Council receives investigation report, PEDC chair urges care in releasing to public
PEDC Chairman Stephen Grubbs hand-delivered a copy of the Paris Economic Development Corp. investigation report to the City Council meeting Monday, carrying it in a box used for a case of copy paper. He also delivered some advice: Be careful in releasing the report to the public.
“There may be information contained in these documents that is protected under state law, not to mention things that could be used for identity theft,” he said, adding that he had discussed the matter with attorney Jeff Moore of Richardson, who has done work for PEDC before. “As I turn this information over to the City Council, I ask that you, too, ask the advice of legal counsel before you release this information.”
Grubbs also asked for a joint session between the PEDC and council to meet with investigator Danny Defenbaugh, which Mayor Matt Frierson said seems “plausible.” Councilman AJ Hashmi said it needs to happen as soon as possible “so it’s fast rather than continued agony.”
“I think the whole community has been waiting for it over and over,” he said. “Whatever process can be done to speed it up and be done with it would be a better choice.”
City Clerk Janice Ellis and PEDC Interim Director Shannon Barrentine will coordinate a special session before the next council session.
“I believe he’s said he’s already used the $50,000,” Mayor Pro-Tem Richard Grossnickle said. “If he’s not paid, is he going to come?”
Hashmi said he was “disturbed” by Grubb’s statements that he wanted to correct and possibly redact portions of the report.
“I’m disappointed to hear the chairman of a board wants to correct or change a report,” he said. “If there was an investigation and it found nothing wrong, why would there need to be redacting?”
Redacting – the process of blacking out portions of information released to the public – is only allowed for information such as Social Security numbers, personal contact information and medical information, he said.
“What I meant was we were going to follow the process for open records requests,” Grubbs said. “My advisement was we needed to review this information with legal counsel before we release the information.”
Councilwoman Sue Lancaster said she wanted the information released to the public as soon as possible.
“The people paid for this,” she said. “So far, I can’t see they’ve gotten a lot for their money.”
Hashmi also brought up PEDC’s bylaws, which state the city is to be reimbursed for legal services provided by the city attorney.
“We have never been compensated for legal services or accounting services. Previous councils have discussed it, but they have never chosen to do that,” City Finance Director Gene Anderson said. “It’s allowed, but it’s not required.”
If that part of the bylaws could be ignored, Hahsmi said, what else could?
In other business:
- The council approved PEDC’s amended 2013-2014 budget, although Hashmi said someone on the PEDC board had a conflict of interest and should not have been involved in the discussion or vote. He would not say who the board member was or where the conflict came from.
- Council members also approved the proposed 2014-2015 budget. Lancaster expressed concern that it is a very tight budget without a lot of room for error.