Council receives investigation report, PEDC chair urges care in releasing to public


Stephen Grubbs

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.

‘Conflict Resolution’ by Ayesha Shafiq

“Bringing a problem to resolution and closure through continued discussion and compromise is an honorable act as it shows respect for the needs of both partners.”   – Lynne Namka.

Ayesha Shafiq, eParisExtra columnist

Ayesha Shafiq, eParisExtra columnist

Conflict is a situation created in almost everyday life. Not all people are alike and not every situation in life is guided by one person’s values, motivations, perceptions, ideas or desires. There will always be two sides to every story and every situation.

When conflict triggers strong feelings, a deep personal need is often at the core of the problem. This need can be a need for security, identity, recognition, importance or merely a need to survive.

Hence, the needs of both parties play important roles in the long-term success of most relationships and each deserves respect and consideration.

If one can acquire the ability to examine the conflicting needs of both parties with compassion and understanding, it will lead to creative problem solving, team building and improved relationships.

When people are upset, the words they use rarely convey the issues and needs at the heart of the problem. When we listen to what is felt,

We connect more deeply to the needs of others and understand the emotions behind such needs.

Listening informs us of the true need behind any conflict and makes it easier for us to understand others and their needs and also ourselves and our needs.

However, one’s ability to read another person’s need depends on one’s own emotional awareness as well. The more you are aware of your own emotions; the more you can associate and connect with other people and their feelings.

Your ability to manage all your feelings properly is the basis of a communication process that can resolve conflicts.

Emotional awareness helps you to:

  • Understand yourself, which means, what is actually bothering you.
  • Understand what is troubling other people.
  • Communicate the needs of both parties effectively and clearly.
  • Attract and influence others towards a resolution.
  • Stay motivated till the end when the conflict could be resolved.

Conflict resolution means the ability to quickly reduce stress and bring your emotions and the emotions of others into balance by resolving a matter that threatens the needs of either party.

You can resolve a conflict quickly and efficiently if you stick to the steps mentioned below.

  1. Focus on the present situation: If you are holding grudges based on past experiences, it will impair your vision to see the current situation clearly. Rather than looking to the past and assigning blame, focus on what you can do in the present to solve the problem.
  2. Listen to what is said and what is felt: Listening connects us more deeply to our needs and the needs of others. It makes it easier for others to listen to us when it is our turn to speak. In the middle of a conflict, pay close attention to the other person’s non-verbal signals. It will make you respond in a way that builds trust and get you to the root of the problem. A calm tone of voice, an interested or concerned facial expression can go a long way towards relaxing a stressful situation.
  3. Introducing humor into a stressful situation: You can resolve many arguments and disagreements if you introduce humor into your communication. Humor can let you say things that might otherwise be difficult to express without offending someone. In this way you can laugh with them and not at them.
  4. Do not focus on winning, focus on conflict resolution: The goal should be strengthening the relationship, rather than winning the argument. Be respectful of each other’s needs.
  5. Pick your battles wisely to win the war: Choose your battles wisely. Since battles are time consuming and draining. It will take your focus from resolving the WAR. Focus your energies towards the resolution of your goal, which is ending the war.
  6. Know when to let go: If you cannot come to an agreement, agree to disagree. It takes two people to keep an argument. You can choose to disengage and move on.

The key to resolving conflicts is to not feel threatened by them but to accept them as means of communication to understand each other’s needs. Rather than avoiding a conflict, one must be brave to face the conflict head on with the capacity to respond to the things that matter to each party and should have the readiness to compromise, forgive and forget without holding resentment.

This ability to recognize and respond to the things that matter to either party, without having angry, hurtful and resentful reactions strengthens a relationship bond and increases one’s understanding of another while building trust at the same time towards a long lasting relationship.

By Ayesha Shafiq, eParisExtra columnist  

Ayesha Shafiq is Director of Paris Cardiology Center, wife of Khalid Shafiq M.D. and mother of their 2 children. She’s been the director of Paris Cardiology Center for 11 years. She holds a Masters in International Relations and runs management with the help of 22 employees.

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.

Nationally Recognized Speaker Glenn Shepard to Hold Business Seminar on Wednesday

Glenn Shepard

Glenn Shepard

The Lamar County Chamber of Commerce is sponsoring a Business Seminar for titled “How to Supervise People and Lead a Team” with Glenn Shepard.

Glenn Shepard is a nationally recognized speaker. Ron Sargent, the CEO of Staples, said “Glenn’s messages resonate with my values and those that have made Staples so successful. Clear, direct and right on target. Highly recommended.”

Attendees of the seminar will learn how to defuse tension, derail toxic behavior and energize your employees. Glenn Shepard will share strategies for solving the worst workplace problems.

This seminar is Wednesday, July 23rd at the Love Civic Center from 8:30am-noon. The fee is $129 for Chamber members and $149 for non-members. When three or more enroll together, the fourth company person attends for free.

This seminar is approved for 3.25(general) recertification credit hours toward PHR, SPHR, and GPHR recertification through the HR Certification Institute.

For more information or to register contact Gina Crawford at 903-784-2501.

PEDC to crack down on incentive, abatement compliance

PEDC_depot_sliderRecipients of tax abatements and incentives could soon be put on notice.

The Paris Economic Development Corp. board of directors plans to review the current incentive and abatement agreements to see who has complied with the information requirements. So far, it appears not many.

The information required usually includes property valuations for capital investments and payroll data to show job growth. Compliance has not been monitored very closely in the past, said Rebecca Clifford, the board secretary/treasurer. She has been working with Shannon Barrentine, interim executive director, since March to try to rectify that, including phone calls and emails every few weeks.

“Since they haven’t done it in the past, we’ve given them a little more time,” Clifford said. “We should not be sitting here in July saying, ‘Where is the information?’”

The PEDC board Tuesday put an Aug. 15 deadline on the submissions.

There are incentives committed to Campbell Soup, Harrison Walker & Harper, Paris Lakes, Skinner, Daisy Farms, T&K Machine, Bodyguard and Potters Industries. Campbell Soup, HWH, Bodyguard and Skinner have submitted information, Clifford said.

“The others we still have information that is missing,” she said. “We’ll need to get with them.”

There are also several tax abatements for industries, including Campbell Soup, Paris Warehouse, Kimberly-Clark, Paris Regional Medical Center and T&K. Of those, only Campbell Soup has submitted everything, Clifford said.

“You could say in a letter that failure to respond to this could mean an end to your tax abatement,” board member Don Wilson said.

It would be up to the various taxing authorities to actually cancel an abatement; the PEDC has no authority to do so on its own.

“You have no teeth,” said Edwin Pickle, the City Council liaison to the PEDC board. “You’re just the compliance monitor.”

He asked if PEDC could provide the information about who’s in compliance or not in the regular reports to the City Council.

“I guarantee the City Council would be interested in this,” he said.

Part of the problem is no two agreements are written the same, Barrentine said, which makes verifying compliance harder. Chairman Stephen Grubbs said the board may want to address that in the future.

Clifford said the job description for PEDC executive director puts the burden for compliance on PEDC, although at one time, city personnel took care of that.

“When Lisa Wright left in ’08, nobody has done compliance since,” Barrentine said.