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Clifford: Investigation resolution now waiting on City Council

PEDC Chair Rebecca Clifford updating city council on forensic investigation on June 3, 2014
PEDC Chair Rebecca Clifford updating city council on forensic investigation on
June 3, 2014

The investigation into PEDC’s finances has stalled until the City Council provides direction, the corporation’s chair said Friday.

“At this time, no further investigative work is being performed. The investigator is waiting on direction from the city council,” Rebecca Clifford said in a memo addressed to the council and Paris Economic Development Corp. board members.

The City Council is scheduled to discuss the investigation with City Attorney Kent McIlyar in a closed session during Monday’s scheduled meeting, which Clifford said will determine its direction.

Several recent meetings regarding the investigation have been canceled, including a special City Council session June 12 and a PEDC meeting scheduled with investigator Danny Defenbaugh, was to deliver his findings Monday.

Clifford’s memo said because of a discussion with Mayor Matt Frierson, Mayor Pro Tem Richard Grossnickle, City Manager John Godwin and McIlyar, a Defenbaugh would not be able to make the PEDC meeting.

“When I talked to Mr. Defenbaugh, he said he had talked to them and they said to wait for further direction,” she said. “They’re not currently doing any more work until they hear back. “

Frierson said the conversation with Defenbaugh came after Clifford “was unable to answer all of the questions asked of her by the City Council.” He said he didn’t vote for the investigation, but he felt it was his duty to “make sure that there is continuity in this process.”

“I needed to know what timelines are established for the reports and how we may navigate the community through the conclusion of this process,” he said. “Thousands of dollars are being used to fund this, and as the head of the council I need to know that we are using those monies in an appropriate and timely manner. Hopefully, we can see a resolution soon and our community can move forward.”

Clifford said Defenbaugh & Associates’ contract is with PEDC, but declined to comment on the council’s intervention. She selected the firm after the after the City Council directed PEDC have a forensic audit conducted in March. The PEDC board delegated the selection process to her, although the board did vote for the contract.

“I looked at the resumes of their employees,” she said. “I thought they would be a good firm. It was based on work they had done and their prior experience.”

Clifford told the City Council earlier this month that the Federal Bureau of Investigation could be looking for criminal activity in the dealings of the PEDC. She said Friday she has not had any further updates.

McIlyar has seen investigative reports Defenbaugh has prepared so far, Clifford said in her memo. She stressed that if those reports are given to the council, they should be given to the PEDC board, as well. The firm also needs a chance to finalize its work and make its final report to the council, PEDC and general public, she said.

“To make any improvements or for us to make any use of them, we have to have them in hand,” she said.

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