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Council members question COTA lawyer

Tuesday, June 9, 2015 by Jo Clifton

At Monday’s meeting, two City Council members on the Economic Opportunity Committee had numerous questions about how the state’s Major Events Trust Fund works and how money flows from the Circuit of the Americas to the state as seed money. Council Member Ora Houston also wanted to know whether there was a conflict of interest for attorney Wayne Hollingsworth, who sits on the Circuit Events Local Organizing Committee while his firm, Armbrust & Brown, represents the Circuit of the Americas. Hollingsworth was in the audience and came to the podium to explain that even though there might be an appearance of a conflict of interest, there was no such conflict. The local organizing committee does the work of providing information to the Texas Comptroller, which enables Circuit of the Americas to apply for and receive funding from the trust fund for events such as Formula 1, the X Games and Moto GP. In response to questions from Council Member Leslie Pool, Sylnovia Holt-Rabb, assistant director of the Economic Development Department, explained that the previous Council did not want the city to put any money into the Major Events Trust Fund. As a consequence, the Circuit Events Local Organizing Committee was formed to raise the money that the city would otherwise pay to the state in order to get trust fund money back from the state. Hollingsworth said the committee receives its funds to give to the state from the Circuit of the Americas. He explained that after the Comptroller receives confirmation of the expenditures for putting on the event, the Comptroller pays back to the Circuit of the Americas $6.25 for each dollar that the committee paid into the fund. Holt-Rabb is a member of the committee, representing the city. However, she has no vote, and Houston was not satisfied with Hollingsworth’s explanation, calling the committee a “closed ecosystem.” The discussion was cut short because the committee had other items to discuss. However, the subject will come up again, because the local organizing committee will be coming back to Council to request its authorization to apply for trust fund money for the 2016 X Games. The Austin Business Journal reported yesterday that attendance at this year’s X Games was lower than the previous year, but still better than attendance in prior years when the games were held in Los Angeles.

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