Terran (TRAN) and Alexis Gilbert submitted the following statement in response to the audit and subsequent vote, on October 10, 2023, to terminate their contract as the managers of the Princess Theatre.
Dear Mayor, Board of Commissioners, Gene Vess, City Administrator, Heather Pickett, City Recorder, Stephanie Brandon, Jennifer Waycaster, CPA, and William Gouger, Jr. South Pittsburg City Attorney:
Despite your decision not to honor the 14-day cure period and unequivocally terminate our contract, we would still like to respond to your termination letter to address the discrepancies in your findings.
- In response to the audit finding, “They are paying invoices and requesting reimbursement (City is to pay invoices directly and purchasing policy must be followed).”
On August 18, 2023 22Visionz emailed the board of mayor and commissioners, along with Gene Vess, the city administrator, and Heather Pickett, the city recorder, the invoice for our September 30th event, as it was our understanding from our most recent workshop that the city would be handling all invoice payments. However, on August 22, 2023, at 11:01 am, the city’s attorney, William L. Gouger, Jr., P.C., replied stating: “the auditors interpret the management agreement to require 22Visionz to advance up-front expenses, deposits, etc. for booking talent and that such expenses are to then be submitted to the City and accommodated or incorporated into monthly reconciliations, paid or reimbursed as necessary.”
However, after 22Visionz followed the instructions provided to us by the city’s attorney and auditors, we were subsequently terminated for these actions, and the auditor now states: “If the Princess Theatre was being operated by the contract guidelines then there wouldn’t be an issue. However, if the city issues reimbursements for the invoices that 22Visionz has said they have paid; then it is a violation of the City’s Purchasing Policy and the City will receive a finding on their audit and it will be given to the comptroller.”
- Responding to the audit finding, “They are paying invoices in cash and collecting cash (when it is supposed to be a cashless system).”
22Visionz initially requested that the Princess Theatre be operated as a “cash-less” entity, with all cash ticket sales handled through city hall. We made this request while we were under the assumption that the city’s administrative staff, Gene Vess and Heather Pickett, would be willing to work with us collectively for the success of the Princess Theatre. Initially, Gene and Heather agreed to set up a credit card point-of-sale system and provide an iPad and card reader for the Princess Theatre. However, once Gene and Heather grew silent on communication, displayed a lack of interest in working as a collective, and never followed through with their initial agreement of providing the essential tools to operate a cash-less entity, we requested to revise the contract back to its original language to accept cash at the Princess Theatre. This request came after weeks of inquiring with Gene Vess and Heather Pickett about the Princess Theatre’s credit card system, with no response.
On May 15, 2023, 22Visionz sent an email request to Billy Gouger, Gene Vess, Heather Pickett, Mayor Rector, and the board of commissioners to change the contract agreement back to its original language of “All monies received from the operation and use of the Leased Premises for the Leased Purpose during the term hereof shall be turned over by Company to City within three (3) business days of receipt of same, and accurate accountancy thereof shall be made by Company and confirmed by City.” The May 15th email was one of several requests for this contract revision for cash acceptance that attorney Gouger, the mayor, and the board of commissioners ignored.
Despite the ignored contact revision requests, if Gene Vess or Heather Pickett saw an issue with us accepting cash at the Princess Theatre, there should have been a conversation about the matter instead of them being complicit in accepting our cash deposits at city hall after each event with no communication of auditing risks.
On May 19th, the day of our first ticketed event, we were finally granted access to the credit card point-of-sale account. However, we did not receive clear instructions on using the system under the city’s new format. As a result, the account was utilized incorrectly without our knowledge. Once we discovered the error, 22Visionz immediately brought it to the city’s attention via email, which was ignored. This was followed by several more ignored requests for a contract revision to rescind the cash-less language.
Additionally, in response to “paying invoices in cash,” the cashless language was regarding the ticket sales at the Princess Theatre, not the operation of 22Visionz. 22Visionz was never informed not to pay invoices in cash for our operations, and the contract for the September 30th event was signed between the talent’s management company and 22Visionz, per attorney Gouger’s request.
- Responding to the audit finding, “They are paying sales tax on items, and the City is not to pay sales tax on any item.”
In April 2023, 22Visionz requested to utilize the city’s tax-exempt status for the Princess Theatre, but unfortunately, our request was denied. It is important to mention that 22Visionz is not a tax-exempt company; hence, we have no option but to pay taxes on our purchases. It is also worth noting that the city of South Pittsburg, Tennessee, has never paid taxes on our behalf.
- Responding to the audit finding, “They are not turning over all revenues collected within the three-business day rule.”
22Visionz turned in funds to the city of South Pittsburg, Tennessee, despite going into a deficit when paying for event expenses. Expenses that were the responsibility of the city of South Pittsburg, according to our contact and the city’s auditor. However, at the beginning of our contract, when we began approaching Gene with our purchasing needs to promote upcoming events, he immediately denied the responsibility for covering our expenses. Therefore, we did what was necessary to keep the Princess Theatre’s operations moving forward and covered all expenses for events while contributing funds back to the city of South Pittsburg, Tennessee. The reality is that the city of South Pittsburg failed to uphold its end of the agreement by not covering the necessary expenses for the Princess Theatre’s events, which put us in the predicament of handling the profit and loss flow. However, despite covering all expenses for the Princess Theatre’s events and making no profit from said events, we still made financial contributions to the city of South Pittsburg. Additionally, we paid the city its entire 40% on theatre rentals while covering all labor and expenses from our 60%, despite the agreement to split the profits after expenses.
On August 2, 2023, we finally had the opportunity to sit down with the city for a workshop, and we were hopeful that we would all be on the same page regarding our operations. However, once we followed the requested procedures, we were again met with conflicting information. This time, the contradicting instructions came from the city’s attorney, and as a result, we were terminated for following his orders.
- Responding to the audit finding, “They are not turning in to the City the support for the revenues collected.”
The financial report for our first series of events on the weekend of May 19th, 30th, and 21st of 2023 was submitted on the following Monday, May 22nd, at 2:46 PM CST. The financial report for our second event on Friday, June 23, 2023, was submitted on Monday, June 26th at 4:56 PM CST. The city of South Pittsburg then switched to the monthly income/expense reporting system for all subsequent events for July – October, which was submitted on Monday, October 2nd, after our last September event.
Financial reports have been submitted for all revenues collected despite no communication from the city of South Pittsburg regarding the need to submit reports, nor any report requirements listed in our contract.
- Responding to the audit finding, “They are not using pre-numbered receipts.”
We were never informed to utilize “prenumbered receipts,” and this was never provided in our contract agreement.
Ultimately, the city of South Pittsburg should have a responsibility to provide a comprehensive onboarding process for new contractors that includes appropriate training and policy manuals. The city of South Pittsburg’s unwillingness to communicate and cooperate with us as contractors put us in a position of failure since the inception of this contract agreement. We made several requests to meet collectively with the city of South Pittsburg and the city’s auditors to gain a clear understanding of our operational requirements and create effective and efficient operations. The auditors denied our requests, and it appears that there was a greater desire for the city of South Pittsburg, to ill-equip us as contractors to weaponize our ignorance for grounds for termination.
Due to the inaccurate information shared at the city’s public meeting of the board of mayor and commissioners, there is now a public stigma of presumed incompetence and widespread slanderous media against 22Visionz and its management team, despite 22Visionz making every effort to equip itself with the necessary tools and information to succeed in our endeavors.
Lastly, although a vote went forth on October 10, 2023, to reimburse our most recent expenses, the verbiage in your letter strongly indicated that we will not be receiving our reimbursement, as this will result in an audit finding. We hope that the city will uphold its agreement to reimburse our expenses.
Additionally, we have yet to receive a reply on the status of audition fees that need to be refunded to contestants for the October 21st event that was canceled due to this termination. These funds were submitted to Heather Pickett on September 25, 2023, and are owed as a refund to the contestants.
Terran and Alexis Gilbert
The Marion Tribune – November 2, 2023