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PEDC expects report this week; Lancaster files request for 'all information' sent to investigators

PEDC_depot_sliderParis Economic Development Corp. hopes to have the investigation report from Defenbaugh & Associates by Friday, but at least one council member is unwilling to wait that long.

Councilwoman Sue Lancaster has filed an open records request for “any and all information sent to Defenbaugh & Associates from PEDC.”

“I want to be an informed council person, and the only way I can be informed is to get the information,” Lancaster said. “It’s interesting that other people have seen that report, but I haven’t. (City Attorney Kent) McIlyar has seen it, and other council members have been reported to have seen it, but I haven’t. That leaves me making decisions in the dark, and I don’t like doing that. It’s not fair to the community I represent.”

Chairman Stephen Grubbs told the PEDC board of directors during a special session Monday that investigator Danny Defenbaugh said he would have the report to the council by Monday as requested, but he “would also try to have that report to the PEDC by Friday.” Once the report is received, PEDC plans to release payment for invoices submitted.

“I think the idea was to treat it like an audit – get the report, read it, understand it, and then look at next steps,” he said.

The report would be released to the public as quickly as possible, he said. Part of the board’s review could be to recommend changes or corrections.

“At some point, I would like to have an interview with Defenbaugh with that report in front of us,” board member Don Wilson said. He said he had questions, particularly about a timeline for where Defenbaugh got his information, when he gave reports and to whom. “He signed a contract on the third, and he started reviewing documents on the seventh. Did he have any documents to review?”

Board member Rebecca Clifford said Interim Director Shannon Barrentine started delivering things electronically April 7, and Bill Strathern hand delivered copies of credit card receipts he obtained through open records requests last summer. She said Strathern had been in attendance for part of the initial meeting with Defenbaugh.

The PEDC board may consider having a joint session with the City Council in August.

Barrentine said Lancaster’s request amounted to 630 pages of information such as account numbers that had to be redacted (marked out). Digital documents on a jump drive included thousands more pages – possibly as much as 8,000. The bill is estimated to be about $123.

An attorney general’s opinion is being requested for information contained in emails.

Lancaster filed the request July 11, meaning PEDC has until Friday to deliver the information. Wilson if an attorney needed to look over the information gathered.

“I would like that, because I am hanging out there,” Barrentine said.

McIlyar’s declaration of a conflict of interest with the investigation has left PEDC without legal counsel for more than a month, but the matter may resolve itself within the next week.

PEDC board members spent part of Monday’s special session discussing a request for proposals for a contract with an outside attorney to help finalize incentive agreements and deal with issues such as the open records quest and board meetings.

PEDC’s bylaws require the city attorney to serve as the board’s legal counsel “as provided for in the city charter unless there is a conflict of interest in which case the board may retain outside legal services.”

Board members estimated those outside legal services would cost $5,000 for the rest of this fiscal year and $24,000 next year. PEDC may wait until the report is delivered to see if the conflict is resolved so McIlyar can once again represent the board.

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