a 19% increase in our property tax to fund Missy Crutchfield's endeavors and other waste which should be cut from the budget instead of raising our taxes. They will be remembered & sent packing at the next election as will Littlefield.

September 26, 2010 at 1:43 p.m.

I don't know many folks who build model airplanes while sitting at work. That is usually also frowned upon:)

September 26, 2010 at 2:02 p.m.
mc10ac said...

Despicable judgement and behavior; using public resources for personal private gain. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree. Is there no shame in government?

September 26, 2010 at 2:03 p.m.
whatever said...

I know a few guys who worked for Boeing.

Does that count?

September 26, 2010 at 2:03 p.m.
HiDef said...

When I wrote a letter to the editor complaining about the Bradley County Sheriff using his tax payer funded website to promote his personal religion I was basically told to get lost. Suddenly now everyone is up in arms about how government employees are using their time. No double standard there, nope!

September 26, 2010 at 2:36 p.m.
dave said...

More Money WASTED!

September 26, 2010 at 4:55 p.m.
rickigou said...

Missy Crutchfield also hosts a radio program that advertises several businesses in the Chattanooga area including Capital Toyota. Is that money turned over to the city?

I have nothing personal against Miss Crutchfield but I am having problems paying my property taxes and Missy rakes in other $100,000 a year. I would be happy to do the same job for $40,000 and could do it better. With the savings, the city could hire two more police officers!

Rick Igou www.Nooga.com www.NewsAndBull.com>

rosebud said...

Since the TFP is all over investigative journalism these days, do a little homework on Ms. Crutchfield's previous taxpayer-funded "jobs." Check and see how much money she made at Chatt State, and at UTC. Then find out how often she actually came to work. Her supervisors from those days are still alive, well and available. Wonder if they would tell the truth?

September 26, 2010 at 10:18 p.m.
chrisbrooks said...
September 27, 2010 at 3:22 p.m.
chrisbrooks said...

From Article XIII "CODE OF ETHICS" of the City Code, Chapter Two Administration (http://www.chattanooga.gov/City_Council/110_Code.asp) p.165-6 Sec. 2-756. Use of municipal time, facilities, etc. (1) An official or employee shall not use or authorize the use of municipal time, facilities, equipment, or supplies for private gain or advantage to himself. (2) An official or employee shall not use or authorize the use of municipal time, facilities, equipment, or supplies for private gain or advantage to any private person or entity, except as authorized by legitimate contract or lease that is determined by the governing body to be in the best interests of the municipality.(Ord. No. 11985, §2, 6-26-07)

September 27, 2010 at 3:24 p.m.
chrisbrooks said...

UPDATE: Mayor Ron Littlefield continues to turn blind eye to corruption and very obvious breaches of our City Code's Conflicts of Interest provisions http://www.chattanoogan.com/articles/article_184994.asp

September 27, 2010 at 3:31 p.m.
JasonMcG said...

It's your hobby? Seriously, Missy?

Since when do hobbies have to register with the State of Tenn. as an LLC?

No one in their right mind registers their hobby as a for profit LLC, unless you like filing federal business tax returns just for fun too. You register as an LLC if you anticipate earning a profit from business activities. Will the IRS, DOJ "Connect the Dots" of your LLC too now?

Cliff take a look back at Missy's time at Chattanooga State. This is a rerun of what she did with Chattanooga On the Move Magazine, and several other "hobby" projects she did there where she tried to use college resources and employees on personal/political agendas of hers (Tenn. Education Awareness TV "It's Education, Stupid" ad campaign for example) and claimed they were all under the umbrella of the magazine.That venture had a never ending cycle of trading "free ad space" in that magazine with local businesses and was eventually shut down by the state. Same crap, new day. I guess you can't teach an "old dog" new tricks.

Recall elections are part of the normal democratic process to remove politicians when there is merely a dispute over public policy.

Indictments are how politicians get removed from office for corruption and ethics violations. Just ask former Sen.Ward Crutchfield.

September 27, 2010 at 5:47 p.m.
newmomma said...

I know for a fact that they have been working on Be Magazine long before it launched in Nov 09...at least since Jan 2009. They have spent countless hours on this project DURING business hours. Someone needs to do something about Missy...she thinks she can just smile and get away with whatever she wants.

September 27, 2010 at 7:02 p.m.
jpo3136 said...

I was shocked when I read the article in the Sunday paper: because of its factual imbalance.

The cold reality is that a lot of facts were presented in a way that accuses Ms. Crutchfield of improprieties, but no facts about the weak budget her department has were made available.

How much does AEC get for Internet? $4,056 per year.
Forms and printed material? $4,700 per year. The "Link2Gov" Internet fee? $1,190 per year.

As you can see, the city allocated less than $10,000 per year to the AEC for Internet related goods and services when contemporary community standards make an online presence an important part of collective activities.

Where do we find these AEC budget facts? In the online copy of the City of Chattanooga's budget summary for 2010. It's available to everyone through this link: http://www.chattanooga.gov/Finance/66_2010ProposedBudget.htm

If the AEC doesn't get funding to interact with people on the Internet on a scale that can command the attention of a mass audience, then how are they to reasonably recruit customers and clients?

It's been obvious to people who have had a look at Chattanooga's arts communities that a majority of our area's better arts efforts have remained funded through private donations from out wealthier citizens. We have to look no further than online disclosures from organizations like the Lyndhurst and Benwood foundations to see the difference between what governmental budgets pay for in the arts, and what the people have to buy themselves.

Quite frankly, many of the facts in the story indicated to me that what was happening was that these people were having to spend their own funds to get something done.

For example, it's noted that these efforts involved in making entries to social networks like Facebook. So does the Times-Free Press. Why? Because it's a big part of what's expected when it comes to recruiting attention for an event.

I really thought the story, as it was presented, was a skewed and unfairly aggressive.

The people in the AEC were accused of misusing government resources, but not once were we shown the difference between what they did and what they were provided to get the job done.

Chattanooga, as a city historically associated with manufacturing, is an ideal community for a burgeoning artists' marketplace. It's a commercial model that fits and makes sense here.

If you're going to attack the people who are doing the work to make this place better for the arts, then perhaps showing what little they were provided to work with might be a good place to start.

I was sorely disappointed with the lack of observably true budget analysis in the story. Fortunately, the City of Chattanooga's budget summary for 2010 provides the factual clarification we need to understand just how narrow the scope of the warrant of this report really was.

September 27, 2010 at 8:45 p.m.
newmomma said...

That sounds like something Missy would say...

September 27, 2010 at 9:41 p.m.
rosebud said...

Tell ya what jpo3136. You are so right. They are terribly underfunded. Here's an idea. Let Missy take her incredible talents to the private sector (for once).

Then hire an AEC director for say, $60,000. Pretty respectable salary. You have suddenly freed up more than $40,000 for Internet, forms and printed materials! Think that'll do it?

September 27, 2010 at 10:16 p.m.
jpo3136 said...

Is this about what the city needs, or about how people would like to be jealous of or nasty towards Missy Crutchfield?

If you had looked at that budget, you might have noticed that above, I made an error: I cited the acronym of her department incorrectly.

The pettiness of the story's tone, and some of these comments just goes to show: it's not about what we need done, it's about who has what.

Get real. Being nasty to any one city employee, even if she is Missy Crutchfield, isn't going to solve our problems.

But looking at that budget might be a better place to start.

If you look at it, and stop yelling incoherently long enough, you might see that it's more likely, by the money spent alone, that these people were spending their own personal funds to get their government jobs done.

Then, in an unfair and unjust analysis, were accused of doing the opposite.

They were giving more than they were taking. And, it's likely that they were insulted for providing service as a result of misdirected and incomplete research on the part of the news staff here.

How is her annual salary significant, beyond trying to persuade people into being jealous?

How is it that it is so significant that other costs and expenditures were not included in this story?

It seems to me that this story was designed to manipulate us into concluding that Missy Crutchfield was doing something wrong when she was placed in a position designed to keep her from doing anything at all.

September 28, 2010 at 5:36 p.m.
jpo3136 said...

And, if we had bothered to get down to the truth of the matter, understanding why a Republican mayor would preside over the office of an old political opponent's daughter, and make sure that she had enough station to be public but so little budget as to have no utility: that might have been a better story, a little bit closer to the reality of old political dogs in our city.

Too bad we missed out on that so that we could yell about Missy Crutchfield's salary. I suspect there would have been money near her anyway.

Maybe we should have looked at the money spent on Education and Arts instead.

September 28, 2010 at 5:43 p.m.
poetrycherie said...

Well just maybe they worked on this during Lunch breaks or Coffee breaks and used a battery powered lap top! Why does everyone always have to see things in a Negative Light and too boot bring up one's Family? Shame on this kind of reaction and Bravo that these woman are promoting Change for Chattanooga a great little City!!

September 28, 2010 at 6:59 p.m.
Sorceress said...

Mayor Littlefield said she showed poor judgement. Many Rico says her actions show poor judgement. And apparently most of the City Council feels the same way.

So the obvious question is why is someone with such poor judgement in charge of an entire department of city government?

Surely there is someone more competent to do her job, who has a proven track record of sound judgement.

In addition, she thinks a for profit LLC's is a hobby, which just sounds nutty.

She also seems to think she somehow got permission to launch this endeavor from other people in city government who are in no way whatsoever her supervisor. So she is either a liar passing blame, had the permission granting conversation with Beeland and Keil only in her mind, or just out of touch with what the proper chain of command is in city government.

And to top it off she compares the plight of her obscure little web site, which I would venture most of Chattanooga had never even heard of until this incident with a multimillion dollar donation from FaceBook's founder stating: http://chattarati.com/metro/government-politics/2010/9/27/questions-raised-crutchfields-be-magazine/ "As Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has come under scrutiny for the motives behind his $100 million gift to Newark, New Jersey schools, Be Magazine has come under scrutiny as we have connected this powerful communications tool to enhance our marketing and communications for our day jobs"

Just poor judgement? Or a wee bit delusional?

Even if there is absolutely no financial wrong doing on her part, the lack of sound judgement she displays seriously brings into doubt if she should be in charge of anything let alone an entire department of city government.

September 29, 2010 at 4:35 a.m.

The emphasis on the city's Department of Education Arts and Culture not having marketing budget is a bit deceitful.

The EAC does have a budget of well over 2 million dollars: $2,086,089 in 2009 (actual) $2,208,590 in 2010 (projected) $2,283,882 in 2011 (proposed)

see page 8 of 56 of this document http://media.timesfreepress.com/docs/2010/07/2010_2011_budget.pdf http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/20...

How else do you think the EAC is able to run all over the city putting up
$85,000 abstract lawn gnomes- oops I mean public art, which benefits the citizens of Chattanooga in no other way than people pause in front of them and ask, "What idiot tossed this pile of abstract welded scrap metal on the lawn?"

If the City Council did not give the EAC a marketing budget, then it meant the EAC was not to market itself. It meant the EAC was to use it funds elsewhere, not on self promotion of Missy's own job.

Nonetheless, Missy sets up a private company that she admits in her own words was established to market / promote her own day job: "On Saturday, Crutchfield and Turner posted a message on their site saying they had "come under scrutiny" for using a "powerful communications tool to enhance our marketing and communications for our day jobs." (see above in the article)

So she set up a private company to bypass state mandated bidding laws regarding external companies providing marketing and promotion services for the city, circumvent the authority of the City Council, and basically toot her own horn about how valuable her own position is to the city.

The EAC is a useless department. Chattanooga abandoned it's interest in public education when the City and County Schools merged under the Hamilton County School Board decades ago and lawn gnomes should always take a back seat to Police Academies, and dealing with the city's growing crime problem.

September 29, 2010 at 8:31 p.m.
skinemaxfan said...

This is the behavior of a woman who believes that a shield separates her from any real scrutiny of her actions. Even after her father was caught taking bribes as a State Senator, and who really thinks the first bribe he took was from an FBI agent? She has established a a for-profit LLC and used city resources to publicize its web presence. Those advertisements were donated by people donating space to the city of Chattanooga, and not to Missy's LLC. Her business may not have turned a profit yet, but if it did in the future it was on the back of Chattanooga tax payers and they would never receive any dividend on those gains as the company was structured. Her behavior is indicative of one who feels entitled to the legacy of her father's misbegotten empire.

Don't get me wrong, I loved her as "Missy O'Shae". Missy O'Shea Crutchfield hated her dad and everything he stood for enough to act in the silliest yet most self effacing of porno generes (think "Cinemax late at night"), with great fully-nude dry-humping skill, I must add. If only that girl was serving at the pleasure of our mayor in advocacy of the arts. That gal WAS art, and she knew how to turn art into economic gain. I started this as a diatribe against Missy Crutchfield, but I find myself nominating her as a candidate for mayor. Missy O'Shae for mayor of Chattanooga!

October 4, 2010 at 12:25 a.m.
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