Aldermen, EDP board reject supervisorsí proposal
By By Jody O'Hara
Dec 27, 2012, 11:51
The Wiggins Board of Aldermen and the Board of Directors of the Stone County Economic Development Partnership both rejected a proposal by the Stone County Board of Supervisors to restructure the EDP board last week.
At its Monday meeting, the Board of Supervisors passed a resolution calling on the state legislature to amend Senate Bill 3072 of 1999, which created the EDP.
At its Tuesday meeting, the Board of Alderman tabled the matter after Alderman-at-Large Joel Miles presented the supervisors' resolution and said he could not support it in its current form.
The resolution calls for the five supervisors, or their designated appointees, and three aldermen, or their designated appointees and two non-voting members to make up the amended Board of Directors.
"I believe there should be equal representation between the city and the county," Miles said. "I cannot support this as long as there is an unequal number."
At a recess meeting on Friday, EDP Chairwoman Laura Owen blasted the supervisors for what she considers an underhanded ploy to gain control of the organization.
Owen listed the problems the EDP had faced in the past eight weeks since an embezzlement scheme came to light.
Tina Owens Gillespie, the EDP's former executive secretary, has been charged with embezzlement and uttering-forgery in connection with hundreds of forged checks which were drawn on the partnerships' accounts.
Officials have estimated at least $317,000 was stolen.
After discussing the discovery of the embezzlement and actions taken by the board since that time, Owen castigated the supervisors.
"We have been attacked by the Stone County Board of Supervisors to restructure our EDP so that they can take our funds for their own use and their own agenda," she said. "I have found the lack of decency shown by our Board of Supervisors to be sad."
District 4 Supervisor and president of the board Scott Strickland said the board had acted in what it saw as the best interests of the citizens of Stone County.
"The board felt this was a time to take some action," he said.
Owen derided the lack of communication between the two boards.
"We have to come together as a group," she said. "We don't want you going out there and scheming to take over our funds and we don't want to read about it in the Stone County Enterprise."
EDP secretary/treasurer Matthew Ware took exception with the county withholding two months worth of checks totaling approximately $67,000.
"You suggest we do not have adequate controls in place to safeguard that money," he told Strickland, referencing an article in the Dec. 19 edition of the Enterprise. "You impugn me and everybody on this executive committee and I take exception to that."
Strickland said he realized the Senate Bill required the county to disburse funds within 30 days of receipt and he expected those funds to be released.
State Senator Tony Smith said he believed the county was going to have to come to some kind of consensus before any amendment to the structure of the EDP board would even be considered.
"I want to make sure all the stake holders in this thing are considered," Smith said. "If we're going to fix this thing, let's fix it once and fix it right."
Smith suggested a meeting between the supervisors, aldermen and EDP and also said it would be a good idea for himself and state representatives Doug McLeod and Timmy Ladner to take part in that meeting.
The Board of Aldermen are scheduled to meet Wed., Jan. 2, the Board of Supervisors is scheduled to meet again Mon., Jan. 7 and the EDP board is scheduled to hold a recess meeting Fri., Jan. 4.
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