published Friday, November 11th, 2011

Tennessee Multicultural Chamber of Commerce funds to be redirected

  • photo
    Suite 200 inside of 353 Chestnut St. housed the Tennessee Multicultural Chamber of Commerce.
    Photo by Jenna Walker /Chattanooga Times Free Press.


July 1999 -- African American Chamber forms with Sherrie Gilchrist as executive director.

2007 -- Chamber renamed Tennessee Multicultural Chamber of Commerce (TMCC).

2005-06 -- U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development awards $545,000 in grants for business development center.

September 2008 -- Chattanooga Community Development Financial Institution (CCDFI) lends Multicultural Chamber $574,000 to help build business development center on M.L. King Boulevard.

2010 -- Chamber asks CCDFI for an extension on the loan

June 19 -- Times Free Press reports about organization's inconsistencies in government funding applications.

Late June -- Chattanooga and Hamilton County pull their annual $75,000 allocations to TMCC.

July 13 -- City of Chattanooga releases audit that says the TMCC's "management and board have made extravagant expenditures and obligated the organization to excessive liabilities."

July 15 -- HUD says it is launching inquiry into TMCC's use of federal grant money.

July 19 -- FBI agent calls CCDFI to ask questions about loan to TMCC.

July 22 -- BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee suspends its TMCC funding.

Sept. 27 -- TMCC board announces Gilchrist's resignation.

Oct. 4 -- CCDFI buys back M.L. King Boulevard properties at foreclosure auction

Nov. 10 -- County Commission discusses reallocating TMCC funding to the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce.

Nov. 16 -- County Commission set to vote on the reallocation of the minority business development funding.

The Hamilton County Commission plans to redirect $75,000 originally budgeted for the Tennessee Multicultural Chamber of Commerce, which is now under federal investigation.

Commissioners said Thursday they want to give the money to the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce, which receives public and private funding for its business outreach efforts. The Chamber will use the money to direct a new diversity business development and marketing effort if commissioners vote next week to approve the funding shift.

Commission Chairman Larry Henry said the structure of the diversity program is still being worked out by the Chamber.

Henry, who said during Thursday's meeting that "we anticipate approval next week," told Chattanooga Area Chamber President and CEO Tom Edd Wilson he wouldn't need to return to answer questions.

Commissioner Greg Beck supported the decision to shift the funds but said he wanted to see a broad search for an executive director to oversee the initiative.

Beck also reminded commissioners "the Multicultural Chamber is still an entity that's still in existence."

Controversy arose around the Multicultural Chamber after a story in the Chattanooga Times Free Press revealed discrepancies in the its finances. The Multicultural Chamber's board accepted the resignation of its former executive director in September.

Commissioner Warren Mackey signaled his support when he attempted to call the vote early.

"Well, I'm anxious to get this done," he said, laughing, after realizing the commission wouldn't vote until Wednesday.

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about Ansley Haman...

Ansley Haman covers Hamilton County government. A native of Spring City, Tenn., she grew up reading the Chattanooga Times and Chattanooga Free Press, which sparked her passion for journalism. Ansley's happy to be home after a decade of adventures in more than 20 countries and 40 states. She gathered stories while living, working and studying in Swansea, Wales, Cape Town, South Africa, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Ga., and Knoxville, Tenn. Along the way, she interned for ...

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