AUSTIN (KXAN) — A number of Austin Town Council associates say they want to know much more about about a quasi-governing administration company that operates the city-owned Hilton hotel downtown — in addition to a single of its new hires.
Austin Conference Enterprises, Inc., describes itself as a “public facilities corporation established by the Metropolis of Austin to personal, finance and work the Hilton Austin Hotel.” Its president is former council member Jimmy Flannigan, who was hired to the position after getting rid of in a runoff to now-District 6 Council Member Mackenzie Kelly.
“ACE” is loosely linked to the metropolis.
It has some autonomy, like being able to execute contracts. It is authorized to issue bonds with council acceptance, which never influence the Town of Austin’s credit rating, according to city attorneys. The city has command in other means, like the capability to amend the organization’s bylaws.
Austin City Council also appoints the volunteer board users. There are 5 seats: two are now vacant.
Concerns about ACE’s funds arrived up when the organization sought Council’s authorization Thursday to apply for a federal Paycheck Protection Plan financial loan. The income would go to frontline Hilton lodge team.
Leslie Pool of District 7 states she wants the council’s Audit and Finance Committee to get started getting financial updates from ACE.
“The point of finding the PPP financial loan for the personnel is definitely essential,” she stated at Thursday’s conference. “My worry about that is it speaks to the financial problem of the hotel.”
ACE board chairperson Phillip Schmandt informed KXAN Friday the hotel experienced been a sound performer in the latest decades but dropped dollars at sizeable charges because of to the pandemic.
The three-person board employed Flannigan as its very first president and only worker. When KXAN Investigator Kevin Clark questioned Flannigan about his task description, he said it involves anything from large-stage approach to scheduling board conferences.
“There is a lot of function all over making maintenance and negotiating who pays for what,” Flannigan mentioned.
Flannigan’s deal reveals he tends to make $140,000 for a portion-time, 20-hour per 7 days work. But Schmandt stated no one particular would just take the work months top up to Flannigan’s runoff decline and subsequent seek the services of.
“What far better a prospect than a City of Austin council member that was included in overseeing the Convention Center and the hotel?” claimed Schmandt.
Some of Flannigan’s previous colleagues are not as absolutely sure. Extra than one council member termed Flannigan’s use and its timing “awkward” and “uncomfortable.”
Another a single of Flannigan’s roles is to be a liaison amongst the ACE board and council customers. Council appoints the ACE board associates, who employed Flannigan. He was on the council when those people associates ended up appointed.
“I’m also intrigued in listening to from the board about their employing of a president due to the fact it is one thing that is getting talked about in the public,” said Kathie Tovo of District 9. “It is an unusual factor for the board of an [organization] that is like a neighborhood govt company to extend an offer of work to a council member though that particular person is nonetheless a member of council.”
Austin City Code § 2-7-67 only suggests a former town official shall not, within 12 months soon after leaving that place, signify a particular person or entity that pays them ahead of the metropolis “concerning a scenario, undertaking or issue in excess of which the human being exercised discretionary authority” as a town formal.
It is not clear whether or not that applies to council users, but a city spokesperson tells KXAN Council has questioned the regulation section for clarity.
Schmandt vehemently defended Flannigan’s use.
“We experienced our counsel investigate where by there is a revolving doorway ordinance or any identical prohibition in opposition to achieving out to Jimmy and selecting, and the conclusion was no,” he reported.
Schmandt added: “Having Jimmy come to be readily available when he lost his election was really a Godsend to the company.”
KXAN requested Flannigan about the optics.
“Optics are what you make of them,” he stated. “I am the proper man for this work.”
Council member Pool explained she expects the problem of ACE’s finances to be discussed at the next Audit and Finance Committee meeting. Flannigan mentioned he welcomes the prospect for much more transparency, stating: “The council and ACE are on the identical workforce.”