Wednesday, December 21, 2016

More on mPACT, the local federal action coalition

Posted By on Wed, Dec 21, 2016 at 9:25 AM

Councilor Gaebler: Still looking for accountability. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Councilor Gaebler: Still looking for accountability.
Today, the Indy published a shorter version of a blog posted last week about mPACT, Pikes Peak Federal Action Coalition, and a dustup that's arisen about whom it answers to.

Just to be clear, the Colorado Springs Chamber and EDC isn't exactly the parent organization overseeing mPACT, although it works in tandem with the group. The agency works on federal legislation, as well as local concerns, that can help improve the local economy. Toward that end, it's hired a Washington, D.C., lobbying firm.

"We serve as a fiscal sponsor of sorts – sending the invoices to members, holding the funds in a separate account, and issuing checks — but do not administer the lobbyist contract, group membership, or meetings. We are members of the coalition, with a single vote, just like the other funders," the Chamber and EDC's Rachel Beck says via email.

mPACT came into the spotlight after City Councilor Jill Gaebler asked for a briefing to Council, noting the city's elected leaders had never been told about the group's mission and how that fits with the city's strategic plan. The group is a combination of government agencies, businesses and nonprofits.

But mPACT spokeswoman Stephannie Finley Fortune says Council members who are involved in the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments, also an mPACT member, have been briefed, including Gaebler.

"I am very puzzled why Jill Gaebler told you that she didn’t know of the existence of the Coalition when she was present at two of the PPACG briefings, making a statement during one of the briefings, plus she was in D.C. on one of the annual trips when its existence was briefed and the lobbying firm presented during the Day on the Hill," Finley Fortune says in an email.

Those meetings took place in February 2014, January 2015 and December 2015, Finley Fortune says. She also notes elected officials have served on the coalition — including El Paso County commissioners  Mark Waller, Dennis Hisey and Sallie Clark, and Green Mountain Falls city official Tyler Stevens.

That said, the coalition hasn't included an elected city official.

Gaebler responded to Finley Fortune's comments via email, telling the Indy:

I appreciate that Stephannie is trying to show mPACT’s efforts at communications, but I still have significant concerns about their transparency. To be specific, as an organization that uses public dollars, I would appreciate mPACT not just speaking out during the public comments portion of one public entity (PPACG) but actually providing information about its accomplishments, effectiveness, and measurable outcomes, that would be included as an item within an agenda packet … not just for PPACG, but also for the City and CSU [Colorado Springs Utilities]. Every time I learn more about this organization I only find I have more questions, like:

1. Who signs contracts on behalf of mPACT?
2. How are funds authorized and spent?
3. How are the private groups, like Bryan Construction and United Way, chosen to participate, at the exclusion of many other nonprofits and developers?

The fact remains that mPACT has not been transparent with local government about how it spends its funds and how effective it has been with public dollars. I hope this will change now that you [Independent] have put a spotlight on this organization.

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