Allegations brew against former Civic Center director - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Allegations brew against former Civic Center director

By Laura Ann Sills - bioemail

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) – Going over an audit of the Columbus Civic Center at Tuesday night's meeting, city council members revealed numerous complaints against former Columbus Civic Center director Dale Hester, including alleged excessive use of complimentary tickets and authorizing his own pay for extra work.   

There are six complaints in the audit.

Fist, it states several employees were interviewed in relation to Hester's distribution of event complimentary tickets.  Allegedly, Hester provided tickets to businesses he frequents, like restaurants, massages, produce vendor, jewelry, and exotic aquarium fish.  One interviewee stated promoters of shows performing at the Civic Center frequently questioned the overuse of complimentary tickets.  In the audit, city employees and government officials were listed as receiving tickets.

The auditor recommends that an administrative policy be adopted that explains the acceptable usage of complimentary tickets and the requirement of a log of tickets received.

Hester is also accused of contracting an event that had little potential for profit for the city.  The audit states "during the transition from Director Hester to Deputy City Manager-Operations, it was necessary to review current and upcoming events.  Upon reviewing this contract, the risk-reward element was quickly exposed, and the contract was cancelled." The contract listed in the audit is with Xentel DM, Inc. for an Old Timer's Hockey Game scheduled to coincide with the opening of the city's new ice rink. 

The audit clearly states that "Hester placed personal interests above the interests of the Civic Center in scheduling this event."

Recommendations for the future include periodic reviews of events and their profitability. 

A "whistleblower" complained that Hester retaliated against him for complaining to the Deputy City Manager – Operations.  The auditor said management has a responsibility to protect "the whistleblower and the City's interests."

Another complaint included the "local media" and their advertising relationship with the Civic Center after a baby shower for a Civic Center employee.  The auditor found that advertising expenditures did not change after the baby shower.

The audit states that Hester allegedly violated a city ordinance when he entered into a multi-year deal with an ATM vendor.

Finally, Hester is accused of approving payment for his work at the 2009 Fall Fair.  The Deputy City Manager – Operations said, "in the future, the Director will not be included as event staff for compensation on any event."

Hester was not at home when we called him for comment.

The city council also unanimously hired Ross Horner from North Dakota as the new Civic Center director.

Horner replaces Hester, who retired in January. 

The city apparently received complaints from people in the community which is why they looked into the allegations.

[Read More: Final Audit Report - Transition Audit of Civic Center Director; Chronology of Civic Center Director

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