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Titans Promise Full Payment Of Unpaid Ticket Taxes

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Posted at 6:19 PM, Jun 10, 2015
and last updated 2015-09-24 12:10:42-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Did the Tennessee Titans shortchange Metro taxpayers on ticket taxes?

That's what the team's auditors are now trying to figure out.

Still, in their first public comments on the controversy, Titans officials are promising to make it all right.

"We gain nothing by underreporting because that money is devoted to the building that we call home, the building that we moved here to occupy," interim president Steve Underwood recently told the Metro Council's budget committee.

NewsChannel 5 Investigates first revealed the discrepancies over the Titans' ticket sales back in May.

The Titans have told Metro officials that they do expect to write a check.

At the heart of the controversy is the discrepancy between what the Titans told the NFL about the number of tickets sold and what they told Metro at tax time.

A YouTube video posted by Metro government shows that, when the Nashville Sports Authority came before the budget committee last week, members had questions for Underwood about the controversy involving the team and its ticket sales. (See video below.)

"Obviously the Phil Williams story on Channel 5 ... caused concern," said Council member Charlie Tygard.

The team's interim president responded to Tygard's questions: 

"If you're asking how it happened that we didn't catch it, it's not always easy to detect things when you are selling several hundred thousand tickets a year."

Our NewsChannel 5 investigation discovered that the Titans cut a deal with a professional ticket broker to be able to tell the NFL that every game was a sell-out.

But when it came time to pay the $3-per-seat ticket tax, the team told Metro tax collectors another story.

For example, for last year's preseason game against the Packers, the Titans told the NFL that "paid attendance" was 69,143.

They told the city the number of "tickets sold" was 57,478.

In that case, one well-placed source now tells NewsChannel 5 Investigates, the Titans gave the broker more than a thousand tickets and wrote them off the books as donations to the military.

"I just don't understand how anyone could think you could get away with that," Tygard said.

"Are you suggesting that we didn't sell those games out?" Underwood asked.

Tygard responded, "Someone in your organization has admitted that that figure is not correct."

"That's correct," the Titans official conceded, "we have admitted that."

Underwood said the ticket numbers are being reviewed by internal auditors, trying to figure out exactly how many tickets were really sold.

"If we're not able to determine whether the tickets were sold, we're just going to go ahead and pay the user fee -- even though we can't be sure whether or not the tickets were actually sold or comped."

He added, "We will err in favor of the Metropolitan government."

Underwood was also asked about the deal between the Titans and a well-known professional ticket scalper.

"Will that relationship continue with that broker," Tygard asked.

Underwood answered, "I think we are unsure about whether or not we will continue relationship with any brokers at this point. It's a little early in our ticket selling process."

The Titans' interim president told the committee that the team notified Metro about the ticket issues after they were discovered back in January.

But Metro officials told NewsChannel 5 that the first they heard about it was about two weeks before our story aired back in May.

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Watch budget hearing below: