Misinformation? The RDC is in fact the same group that currently comprises the MRPP

Misinformation? The RDC is in fact the same group that currently comprises the MRPP

Jul 31 2019

If real, true transparency is going to be achieved—at the taxpayer’s insistence—then the public must continue shining the light on claims made by the Memphis Riverfront Parks Partnership (the “MRPP”) and its most vocal proponents of the proposed redesign of Tom Lee Park. The MRPP’s representatives, as well as its most ardent supporters, consistently claim that the Riverfront Development Corporation (the “RDC”) and the MRPP are separate entities, and that the MRPP took over management of Memphis’ riverfront parks only a year ago.

These refrains are often heard when the MRPP wants to distance itself from criticisms related to the RDC’s past failures. Whether those criticisms are geared towards the RDC’s development and management of Beale Street Landing or its failure to maintain Mud Island River Park, the MRPP wants everyone to know that it cannot possibly be held accountable the acts of its predecessor because the MRPP is new and different. This claim could not be further from the truth.

The RDC, whose name is actually the Riverfront Development, Inc., was formed in 1999 and still manages our riverfront parks to this day. According to the Tennessee Secretary of State’s website, the RDC merely changed its assumed name to the MRPP in June of 2018, two months after Carol Coletta took over as CEO. In fact, the MRPP still enters into contracts with the city of Memphis using its real, legal name. The MRPP still uses the same EIN, or tax number, as the RDC. As early as January of this year, Coletta even files nonprofit applications with the state on behalf of the RDC.

Despite being presented with these truths, the MRPP and its supporters maintain that the organization is somehow functionally different due to management turnover and the appointment of new board members. One of the MRPP’s most vocal fans on social media dismissed the reality of the RDC’s legal existence by claiming:

Organization names don’t make decisions, people do. The leadership of MRPP took over last year. Totally different from the RDC. The BOD [Board of Directors] is 90% or more different.

Putting aside the obvious fact that every organization (using its name) most certainly does make decisions, this latter claim—that the MRPP is somehow a totally different and new entity after its rebranding because it changed its leadership—is also false, both legally and factually.

First, the Board is not “90% or more different.” Far from it. Below are the lists of Board members from the RDC for its 2016 and 2017 fiscal years, as well as a list of the MRPP’s current Board members. Of the 24 directors who served on the 2016 and 2017 Boards, 16 remain on the current MRPP Board. That means that 2/3 of the directors on the Board before the RDC’s name change are still on the Board today. While the MRPP recently increased its Board size from 24 to 32 directors, at least three of these newly appointed directors served on the RDC in previous years. Thus, a majority of the current MRPP Board (roughly 60%) is made up of previous RDC directors.

2016 RDC Board

  1. Benny Lendermon
  2. John Farris
  3. Ray Pohlman
  4. Terry Lynch
  5. Robert Clark
  6. Tyree Daniels
  7. John W. Stokes, Jr.
  8. Gregory M. Duckett
  9. Sam Cantor
  10. Chase Carlisle
  11. Carol Colletta
  12. Robert Craddock
  13. Janie M. Garrett
  14. David Hagel
  15. Sharon Leicham
  16. Barry Lichterman
  17. Tanja Mitchell
  18. Laura Morris
  19. Bill Morrison
  20. Doug McGowen
  21. Teresa Sloyan
  22. Diane Terrell
  23. Jim Strickland
  24. Dorchelle Spence

2017 RDC Board

  1. John Farris
  2. Ray Pohlman
  3. Terry Lynch
  4. Robert Clark
  5. Tyree Daniels
  6. Gregory M. Duckett
  7. John Stokes
  8. Tanja Mitchell
  9. Janie Garrett
  10. Laura Morris
  11. Robert Craddock
  12. Sharon Leichman
  13. Barry Lichterman
  14. David Hagel
  15. Chase Carlisle
  16. Sam Cantor
  17. Diane Terrell
  18. Teresa Sloyan
  19. Carol Coletta
  20. Jim Strickland
  21. Doug McGowan
  22. Jamita Swearengen
  23. Dorchelle Spence
  24. Benny Lenderman

2019 MRPP Board (Current 07-28-19)

  1. Ray Pohlman
  2. Tyree Daniels
  3. John Farris
  4. Terry Lynch
  5. Robert Clark
  6. Jennifer Oswalt
  7. Tanja Mitchell
  8. Gregory Duckett
  9. Kevin Adams
  10. Calvin Anderson (FY ended 06-30-12)
  11. Sam Cantor
  12. Chase Carlisle
  13. Robert Craddock
  14. Alan Crone
  15. Candace Steele Flippin
  16. J.W. Gibson II (FY ended 06-30-14)
  17. David Hagel
  18. Bruce B. Hopkins
  19. Barry Lichterman
  20. Anton Powell Mack
  21. Doug McGowen
  22. Laura Morris
  23. Billy Orgel
  24. Teresa Sloyan
  25. Jamita Swearengen
  26. Kevin Woods
  27. Jen Andrews
  28. Maria Munoz-Blanco
  29. Kevin Kane (FY ended 06-30-12)
  30. Kristen C. Wright
  31. Paul Young
  32. Roshun Austin

Even the MRPP’s management is almost entirely the same as the RDC. For proof, look no further than the MRPP’s audited financial statements for 2017 and 2018. Of the 10 employees that made up the RDC’s management staff in 2017, 9 were still employed after the RDC assumed its MRPP moniker in April 2018. The one person to be removed from the management staff? The former CEO, Benny Lendermon, who was replaced by Coletta.

It’s not really rocket science to figure these facts out. It just takes some research online and a willingness to stand up and speak the truth. The MRPP has been entrusted with the power to control some of our city’s most valuable real estate. In return, Memphians deserve that it tell the truth, and do so in an upfront and transparent manner. It’s an election year! Make your voice and vote count!