The day before he was set to board a plane to Japan, Evansville Mayor Lloyd Winnecke cancels an overseas business trip with Governor Mike Pence to help take care business in Evansville. Some city councilmembers still have questions on the downtown hotel project before Monday's possible vote. Mayor Winnecke says he'd rather answer those questions at the Civic Center instead of on the phone at an airport.
There's no place like home and no podium quite like your own.
"I've made the decision not to go to Japan," Mayor Lloyd Winnecke said. "There is still some work to do to get the hotel project to the City Council for it's consideration on Monday."
Instead of crossing an International Time Zone, Mayor Winnecke decided his time would be best served here at home.
He felt it was a prudent decision, especially when you consider the $74 million elephant in the room: the downtown hotel.
"Certainly, Councilman Friend is driving most of the questions regarding the hotel project and we're doing our best to answer those," Mayor Winnecke said. "Members of our administration have met with them -- I believe daily for the last several days -- to get those questions answered."
In a series of emails obtained by Eyewitness News, City Councilman John Friend (D-5th Ward) and finance chairman, requested a series of financial documents from HCW of Branson, Missouri, the hotel's developer.
Some of those requested documents included audited financial statements, federal income tax filings, even the current personal financial statements from of HCW staff.
The city has hired a third-party public accounting firm to review those documents at a potential cost of $15,000.
Friend says he's just trying to do his due diligence as finance chair. As mayor, Winnecke says likewise.
"I'm confident based on the due diligence that the city has performed that [HCW is] qualified and we're trying to make Councilman Friend and the other members of the council equally as comfortable," Winnecke said. "I think it's difficult to say that there is not strong public support for this project. We just need to convince now at least 5 members of the common council to vote affirmatively. I'm confident that come Monday night, we'll have at least five votes."
As the finance chair, Councilman Friend has the authority to hold the proposal in committees which would delay a vote on the hotel for an additional 30 days. However, Winnecke says he is confident that won't happen.