Savannah alderwoman says she has no conflict of interest over property development proposal

Savannah Alderwoman Bernetta Lanier held a news conference Wednesday to respond to a WTOC...
Savannah Alderwoman Bernetta Lanier held a news conference Wednesday to respond to a WTOC investigation.(WTOC)
Updated: Mar. 10, 2021 at 8:00 PM EST
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Savannah Alderwoman Bernetta Lanier held a news conference Wednesday across the street from the site where the Salvation Army wants to build a new homeless shelter.

The alderwoman has been a leader in the fight against the shelter’s proposed location - which is off Augusta Avenue near Interstate 516. It is the area of the historic Weeping Time site in Savannah.

WTOC Investigates brought to light questions that have been raised over the connections the alderwoman may have to a competing proposal for that site. Alderwoman Lanier referred to WTOC’s report as the reason for Wednesday’s news conference.

After trying to talk to Alderwoman Lanier several times last week, WTOC did get the opportunity to ask her some questions.

Alderwoman Lanier addressed concerns raised that the company she founded, Ivory Bay, is listed on an alternative development proposal for a piece of land where the Salvation Army wants to build a homeless shelter.

Alderwoman Lanier is against the shelter and so too are many people in her district, District 1.

The alderwoman did not respond to WTOC’s repeated requests last week for comment regarding questions raised about a potential conflict of interest.

During the news conference, Alderwoman Lanier said, “I have been accused of having personal financial interests in the property. Nothing could be further from the truth.”

She went on to say, “Once I became elected as the alderwoman of this district, I took off my CEO hat and passed it to Dr. Grim. I placed on my aldermanic hat and sat in my aldermanic seat.”

She continued, “I have no financial interest in Ivory Bay other than funding the organization to the sum of a small fortune for us over 15 years. We never made a dime off Ivory Bay. We never expected to.”

Alderwoman Lanier says she gave up her position as president and CEO after being elected to Savannah City Council. She says it was a voluntary move.

As of last week, her City of Savannah Alderwoman page listed her as the president and CEO of Ivory Bay. As of Wednesday, March 10, that is no longer listed.

She said the developer, Richmond Ferguson, acted alone in this alternative proposal and did not alert Ivory Bay’s current CEO.

“The CEO did not know about the plan, but it presented as an idea by Mr. Ferguson to council. At that point, all hell broke loose,” Alderwoman Lanier said.

Alderwoman Lanier called into question WTOC’s two reports on the Salvation Army’s new shelter proposal.

Here are some exchanges between WTOC and Lanier on Wednesday morning.

When asked what in the report was not factual or slanted, Alderwoman Lanier responded, “I can’t sit here and tell you verbatim, but that was our take on it. When we heard it, you interviewed the other side. It wasn’t favorable to our cause.”

When asked if she could list out anything not factual about the report, Alderwoman Lanier responded, “Max, I haven’t even seen your report.”

Alderwoman Lanier continued, “But I know it was some negativity. I know my character had been attached, so I knew I needed to come here today and say what I’m saying.”

Alderwoman Lanier said a homeless shelter is the last thing people in West Savannah need and she will continue to fight against it.

“I declare and I decree, that my people will continue to live and prosper right here on this land in West Savannah” she said.

Watch Alderwoman Lanier’s full news conference below:

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