David Prisant, who had served on the Albany-Dougherty Inner City Authority board for 4 1/2 years, resigned Monday over the board's decision to lease the skate park on East Oglethorpe Boulevard, saying it added no value to the downtown area. (Albany Herald file photo)
ALBANY — Less than a week after walking out in frustration from a board meeting of the Albany-Dougherty Inner City Authority, board member David Prisant has resigned from that board.
In a guest column that appears on today’s Perspectives page, Prisant wrote that the majority of the seven-member board had lost sight of its obligation to look after the best interest of the taxpayers in the community. He said his resignation was a decision he made “to protect my health.”
You can click here to read David Prisant's opinion piece on why he resigned from ADICA.
“ADICA handled this whole situation with the skate park poorly,” Prisant said in an interview Monday. “… The question is, did we, as a board, do what was best for the community? The answer is no.
“What I’d really like to know from the five board members who voted to approve the five-year lease for Rabbitman (Footwear) is if they owned that property and were given the same conditions that they were presented as a board, would they bind themselves to that kind of agreement? And this has absolutely nothing to do with Rabbitman. It’s never been about him; I want him to succeed in the best way. But was this best for this community? I don’t see how it is.”
After voicing his opinion in opposition to a request by Johnny and Tony Williams to lease the 125 College Drive property that formerly housed a city-run skate park, Prisant walked out of last week’s ADICA board meeting when the board voted to lease the property to the Williams brothers for five years. The Williamses were granted the first year of the lease rent-free (other than a $50 monthly fee) in exchange for making needed repairs to the skate park property.
Lease payments for the remaining four years of the agreement will be $500 monthly.
Moments before the vote, Prisant had asked the board to allow developer Sam Shugart to speak about plans he had for the property, but fellow board member Thelma Johnson insisted that Shugart not be allowed to speak and ADICA Chairwoman LaNicia Hart agreed. Prisant then tried to give an overview of what Shugart had told him about his plans, but Johnson again cut him off and Hart again ruled that Prisant could not speak.
After the board voted 5-2 to lease the property to the Williamses, Prisant left.
Shugart said Monday the board had set a dangerous precedent by leasing publicly-owned property for well below market value.
“There are two directions with this issue that I’d like to talk about,” the developer said. “First, I had plans with a ntaional group for a public attraction that would encompass the skate park and adjacent land. A similar attraction in a nearby city is bringing (an estimated) $4.2 million a year in streaming revenue to that city’s downtown.
“Second, and much bigger, is the fact that ADICA has set a legal precedent by taking the community’s tax dollars and competing against community businesses like mine by using my own tax dollars against me. The proper procedure for that property is to sell it by sealed bid to the highest and most responsive bidder. We were not only the highest bidder (when the property was offered for sale), we were the only bidder. But they rejected our bid.”
Shugart offered an ominous scenario that he says ADICA has created with its actions.
“What happens when John Doe comes to city officials and says, ‘You own that property over there, I’d like to rent it for the same $50 a month you’re charging the Williamses’? That’s the precedent they set,” he said.
In his guest column/resignation letter, Prisant also criticized the sudden appearance of City Commissioner Tommie Postell at last week’s ADICA meeting and Postell’s declaration that he was a member of the ADICA board.
“I knew when Tommie Postell walked into that meeting and said, ‘I’m part of this board,’ that I’d brought a knife to a gunfight,” Prisant said Monday.
In his column, Prisant wrote, “Last week … I saw an ADICA board that exhibited such disappointingly poor judgment that I can no longer see my participation as being helpful, given their leadership, or lack thereof.
“When five out of seven board members voted in favor of leasing the skate park building for peanuts rather than selling it to a group of local developers (and substantial taxpayers, I might add),” Prisant wrote, “I realized that ADICA needed a wake-up call. And while I do not suggest that the board should be dissolved, I do know that we need citizens on the board who understand ADICA’s purpose and are willing to make decisions that reflect this obligation.”
Prisant was named to the ADICA board in February 2010.