McGary, Crutchfield have ties

McGary, Crutchfield have ties

October 3rd, 2010 by Cliff Hightower in News

A Chattanooga city councilman who didn't support an audit of a department head who ran a private business on city time has worked closely with her and received a campaign contribution from her father, a Times Free Press review shows.

Councilman Andraé McGary is chairman of the committee that drives policy for the Department of Education, Arts and Culture, which is run by Missy Crutchfield.

Crutchfield has acknowledged that she and department spokeswoman Melissa Turner used city time and resources to work on and promote their for-profit online publication, Be Magazine.

TIMELINE

* March 2009: Andraé McGary receives a $300 donation from former state Sen. Ward Crutchfield, D-Chattanooga for his City Council election campaign.

* April 2009: During his runoff election, McGary receives another $200 donation from Ward Crutchfield.

* April 2009: McGary is elected to council and named chairman of the Education, Arts and Culture Committee.

* April- June 2009: McGary and Department of Education, Arts and Culture Administrator Missy Crutchfield serve on the Mark Making board together.

* January 2010: McGary enters into a consulting contract with Mark Making.

* September 2010: McGary asks that Missy Crutchfield speak in front of the council to address concerns about time worked while on the job.

McGary also served for three months with Crutchfield on the board of a nonprofit arts program and received donations from her father, former state Sen. Ward Crutchfield, during his election campaign, records show.

"It seems like there's some ties that could make it hard to be strictly objective," Councilman Jack Benson said Friday.

McGary did not respond to requests for comment.

As chairman of the council's Education, Arts and Culture Committee, McGary helps oversee the city department Missy Crutchfield runs. He also served with Crutchfield on the board of Mark Making, a nonprofit devoted to spreading arts throughout town, where he also later took a job.

Frances McDonald of Mark Making said Friday that McGary and Missy Crutchfield both are interested in the arts and that they served on the board for only a short time.

"I would be surprised if they didn't overlap," she said. "Chattanooga is a small town."

City Attorney Mike McMahan said Friday there is no city policy restricting council members from serving on boards with administrators.

Financial disclosure statements from 2009 show McGary received two donations from Ward Crutchfield, who in 2007 pleaded guilty to bribery charges as part of the FBI's Tennessee Waltz sting. He received two years' probation and six months' home confinement.

Ward Crutchfield contributed $300 to McGary in March 2009 and $200 in April 2009, records show.

Council Chairman Manny Rico said Friday that the ties between McGary and Missy Crutchfield were why many council members wanted the Audit Committee to examine the Be Magazine issue.

McGary, though, called for a meeting of the Education, Arts and Culture Committee instead, saying he wanted to hear Missy Crutchfield's explanations.

McGary was the only council member to speak against involving the Audit Committee at a meeting Tuesday.

"He's got too many close ties to all the art things, and Ward," Rico said.

Ward Crutchfield said Friday he did not care to talk about his relationship with McGary, but said a $500 donation to the councilman's campaign sounded "about right."

"I don't know where my contributions go," he said.

Missy Crutchfield said she was aware her father had an interest in McGary's campaign.

"I knew my dad supported his campaign," she said. "I didn't know how much he gave."

Missy Crutchfield said that by the time McGary took a job with Mark Making she already had resigned from the nonprofit's board, so she didn't vote on his hiring.