When the liberal democrats took control of the County Commission in early 2007, one of their first official acts was to grant $75,000 to the Greater Cincinnati Film Commission. Many wondered why this institution, with only one fulltime employee, would warrant this largess from the Commissioners?
COAST of course sued to stop the expenditure, a suit the Commission fought for more than a year despite the clear illegality of the grant. Suddenly, in June of this year, lawyers for the Commission called and said they wanted to settle the suit, paying COAST's more than $30,000 in legal fees accrued to date. Why?
Just prior to that call, COAST had taken the deposition of Kristen Erwin, the Executive Director of the Film Commission. In that deposition she revealed why Pepper and Portune had bestowed this $75,000 grant: Erwin was the former girlfriend of Pepper. (Read deposition excerpts here.)
Even after their romantic relationship ended, Erwin remained close to Pepper. Erwin listed Pepper as one of her top five Facebook "Friends" (here) and threw a combination political fundraiser/Birthday Bash for Pepper in 2006 (here). Cozy.
It turns out that as a Councilmember Pepper also voted to give Erwin $25,000 of City funds in the very year in which they were dating and another $50,000 the following year.
Pretty nice gig, isn't it, when you can date a trust fund millionaire, and while you are dating you get a $25,000 City grant, and after you break-up get a $125,000 in grants to heal those old wounds? $150,000 in cold, hard taxpayer cash, and it did not cost the multi-millionaire Pepper a penny.
Almost instantly after the Erwin deposition, and before COAST could get Pepper's testimony, the suit settled. Coincidence? COAST thinks not.
There is no word what favors exactly Pepper got in exchange for the grants.