• CVB $$$: Vendors, Ethics, Cronyism & Corruption?

    By Staff
    November 3, 2019

    In the past 2 years, Lynda Lee Smith, Chairwoman of the Johns Creek CVB (Johns Creek Convention & Visitors Bureau) has AGGRESSIVELY advocated and earmarked nearly $100K, possibly more, on art projects for Urban Catalyst Lab (UCL). All without any competitive bidding or seeking artists from Johns Creek… This includes the art tunnel & gateway markers.

    Gateway Art

    Just pick one - no option for don't like any!

    The current contentious project Gateway Markers was to be under "forced choice" voting.

    CVB originally requested $40K for 2 designs, then $64K for 1 design. Mayor Bodker thought it was a good value and advocated for UCL.

    Councilmembers Stephanie Endres, John Bradberry & Chris Coughlin voted against this initiative.

    The CVB is currently seeking another $55K second gateway markers for next year.

    Why is Lynda Lee Smith continually pushing Contracts for Urban Catalyst Labs?

    Perhaps the reason is Lynda Lee Smith works at Habitat for Humanity with the UCL Co-Founder Ruxanda Renita and Secretary, Courtney Greathouse. According to the CVB website, Lynda Lee Smith is Habitat's Senior Director, Corporate Relations. Ruxanda Renita’s role is a Corporate Partnership Support Manager. 

    • Is this a conflict of interest?
    • Was this disclosed to the City Council and CVB Board? (We can't find any records).
    • Are there ethical guidelines for the CVB and Habitat for Humanity for hiring co-workers?
    • Was this process open, fair and unbiased?
    • Are there other relationships with vendors and contractors that are not publicly known?
    • Was this the best use of taxpayer dollars?
    • Should the contract been put out for a competitive bid?

    Is this Corruption?

    Corruption is the misuse of public power (by elected politician or appointed civil servant) for private gain.

    Is this Cronyism?

    Cronyism is the act of hiring someone because they are a friend. Both nepotism and cronyism are damaging not just to departments, but to entire workplaces.

    Tunnel expenses kent altom johns creek

    The $62K Art Tunnel

    Johns Creek CVB spent a total of $62K on the art tunnel project. Kent Altom Johns Creek City Council Candidate’s employer, the Gilroy Firm, reviewed the UCL contract. Urban Catalyst Lab was paid $25,696 to paint the Tunnel under Medlock Bridge Rd. UCL hired an artist from New Delhi, India to paint large letters in the tunnel. Within the contract “The CVB will also provide two local artists as volunteers to assist the lead artist”. The volunteers, all UNPAID, were from Johns Creek.

    If the purpose of the CVB is to “serve as an economic catalyst”. One would think, using Johns Creek businesses would be a top priority as vendors and for the contracts.

    Where are the Johns Creek Businesses?

    The total cost to paint and light the Johns Creek Art Tunnel was nearly $62,000. Not one vendor was from Johns Creek. Likewise, Not one artist hired was from Johns Creek. Not a single business utilized was from Johns Creek.

    Well, except 2, both affiliated with the CVB Board. The Hyatt Place (Manager is a CVB Board Member) was paid $367 to accommodate the artist flown in from India. $32 was spent at Seven Sister Scones (director also on CVB Board).

    If indeed these CVB dollars are meant to benefit the residents and businesses of Johns Creek, where are they? You would hope that electricians, photographers, food items, and other expenses would be sourced from Johns Creek where possible, and they did not.

    Was this Bright??

    Precision Landscaping was paid nearly $33K on lighting for the tunnel that is owned and maintained by GDOT. Why wasn't GDOT financially responsible for this expense? Precision Landscaping was also paid $8K for graffiti sealant. Why wasn't it put out to competitive bidding? Are there no johns Creek painting businesses capable of this job?

    Are the Johns Creek Business Taxes Too High?

    Or are the businesses in Johns Creek so expensive that they cannot compete on price?  If so, then we need to continue to look at the business taxes. This includes eliminating the CVB hotel/motel tax, and other unnecessary tax burdens on small businesses.

    Councilwoman Stephanie Endres & Councilman Chris Coughlin attempted to reduce business taxes, and in 2017 eliminate the CVB hotel/motel tax. Mayor Bodker staunchly opposed both efforts.

    Kent Altom Johns Creek Council Candidate has been aggressively campaigning against Chris Coughlin for Post 4. In addition, Kent Altom has received campaign donations from both Lynda Lee Smith and her husband.

    Lastly, have you seen our video tour of the Art Tunnel?

    Source: City of Johns Creek & Johns Creek Convention & Visitors Bureau



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    Arrest them all already! They should’ve been behind bars years ago!!!! Corruption beyond words!! I had to move out of Johns Creek because of the chaos! And those stupid metal poles placed on the roads and intersections are ridiculous!!!!!

    Johns Creek Resident

    They should have asked the art clubs of the high schools to paint a mural for the “Tunnel” as a community project and the students could have used the time for their college resumes. It would have been a win win situation. It would have been done by Johns Creek young residents with minimal investment, paint and brushes. These teens are very talented. There is no imagination or creative thinking happening with this group in government.


    They outsourced this to a foreign firm to maximize profit, went one better by using the free labor of volunteers and still ended up with this kind of price tag for some paint on a concrete wall: Are you kidding me? Somebody made some pretty good money on all of these projects. How much of that money found its way back to the mayor's pocket?


    I am appalled at the hideously corrupt behavior of some Johns Creek council members. I don't see how they can face Johns Creek residents.! This whole situation (and others included) is shameful and is an embarrassment to our community.

    Johns Creek Convention & Visitors Bureau

    We appreciate your interest in these recent Tourism Product Development projects. The JCCVB is a 501(c)(6) nonprofit led by a board of volunteer residents and business professionals in Johns Creek. Our monthly meetings are open to the public; we invite anyone interested to attend to learn more about our mission and current projects. Thank you.

    We appreciate that the meetings are open to the public. Are they allowed to offer comments or are they only allowed to observe?

    Where can we access the minutes from previous meetings that Ms. Smith mentioned last evening at the City Council Meeting?

    Also, we hear this spin that our Gateway Marker story is wrong, and that the Gateway Marker Designs you shared with City Council were not the ones that were going to be presented to the Public for voting the following Monday. Yet the emails we received from the City of Johns Creek say otherwise. Are you saying that your own emails are wrong in the content that they provided to the City Council?

    Suzi Krizan

    The tunnel has "tunnel vision " ....is that supposed to be art / a tourist attraction ? and with a 62 K
    price tag ????
    The city could have had a contest for hs artists and awarded the winner scholarship money for furthering their talents ! I mean that tunnel artwork is worth about the cost of paint , period !

    Patty Hansen

    I participated in the gateway survey and it allows for a “none of the above” option with comment space. I believe “forced choice” means you have to pick one as a favorite. That was not the case in the survey I took. I only post because I am concerned this story might discourage people from participating. If you have an opinion, the survey seems a good place to do so.

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