By Will Johnson
CROCKETT – A stare down of sorts occurred on Monday, Jan. 9 between the Crockett City Council and the Crockett Economic and Industrial Development Corporation. At issue was an item on the council’s agenda which stated, “Consider and approve removing one or more members of the CEIDC Board of Directors.”
“This is an item council requested to be on the agenda and it now is. If anyone would like to begin,” Crockett Mayor Robert Meadows said.
“Basically, when Mr. (Flint) Brent and Mrs. (Suzanne) Steed left employment with the CEIDC, they were given severance pay. The severance pay was reviewed by the city council and under the circumstances, we felt like those payments were not due,” Precinct Two Councilman Ray Bruner said.
Bruner explained checks which had been cut were returned unsigned to the CEIDC, along with an explanation from the city attorney.
“A couple of days later, they (the CEIDC) decided to pay this $27,000 out of their own fund, to my best understanding. Can y’all explain to me if I am misquoting that? That is what is troubling the council,” Bruner added.
Precinct Three Councilman Ernest Jackson said the issue he had with it was when the two employees separated from employment on a voluntary basis they then received a severance package.
CEIDC Board of Directors President Chris von Doenhoff, present at the council meeting, replied, “Yes, we submitted that for payment when they terminated and you are correct. The city did not pay it. We then issued checks to each one of them and then Mr. Brent returned his money. One hundred percent of that came back. We felt it was a contractual obligation to give them some job security.”
The CEIDC board president said in his discussions after Brent resigned, Brent expressed he felt unappreciated by the council after acquiescing to the demands imposed on him after he had accepted the position last year.
Both Bruner and Jackson expressed they were stunned by Brent’s resignation, especially given the fact a city council meeting had been held the night before the former CEIDC executive director left.
“I think there is something before the council if expenditures are more than $15,000 it is supposed to come before the council,” Bruner said.
“It did come before the council and we turned it down,” Precinct Five Councilman Mike Marsh said.
“Not the severance checks,” Precinct One Council Member Jeannie Julian said.
“The severance checks that they paid out of their funds were still not discussed with us. The council by my recollection has some oversight over their budget and fees and where the money is spent. That is my question and I just don’t understand,” Bruner said.
“You also said something about city employees,” Marsh said. “No one has ever quit and received a severance.”
“That may be true,” von Doenhoff replied. “I don’t know what is going on with the city employees but you asked what we did and that’s what we did.”
Meadows asked if there was any further discussion and receiving none, he remarked the agenda item was an actionable item.
“The agenda item was to consider and approve removing one or more members of the CEIDC Board of Directors. Mind you, there is currently one vacancy because Mr. Gentry was hired as the Executive Director from the Board of Directors,” Meadows said.
“So, y’all can offer no explanation other than that’s what we did?” Bruner questioned. “That’s a lot of money for a town this size – taxpayers’ money – and there are a lot of questions in the air about it.”
“Is there a motion to remove one or more members of the CEIDC Board of Directors?” the mayor asked.
After a few moments of further discussion, Bruner said it would be inept on the council’s part to remove members on Monday night without having a replacement or replacements lined up.
Jackson suggested the matter be tabled because of the absence of Mayor Pro Tem Muriel Williams.
“I believe if we do this, we need the full voice of the council on this matter. I think we should have a closed session with the CEIDC and discuss this matter and then make a decision,” Jackson said.
Jackson made a motion to table the matter, it was seconded by Bruner and passed unanimously.
Will Johnson may be contacted via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.