Mayor's Letter Causing Controversy

October 3, 2006-- Posted at 10:30 pm

JONESBORO-- Mayor Doug Formon is on the defensive over a letter he says did not have his approval.

It was supposed to be a letter seeking donations for a first-ever charity event called, 'The Mayor's Medal of Merit.'

A black-tie event to benefit 'CASA' or 'court appointed special advocates'... A group that helps 'at risk children'.

It's a charity that is badly in need of funds, and the mayor's wife is the president of that organization.

The event, which will honor three outstanding citizens, needed sponsors.... And a letter was drafted and sent to local businesses seeking donations.

What's causing controversy is two phrases in the letter that some could think indicates sponsors of the event may get political favors in return.

But the mayor says, that is not how it should be taken.

Mayor Formon was startled by the wording of a letter he neither signed nor approved.

"It bothers me they didn't use the right logo. They didn't use the proper letter head. They used a crest of the city that shouldn't have used. They didn't use our logo that we have for the mayor's medal of merit. There were some problems to the letter, but the intent of the letter is to raise money to help children. That's what it's all about," Mayor Doug Formon says.

In the letter... that suggests the mayor would "use the power and image of the mayor's office," or provide certain donors with "a special connection with the mayor's office" was a request written by Brad Hyde, the owner of a local communications company.

He says he had no idea it would be taken out of such context...

"I sent this letter and the soul reason I sent out this letter was to help those little kids at CASA. That was it," Brad Hyde says.

Hyde admits he wished he had worded the letter differently and made the mayor's intention more clear... But it was the few statements that some say suggested the mayor would show favoritism for certain donors that were the root of the controversy.

"I'm not fond of that verbiage at all. It bothers me. I'm sure it bothers other people cause it bothers me. I wish it were worded in a different way," Formon says.

"There are certain sections in it that say the use and the power and the image of the mayor's office. What a lot of people don't do is continue that sentence. What the end of that sentence says is to make a charitable difference to our community," Hyde says.

But one local organization that frequently donates to events like "The Mayor's Medal of Merit" say they are surprised by the controversy.

NEA Marketing Director Holly Acebo says,  "I thought it was interesting. Maybe that someone just blew it out of proportion a little bit. When we looked at it, we didn't think anything of it."

"If you were offended by the letter I apologize. I was offended by the letter... Certain parts of it. Just remember that it really it for a good cause and that we're trying to help out kids and that's what it's really all about," Formon says.

CASA is the beneficiary of this year's medal of merit fundraiser, and each year a different charity will benefit from the event.

Despite the issues with the letter, the Mayor's Medal of Merit black tie affair is still scheduled for November 18th at Godsey's in downtown Jonesboro.