Independent Counsel Investigation into Convention Center on Tap

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Bowling Green's city commission voted unanimously at special session on Monday morning to hire and appoint an independent counsel to investigate allegations surrounding the finances of the former Sloan Convention Center Board.

Mayor Sandy Jones made the suggestion after saying the commission had now received "2 diametrically opposed" legal opinions regarding whether or not the city should pursue a lawsuit to recover hundreds of thousands of dollars in alleged unauthorized expenses.

City Attorney Gene Harmon investigated the matter and told the Commission he does not see ample evidence to proceed with a lawsuit. Nashville attorney Nader Baydoun, hired by Commissioner Jim Bullington and a group of "concerned taxpayers," told the Commission last week that he believes the city has a case.

Bullington first made the allegations of bad legal and accounting advice in a memo to fellow commissioners dated December 13, 2002. Baydoun told commissioners he believes that memo may have started a 1-year statute of limitations clock that would expire this Saturday, preventing the city commission from filing any legal action after that date.

In explaining her recommendation this morning, Mayor Jones said there is much debate over whether or not the statute of limitations has even started, and that the city attorney was pursuing a "tolling agreement" with law firm Wyatt Tarrant and Combs, and accounting firm BKD. Such an agreement would waive the statute of limitations, and allow the city to have as much time as it needs to investigate the matter.

The Commission is expected to hear recommendations from City Manager Chuck Coates on which law firm to hire as early as next Tuesday at their regular meeting.