In a dramatic semi-literate letter to city council, former redevelopment bag man Duggins accepts responsibility for Coffey’s harvest cash-coming car park cronyism caper.

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At Monday evening’s city council meeting during council pontification speaking time, councilman Dan Coffey produced a letter from David Duggins, now interim director of the New Albany Public Housing Demolition Authority, but formerly the redevelopment department’s resident sluice operator.

The letter was intended to answer the question of how Coffey could use city-owned property for any reason — his own enrichment or as a fundraiser of the Knights of Columbus — without going through the usual channels for such requests.

In short, who gave Coffey permission?

Duggins explained, and before we go any further, just this: Thanks for reading NA Confidential.

It was brought to my attention that there was some concern raised, by a single local citizen, as to the use of the lot at the Southern end of Bank Street by the Knights of Columbus during the Harvest Homecoming in 2017. The KofC has used that lot for the past three seasons as a fundraiser for their many charitable events and projects in the New Albany area. When Redevelopment issued and RFP for the property Councilman Dan Coffey called me to ask if the lot would be available for their use again this year, in which I responded yes because no construction would have begun by the HHC, and to plan on using it. I also spoke to Matt Chalfant in passing knowing that he would be a proposal participant, to let him know I had given permission to use the lot to the KofC. He had no issue, and in fact we didn’t believe at the time we would have even closed on property. I left Redevelopment as of July 1, 2017, and thought nothing more about this issue. Just like other non-for-profit entities, the City encourages them to use the city lots for additional parking for the highly successful Harvest Homecoming Festival. The KofC has been a driving force for charitable events and items since its beginnings here in New Albany. I am a proud member also, although I do not have the additional time to volunteer as many members do. I hope this clears up any questions or concerns that you may have had.


David C. Duggins Jr.

Let’s take a few steps back.

On November 21, the News and Tribune’s Chris Morris attended the Board of Public Works and Safety meeting.

Roger Baylor asked the board if it had given permission to the Knights of Columbus to sell parking spaces during Harvest Homecoming this year at the grassy lot near Underground Station on Bank Street. Board of Works President Warren Nash said the board did not give permission.

Dan Coffey, with the K of C and a city councilman, said the city’s permission was not needed since the lot was owned by local developer Matt Chalfant. But Chalfant said late Tuesday he did not take ownership of the lot until after the festival.

Coffey said the money raised purchased 55 Thanksgiving baskets this year for those in need.

Naturally, there has been no follow-up from the newspaper, and yet Morris’s account is a good place to start. To wit, BOW knew nothing about it, and properly directed the question to the redevelopment commission.

Why?

Since redevelopment controls the State Street parking garage, and because (for example) Develop New Albany must ask redevelopment each year for permission to use the garage to park cars as a fundraiser during Harvest Homecoming, it’s logical to assume that any other entity seeking to perform precisely the same function using any other redevelopment-controlled properties would need to follow the exact same procedure.

But consider the rationale of Coffey, a former redevelopment commission member who is fully aware of these expectations, when quizzed by Morris (paraphrased): I didn’t need to ask anyone, because the property belongs to Matt Chalfant, not the city.

So, I asked Chalfant about Coffey’s use of the lot, and the developer replied by e-mail:

No sorry I’m not familiar with this as I didn’t own it during HHC.

Meanwhile, city council member David Barksdale now sits on the redevelopment commission, and he e-mailed this perspective to me:

Truthfully, I can not remember if a K of C request came up at the Redevelopment Commission meeting. It possibly could have. I do know the DNA request for the parking garage did. Shane Gibson would be the best person to ask, since he had already begun as interim director of the department.

Contrast this with a central point made by Duggins:

“Just like other non-for-profit entities, the City encourages them to use the city lots for additional parking for the highly successful Harvest Homecoming Festival.”

That’s correct — but as Barksdale duly confirmed, even Develop New Albany and the “highly successful festival” itself aren’t exempt from reporting to BOW and Redevelopment each year to obtain official permission for the use of city property, whether the use is for private or charitable gain.

Seriously, shouldn’t the reasons for such protocols be obvious?

On-the-record transparency and a paper trail matter for more than one reason, although the biggest reason always suffices: responsibility for liability. When Coffey dismissed concerns of the property’s use by referring to Chalfant, the councilman was saying, in effect, that the developer had his back with the necessary insurance.

But don’t you think a savvy businessman like Chalfant would recall being involved in this decision, seeing as liability for injury and damages would be on him?

And, don’t we still have a question outstanding as to the rumor that in 2017, the K of C paid cash to the owner of a car damaged while parked by Coffey on city property during Harvest Homecoming?

If the K of C were forthcoming with a detailed accounting of the parking operation, we might know — but on Monday evening, Coffey spurned any such suggestion of transparency on the K of C’s part.

Look closely at how Duggins spins Chalfant’s place in this narrative.

I also spoke to Matt Chalfant in passing knowing that he would be a proposal participant, to let him know I had given permission to use the lot to the KofC. He had no issue, and in fact we didn’t believe at the time we would have even closed on property.

According to Duggins, Chalfant was briefed and had no issues with Coffey’s use of the property — er, why would he care if he didn’t yet own it? — except for these two key words: “in passing.”

With Coffey’s parking project nowhere to be found in official records, and with Chalfant already stating publicly that he wasn’t familiar with any of it, Duggins as yet insisted the developer was told “in passing.”

At first glance this sounds as though Duggins might be accusing Chalfant of lying, except there’s a way around this (purposeful?) insinuation (paraphrased): I sure did tell Matt, but maybe he didn’t hear my passionate stage whispers amid the heavy trucks thundering past us on Main Street.

As of last Friday, December 1, I’d asked both Shane Gibson and Redevelopment Commission secretary Adam Dickey about this matter, and they promptly acknowledged receipt of the question, indicating there would be a reply within ten days. It probably isn’t a coincidence that Duggins’ letter suddenly materialized just in time for the Monday city council meeting.

As for Coffey, first he said permission wasn’t required. Then, his assertions publicly contradicted by Chalfant, a nifty 180-degree turn became necessary (paraphrased): Who’s Chalfant? Don’t know him, but of course I asked for permission, and Duggins told me it was fine.

Cover from officialdom was needed, and we already know that in spite of the damage to the city’s reputation done by Coffey — he’s the junkyard dog perpetually chewing up that nice parlor furniture — Jeff Gahan’s City Hall is forever eager to reimburse Coffey for his myriad shady services.

(You can imagine lawyer Gibson saying to Coffey, “This envelope makes us even, right?” Coffey nods affirmatively, and it’s done … until Coffey produces yet another misplaced invoice stamped Payment Due, queuing the theme music to “Mr. Haney Meets the Gang that Couldn’t Keep the Stories Straight.”) 

Consequently, the spectacularly over-compensated Duggins coincidentally stepped forward with an account of another in a seemingly endless series of good ol’ boy transactions that cannot be proven or verified, just as the city has informed us that if it’s an actual paper trail you’re looking for, the Bicentennial Commission never even existed, either, because if there are no records, how can anything at all be verified?

We’re now gifted with a new official version, which reads like Duggins composed it while in the limo bus with the Bud Light Lime and hired eye candy in route to Keeneland.

Duggins personally empowered Coffey’s fundraising; it happened a long time ago; and for chrissakes, who could question the use of public property for such a worthy charity?


This single local citizen, for one. 

Why weren’t other worthy charities in the city aware of the opportunity to support their projects and programs?

Is there something unique about the K of C’s projects and programs that make it more worthy of consideration than others?

If the city’s own favored charity, Develop New Albany, must ask permission each year to use public property during Harvest Homecoming, and to report its financial results back to the city, why shouldn’t the K of C, too?

Shouldn’t it have been the K of C formally requesting use of the Bank Street parking lot, and not a city councilman?

Facade grants, parking privileges … how much is the K of C eligible to receive from City Hall that other similar charitable organizations aren’t, or should other organizations hire Coffey on a rotating basis to facilitate pieces of the pie?

If Duggins is a proud member of the K of C, isn’t it a blatant conflict of interest for him to personally push the organization’s fundraising in the absence of customary protocol and procedure?

Or, is rule of law whatever Duggins, Coffey, Gibson and Gahan say it is at any given time?

In closing, don’t forget who remains at the pinnacle of this ongoing municipal monetization pyramid scheme.

It’s none other than Gahan, who certainly would do something about it if he cared to. Instead, ever more power and money are passing to those friends and associates of Gahan’s who have appeared in this article, and who apparently are running amok on city time, which seems largely devoted to crass cronyism.

Just remember all this in 2019, please. We can do so much better than squalid.

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