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Crockett Council v CEIDC Board

By Alton Porter, Courier Reporter
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After considerable discussion, Crockett City Councilmembers decided not to act at a meeting on Monday, Jan. 9, to remove any members from the Crockett Economic and Industrial Development Corporation (CEIDC) Board of Directors.

The matter was an item for consideration and approval on the council's agenda at Monday's regular meeting. However, after discussing it at length, the councilmembers felt they needed more time to thrash it out and come to a decision.

Therefore, Precinct 3 Councilmember Ernest Jackson offered a motion to table the matter and Precinct 2 Councilmember Ray Bruner seconded the motion. It passed on a unanimous vote of all four councilmembers present at the meeting. Mayor Pro Tem and Precinct 4 Councilmember Muriel Williams was absent.

In bringing the matter of possibly "removing one or more members" of the CEIDC board before the councilmembers for discussion, Mayor Robert Meadows said, "This is an item that the majority of the council has requested to be on the agenda, and it now is."

Bruner initiated the discussion, saying, "I think the question that the council is faced with is that when Mr. Flint (Flint Brent, recently resigned CEIDC executive director) and Mrs. (Suzanne) Steed (former CEIDC executive assistant) left employment with the CEIDC, they were given severance pay.

"This severance pay was reviewed by the city council. And, under the circumstances, we felt like those payments were not due. And we returned the checks and the explanation from our lawyer to the Crockett Economic Development.

"And, a couple of days later, they (CEIDC officials) decided to pay this $27,000 out of their own fund, it is my understanding. Now, you all can explain to me if I'm misquoting that, or what's going on. But, that's what's troubling the council."

Jackson chimed in, "One of the things I had an issue with was the fact that a severance package is the norm for employees. We had our department. We phased out. They received severance. But, the issue that I have with it is when employees terminate their positions, their jobs. And then, they're given money as a severance package. And, according to our city attorney, that money was not due them, due to the fact that they separated from employment themselves."

Speaking on behalf of the CEIDC board, its president, Chris von Doenhoff, said, "The employment contract that we had with the two employees – which was all we had, just two employees – was something we talked about early on when Mr. Brent got here. It took us a while before we ever did it. We were fortunate we were busy doing other things at the moment. We took care of those things."
von Doenhoff added, "We had him (Brent) enter the contract with it. And with Suzanne Steed, who had been there for 16 years or so. And yes, we submitted that for payment when they terminated. And you (Bruner) are correct. The city did not pay it. We, then, issued checks to each one of them, and they were paid. And then, Mr. (Brent) returned his money. So, 100 percent of that, we got back.

"We felt that it was a contractual obligation (and gave) them some job security, as you have with some of your department heads.

"I know, talking with Mr. Brent, after all the time he was here – six months – he was left with the feeling that you asked for him to be here, to report to you, keep you advised, keep things in the newspaper, which he did. Not once did anybody say, 'Good job. I like what you're doing. Keep it up.' He got run out."

To that, Meadows responded, speaking for himself for the record, that it isn't true that he himself ran Brent out or that no one commended him on his job performance.

"I'm telling you how he felt," von Doenhoff said.

Jackson said, "For verification, I was stunned when he (Brent) left and handed in his resignation. He and I had talked extensively about things, and I was very optimistic about his leadership (at CEIDC)."

Bruner added, "I spoke to him twice ... prior to his leaving – once up town and once in my office. We discussed things, and I was appreciative of what he had done, and I told him so.

"As I remember, we had council meeting (the evening before Brent resigned) ... and Flint was here that night. And we discussed affairs, but this was the night before he turned in his resignation. And when he spoke to us, he never mentioned anything about leaving in open session.

"We also had an executive session that night, specifically with economic development, and nothing was spoken then. So, the next morning, when he resigned and Mrs. Steed resigned, it kind of came as a shock to me that they would not even explain anything or their intentions the night before this event took place."

After further discussion by Meadows, Bruner, Jackson, Precinct 5 Councilmember Mike Marsh, von Doenhoff and City Attorney William Pemberton, during which Meadows noted that there is one vacant position on the CEIDC board, the councilmembers took their unanimous vote to table the matter.

The open position on the CEIDC board was left vacant by former Vice President James Gentry who was hired as CEIDC executive director on Dec. 5, 2016, replacing Brent whose resignation became effective on Oct. 5, 2016.

In a somewhat related matter, the councilmembers unanimously voted to appoint two new members to the CEIDC board. Those appointees are Gene Glover, who resides in the city's Precinct 5, and Kenan Noble, a resident of Precinct 3. The motion to appoint Glover and Noble to the board was made by Marsh and seconded by Jackson.