Little Rock cancels LITFest, mayor cites contract, 'divisive politics'
THIS STORY HAS BEEN UPDATED
Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr. announced Tuesday afternoon that a three-day music and cultural festival scheduled for this weekend has been cancelled. LITFest has been mired in controversy, with City Manager Bruce Moore on Monday cancelling a contract with a company that was organizing the event.
In a statement, Scott said:
My vision for LITFest was to celebrate the best of Little Rock through a diverse and inclusive festival featuring music, the arts, food and informative panels – to unite the City with this unique event while supporting local, economic and cultural development of our City. While LITFest is now canceled for this weekend, it is my desire to see it move forward in the future.
Throughout this process, both Think Rubix and the City have acted legally and within the normal bounds of contracting and procurement. Think Rubix is a reputable company with a strong background in event planning and management, and, despite heavy scrutiny, it had been implementing plans for LITFest on behalf of the City since the contract took effect June 9.
However, this contract for LITFest, which was prepared by the City Attorney’s Office, was not optimized for the scale and scope of this music festival.
I’m disappointed that divisive politics negatively affected the vision and impact of this inaugural festival. I fully support the artists, vendors, food trucks and organizations involved in showcasing the best of our City. Thank you for your commitment to attempting to produce an event that the residents of Little Rock could be proud of.
A contract between the City of Little Rock and public affairs firm Think Rubix has been terminated. Think Rubix was slated to organize this weekend's LITFest, a three-day music and cultural festival. Scheduled events included a block party at the River Market, a food truck festival and a performance from singer Ashanti.
On June 9, City Manager Bruce Moore signed the contract with Think Rubix, pledging that the city pay up to $45,000 to organize the festival.
On Monday, a letter from Moore sent to Think Rubix Managing Principal Tristan Wilkerson said the company had violated the terms of the contract, but did not explain how.
The letter said “no City funds have been deposited by Think Rubix,” and that a “stop payment procedure has been initiated by the City of Little Rock for the check issued by the City in the amount of $30,000.”
The cancellation came after a video released by the blog Blue Hog Report showed Mayor Frank Scott Jr.'s Chief of Staff Kenra Pruitt discussing the terms of the contract with Think Rubix and city employees during a Zoom call.
According to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, purchases under the $50,000 threshold must be approved by the city manager, and can only go forward after a competitive bidding process. Thus, Think Rubix was never reviewed by the city Board of Directors.
“If we go above 50 [thousand] within this contract that would trigger a need to go before the board,” Pruitt said on the Zoom call. "I think it's possible to leverage some sponsorship dollars for additional work as necessary, because that wouldn't be city money and therefore wouldn't require that political step, if you will,"
Pruitt went on to say, “I don't know that we want to go before the board on what they would maybe deem, us throwing a party."
In a letter acquired by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, City Attorney Tom Carpenter said he had “serious legal concerns” about the festival.
The festival is supposed to take place this weekend. It's unclear what exactly will still take place.