The view from Millionaire’s Row | Photo by Boris Ladwig

The administration of Mayor Greg Fischer once again spent a large sum of taxpayer dollars entertaining guests during Kentucky Derby weekend and is refusing to disclose the identity of those guests.

Records from the administration indicate that they spent nearly $111,000 on Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks-related expenses for prospective business guests, the bulk of which — $72,441 — went toward 32 “Millionaire’s Row” tickets for each of the two race days at Churchill Downs. Just a single ticket to the Derby in this section cost $1,293, according to the itemized list of expenses.

The next-highest expense for the city was the $29,946 spent on the guests lodging at the new Omni Louisville Hotel from Thursday through Sunday of that week.

The administration saved $2,334 on expenses for the mayor’s Derby Eve party at Metro Hall due to $10,000 sponsorships from both Beam Suntory and law firm Stoll Keenon Ogden, putting taxpayers’ total bill for entertaining the mystery guests at $108,618.

Itemized breakdown of Fischer administration expenses on their secret Derby guests in 2018

The mayor’s team has once again denied open records requests seeking to reveal the identity of these guests, as they claim that their invite list to the mayor’s Derby Eve party is exempt from the Kentucky Open Records Act because it “pertains to the prospective location of a business or industry where no previous public disclosure has been made.”

The administration also has refused to disclose the identity of these guests because it considers their guest list — even for years dating back to 2015 — to be exempt due to being a “preliminary memorandum.”

According to WFPL, expenses on these Derby guests since 2015 has now reached just shy of $400,000.

Although they claim that such spending and secrecy is necessary in order to woo these guests and convince their businesses to locate and invest in Louisville, spokespersons for the Fischer administration have declined to identify a single business that has located to the city following their expenses-paid Derby weekend.

Following Insider Louisville’s report last month on the administration’s refusal to reveal its guest list over the past two years, mayoral spokeswoman Jean Porter stated in an email that “we were hosting a couple dozen guests; all representing business development prospects. And we don’t release previous years’ lists because the exemptions cited continue to apply.”

In addition to the lodging and Derby and Oaks tickets, here are some other expenses paid for by the Fischer administration on their guests this year:

  • $850 on a Churchill Downs parking pass for the Oaks and Derby
  • $760 on drinks for guests at Churchill Downs
  • $5,250 on a charter bus for Oaks and Derby, plus tips
  • $950 on photography at the mayor’s Derby Eve party and the Derby
  • $213 on umbrellas, signs and storage bags
  • $127 on 80 cookies from Please & Thank You
  • $103 to a Brooklyn-based developer of a “Derby app”
  • $312 on plastic name tags
  • $12,505 to Mayan Cafe to cater the mayor’s Derby Eve party (with a guest count of 80)
  • $2,884 for linens, centerpieces and flowers at the Derby Eve party
  • $2,150 for audio and visual services at the Derby Eve party
  • $125 on save-the-date and reception cards for the Derby Eve party

Norton Commons is a proud sponsor of Insider Louisville's Derby content. Rest assured, this sponsorship has no effect on the planning, development or distribution of any Insider Louisville editorial content.

Joe Sonka is a staff writer at Insider Louisville focusing on government, politics, education and public safety. He is a former news editor and staff writer at LEO Weekly and has also freelanced for The Nation and ThinkProgress. He has won first place awards from the Louisville Metro chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists in the categories of Health Reporting, Enterprise Reporting, Government/Politics, Minority/Women’s Affairs Reporting, Continuing Coverage and Best Blog. Email him at [email protected]


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