Col. Ricketts said he had been asked by Roy Copeland to look at putting the minutes online and had talked to local authorities (Parks & Recs, Hospital, Prison, Airport) and other economic development authorities around Georgia (Macon, Albany, Tifton, Columbus, Savannah, and Augusta) and found none of them publish minutes online. He said their concern was prospective project details.
Col. Ricketts said Chairman Jerry Jennett asked him to talk to former Executive Director Ken Garren. Ricketts said Garren said that even though
he clearly understands the responses of those other economic development organizations in the state. He did say, however, that in the interest of public relations and transparency that he recommends you consider publishing the minutes.Mary Gooding asked for clarification that none of those other organizations publish their minutes. Chairman Jerry Jennett noted that the minutes didn’t really exist until they were approved, and they could have an additional meeting to screen out all the names of the projects, and have board and staff look at the projects separately. Mary Gooding remarked that
By the time we sanitize them it’s pretty much just going to be an agenda. I don’t know that it’s going to really tell those people who are interested in the minutes; they’re just going to be frustrated by the time we sanitize them.Further discussion about confidentiality. Mary Gooding noted that it’s the state that assigns the project code names.
So if we have project Dinosaur, our constituencies and our citizens won’t know what project Dinosaur is, but our competitors, the Albanys and the Tiftons, they’ll definitely know.Roy Copeland said:
I think inasmuch as we can operate in a transparent manner and not disclose confidential information and contacts we should endeavor to achieve that. I’m not saying we’ve got to vote on how to sanitize those minutes to protect the innocent, but I think we should at least look at it, on a trial run basis, to see how it looks. We do have minutes that are available; unofficial minutes. I think that there has to be some rational and productive way to disclose things such as financials, our budget review, our existing industry, park updates, etc. I think we can expunge the confidential things from the minutes to protect the so-called innocent.Mary Gooding asked for a trial run and Roy Gooding agreed to work with Allan Ricketts on that.
Tom Call and Norman Bennett said nothing.
I think a tax-funded economic development authority ought to publish its minutes. I’d be really surprised if their minutes included details of meetings with prospective project companies anyway. And I think the basic error in their approach is they consider the Albanys and the Tiftons to be their principal competitors and not the Saginaw Michigans.
Here’s the video:
Minutes online? VLCIA 17 May 2011
Regular Meeting, Valdosta-Lowndes County Industrial Authority (VLCIA),
Norman Bennett, Roy Copeland, Tom Call, Mary Gooding, Jerry Jennett chairman,
J. Stephen Gupton attorney, Allan Ricketts Acting Executive Director,
Valdosta, Lowndes County, Georgia, 17 May 2011.
Videos by John S. Quarterman for LAKE, the Lowndes Area Knowledge Exchange.