Daily Press (Sunday)


- Natalie Anderson, 757-732-1133, natalie.anderson @virginiame­dia.com

from Page 1

$70,000 to host the event this year, according to records obtained by The Virginian-Pilot through a Freedom of Informatio­n Act request. Interim City Manager Mimi Terry approved the city spending $30,000 to help cover the travel and speaking costs for T.D. Jakes, a nationally recognized faith and business leader from Dallas who was the keynote speaker at the event, as well as $40,000 to the Hampton Roads Urban Agricultur­e nonprofit group, which sponsored the event.

Last year, Finney-Smith held the inaugural event in Norfolk, with Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban as guest speaker. Financial records provided by Norfolk show the city paid $5,000 to the Finney-Smith Foundation that year, enough to cover a platinum-level sponsorshi­p.

Erin Carter, who organized the event on behalf of the Finney Foundation and the Hampton Roads 757 Black Tie Gala group, told The Pilot the city of Norfolk was only a table sponsor for the 2022 event, while Portsmouth was a presenting/title sponsor of this year's gala.

Tickets for the event cost $150 per person or $350 for VIP admission. Organizers

said the gala was a way to bring awareness to issues related to food shortages, healthcare disparitie­s and the school-to-prison pipeline with a goal to bring “potential investors to (Finney-Smith's) hometown.”

“I was born and raised here, and now that I have the opportunit­y to use my influence to make it better, I am honored to have such relationsh­ips that could attract the attention of a business powerhouse like Bishop Jakes,” Finney-Smith said in a news release announcing the event.

Portsmouth's financial sponsorshi­p of the gala was brought up in a Sept. 12 meeting, where Council member Bill Moody asked for informatio­n about establishi­ng guidelines that can be used to determine which events the city sponsors. City leaders said then there aren't any guidelines, save for a

$100,000 cap on how much the city manager can spend without Council approval.

“I don't think we need to becomeabod­ythatisdec­iding ‘we're going to sponsor this event or that event,'” Moody saidatthem­eeting.“WhatI'm sayingiswe­needtobefa­irand equitable and have some standards on what kind of events we're going to sponsor.”

Council member Mark Whitaker concurred, noting such decisions for funding requests become arbitrary without policy.

In that meeting, Mayor Shannon Glover said while he has no issue establishi­ng guidelines, he also noted Terry has the discretion as interim city manager to spend up to $100,000 on city business without City Council approval and that members should trust her on such decisions.

“I would be comfortabl­e in knowing that there are guidelines when those decisions are being made,” Moody said.

Terry told Council during the meeting that no guidelines are currently in place, but when a larger funding request is made, she usually emails Council to ask about moving forward. However, she added, she never gets responses.

A Sept. 11 email obtained by The Pilot shows Moody asked Terry to clarify claims from the public that $60,000 was spent to bring Jakes to the event. Terry emailed council members back with a record showing a $30,000 payment made to TDJ Enterprise­s LLP, noting the city's assistance helped offset event costs. However, informatio­n about the $40,000 contributi­on to Hampton Roads Urban Agricultur­e for sponsorshi­p of the event wasn't included in the email.

Vice Mayor Lisa LucasBurke told The Pilot that establishi­ng an official policy seems necessary. She added that reducing the cap from $100,000 could be an option, though council members wouldn't want to “tie the hands of the city manager” for managing such requests.

Lucas-Burke did note, however, that no concerns had previously been brought up for other city-sponsored events until this one — an event honoring African American leaders.

Portsmouth isn't the only

Hampton Roads city taking a deeper look at festival sponsorshi­p. Elected leaders in Virginia Beach are also considerin­g a review of sponsorshi­p protocol for events and festivals after reviewing the economic impact of several large events.

Terry told the Pilot last week the gala, which she and about a dozen city officials and their guests attended, was a great event with positive press for Portsmouth. She noted a recently released documentar­y titled “From Portsmouth to Brooklyn: Dorian Finney-Smith's NBA Journey,” includes scenes throughout the city. After playing at Virginia Tech and University­ofFlorida,FinneySmit­h signed with the Dallas Mavericks as an undrafted free agent in 2016 and re-signed in 2019. He now plays for the Brooklyn Nets.

The event was held in conjunctio­n with FinneySmit­h, the city of Portsmouth,

Sentara Healthcare, Dominion Energy and Virginia Natural Gas, according to a news release about the event. Jakes' visit included a city-led tour of potential investment sites throughout Portsmouth, according to organizers. Also at the gala, Finney-Smith launched the new Dorian Finney-Smith Foundation, which will focus on supporting the community of Portsmouth.

The Finney family told the Pilot in an email the foundation played no role in the finances of this year's event as it was handled by Carter on behalf of the Hampton Roads 757 Black Tie gala organizati­on and Hampton Roads Urban Agricultur­e group, according to a memorandum of understand­ing on the partnershi­p.

 ?? STAFF FILE ?? Pastor T.D. Jakes is shown speaking in Virginia Beach in 2012. The city of Portsmouth spent $30,000 to bring him to a September event at the Portsmouth Renaissanc­e Hotel.
STAFF FILE Pastor T.D. Jakes is shown speaking in Virginia Beach in 2012. The city of Portsmouth spent $30,000 to bring him to a September event at the Portsmouth Renaissanc­e Hotel.

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