Several Fulton County supervisors are interested in serving as directors of an economic development agency that agreed to make the political appointments in return for a $75,000 stipend from the county.
Fulton County Board of Supervisors Chairman Michael F. Gendron would not identify his colleagues who want to be part of the Fulton County Center for Regional Growth.
The CRG was created in March to serve as a parent corporation for the formerly separate Fulton County Economic Development Corp. and the Crossroads Incubator Corp. The EDC and CIC say they are private economic development agencies not subject to state scrutiny. A state watchdog agency has disagreed with this.
The EDC and CIC never accepted political appointments to their boards, even though the county Board of Supervisors had provided $75,000 to the EDC for years.
Following revelations in 2010 by The Daily Gazette that Jeff Bray and Peter Sciocchetti, then the executive vice presidents of the EDC and CIC, respectively, awarded themselves about $1 million each between 2007-09 under questionable circumstances, the county reduced its EDC contribution to $15,000 in 2011. The board raised the amount to $25,000 for 2012; the CRG asked for $75,000 for 2013.
In agreeing to give the CRG $75,000 under a one-year contract starting today, the county obtained the right to appoint three supervisors to the nine-member CRG board. The appointed supervisors would serve defined terms with the CRG. Gendron was unclear as to the specific term lengths.
Gendron said the supervisor appointments will make the CRG more transparent and more accountable to county taxpayers. “It is an important change that will bring the transparency needed by Fulton County,” he said.
It also gives the supervisors more control over the direction of economic development in Fulton County.
The county is also requiring the CRG to file annual audited statements and an annual report, and requiring that the CRG develop and implement a business development marketing plan for 2013.
Gendron said the appointments will happen relatively soon, perhaps at the county board’s reorganizational meeting Wednesday.
The county’s agreement with CRG will help provide some financial stability to the economic development agency as it attempts to settle legal and financial issues sparked by the two former executives who once headed the EDC and CIC, officials said. The CRG has sued Bray and Sciocchetti to recover the bonuses, as well as a CPA firm that audited the EDC’s and CIC’s books. A State Supreme Court judge recently threw out the CRG’s lawsuit against the accounting firm, saying it contained errors. The CRG plans to refile the lawsuit, officials said.
The EDC has limited operating capital remaining for its staff and the CIC is in debt over mortgage payments related to its large real estate holdings, which it is trying to sell. CRG officials said the loss of rental income and actions by Bray and Sciocchetti are partly responsible for the current financial conditions of EDC and CIC.
CRG and county officials said they plan to dissolve both the EDC and CIC as corporate entities, leaving just the CRG to handle an existing revolving loan fund, develop a marketing plan with goals and objectives, apply for grants for operations, recruit businesses and market shovel-ready sites in existing or future business parks in the county.