A WSMV investigation revealed on Friday that $7 million in federal flood relief funds provided to the Metro Nashville Government in 2010 were not used for flood relief at all, but were instead used to build the Ascend Amphitheater downtown.
The stunning revelation rocked the special mayoral election, and cast doubt on fiscal management and legal compliance with federal funding rules on the administrations of former Mayor Karl Dean, former Mayor Megan Barry, and Acting Mayor David Briley, who is a candidate in the May 24 special mayoral election.
“Nashville got $10 million from HUD’s Disaster Recovery Fund to start and received another $22 million in a second appropriation from HUD in 2011,” after the 2010 Nashville floods,” WSMV reported, adding:
Our News4 I-Team investigation discovered that one-third of that $22 million – $7.4 million – never went to flooded homeowners.
It was used to design Ascend Amphitheater, a downtown concert venue.
“Rich Riebeling was the city’s finance director at the time; he’s now Metro’s Chief Operating Officer. The News4 I-Team asked him who decided to use the money for the amphitheater,” the WSMV report continued:
“I don’t recall it,” Riebeling said.
“I think it was a group decision. I’m not the architect of anything. I work as a collaborative process with a lot of people to make things happen,” he said.
He told News4 investigative reporter Nancy Amons he’d research it and get back to her.
“The Metropolitan Development and Housing Agency told News4 that they originally allocated 68 percent of the $22 million to housing. MDHA partnered with The Housing Fund to administer the Rehab program,” WSMV noted.
“However, HUD said this was not allowed, we could not reimburse people for their out of pocket expenses nor could we provide assistance if they had received insurance proceeds, FEMA or SBA assistance that covered the damage assessment,” Angela Hubbard, the Director of Community Development for MDHA told WSMV.
But, as the WSMV report documents in grant detail, former and present members of the Metro Council were not informed of these redirection of funds.
You can read the full WSMV report here.