Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes ofwebsite accessibility
Close Alert

Controversy surrounding LITfest reaches inside Little Rock mayor's office

Controversy surrounding Litfest reaches inside Little Rock mayor's office. (KATV Photo)
Controversy surrounding Litfest reaches inside Little Rock mayor's office. (KATV Photo)
Facebook Share IconTwitter Share IconEmail Share Icon

It’s been a controversial week at Little Rock City Hall.

As previously reported on Tuesday, city council went into executive session to discuss allegations made against the city attorney. Some of those allegations are potentially surrounding a festival being put on by the city called LITfest.

Further information has come to light after an attorney and government watchdog, Matt Campbell, started looking into the festival.

A Delaware company called Think Rubix was hired by the city to plan LITfest and they were paid $45,000 according to documents obtained and reviewed by KATV.

Campbell, who is also known as a liberal blogger and has written about LITfest extensively, started piecing together connections and told KATV Think Rubix was involved in Mayor Frank Scott, Jr.'s first mayoral race campaign.

Scott’s former chief of staff, Charles Blake, also left to work for Think Rubix earlier this year, which got the attention of Campbell because that company is not registered to do business in Arkansas.

“It’s almost like they had an idea just for a festival and have been trying to form pieces around that - it wasn't a really fully formed idea I guess at the beginning," said Campbell.

The city advertised a Request for Qualification (RFQ) bid in search of who they would hire to plan the festival, but the only bid was from Think Rubix which raised a red flag for Campbell.

“Charles Blake, he was the chief of staff, he left that role, took a job with Think Rubix on allegedly February 1, helped them craft their proposal from there until the 9th and that was the only proposal that came in,” he explained.

Campbell discovered this after submitting multiple Freedom Of Information Act requests to the city - he also received thousands of documents from Think Rubix.

“Think Rubix is who is supposed to find sponsorships and pay for a lot of this,” said Campbell. “They sent out a letter and told all would-be sponsors to send checks to this non-profit that Think Rubix owns. So all the money is going to that, even though the contract is supposed to go to the city.”

“We know they paid Ashanti $32,500 on her contract but there is just no real accounting for any of the other money that's coming in,” said Campbell.

He added, he finds this concerning.

“I don't know why you have a non-Arkansas company telling sponsors to send money to a non-registered charity that the company owns. It's one the weirder arrangements I think I have ever seen," he said.

His biggest concerns: where is the money coming from and how our taxpayer dollars are being spent.

"At the end of the day, I would love for this festival to be a huge success and go well and grow each year, but the way it's gone so far it looks a lot like poor planning and a waste of the $45,000 they paid to Think Rubix,” Campbell concluded.

KATV started reaching out to the city last week and we requested an interview with the mayor or anyone else who could answer questions related to Litfest.

After multiple requests, just three hours before this was scheduled to air on Thursday, we finally heard back and it was from the mayor's Chief of Staff Kendra Pruitt.

“[Reporter: There has been a lot of criticism by certain folks in the community about the way Litfest has been planned, about the way it's been run so far, some of the decisions that have been made behind closed doors as it relates to hiring Think Rubix. Former chief staff of staff working over there - turns out some emails have been revealed that Charles Blake did in fact that something to do with the RFQ when the city I believe put out a press release saying he had nothing to do with it, you guys are being called liars - how do you respond to that?]

“Yeah, I would first say we never lied; we made a good faith statement based on the facts that we had at the time about Charles Blake's involvement. We can speak very clearly about what we know - which is - he had no involvement from the city side of things,” Pruitt explained.

She added, the festival is about promoting the City of Little Rock and it was a campaign promise Mayor Scott made to the city.

“Really highlight the best of what Little Rock has to offer, whether it's food, whether it's culture, whether it's business and economy,” said Pruitt. “We wanted to show all that Little Rock has to offer, why it's a great place to live, work and play and it's unfortunate that it's been distractions and there have been nay-sayers but that comes with the territory."

KATV also reached out to Think Rubix and the company's managing principal, Tristan Wilkerson, agreed to an interview.

“Litfest is happening, it's an opportunity for us to celebrate Little Rock and I think we can all agree that Little Rock deserves to be celebrated,” said Wilkerson. “We brought together tons of local artists, we are bringing together vendors and small businesses and the whole idea here is to put our best foot forward."

He called the allegations being made against Litfest unfortunate.

"There are some pretty toxic political undertonesthat doesn't disrupt our work, we are not allowing to, we are focused on our work,” he said. “There are questions that we wouldn't answer - those are city questions - but in terms of our work, we are doing exactly what we signed up to do."

Channel 7 also asked about the nonprofit collecting donations for Litfest and other allegations made.

Pruitt said it was inappropriate to comment on those matters, especially FOIA requests that are potentially part of litigation. Wilkerson did not want to comment on similar matters either, instead he remained focused on the planning a festival for the city.

Loading ...