By: Steve Trubilla
In July of this year, I engaged the issue of Franklin County economic development. Over a number of months I explored many of the related issues.
I am not going to cover everything discussed in those many articles. However, to give readers some context, I need to highlight some of what was covered.
This includes, but is not limited to, hundreds of thousands of dollars paid to county employees, countless empty buildings, thousands of lost man hours, meetings on the subject being routinely cancelled, a lapse of over 17 years without having an effective strategic plan, and the general failure by the county commissioners and other county executives to hold people accountable for their performance.
As I conducted this very detailed investigative review, I tried to be mindful of the sensitivities. It is easy to be a critic and I did not want to offend people or make reckless unfounded accusations.
I was absolutely aware individuals’ jobs and reputations could be impacted by what I reported. I also did not want to damage personal relationships I had with many involved.
To that end, I spent countless hours researching what amounted to many years of records, conducted interviews, verified facts, then revisited interviews to make sure I had my facts correct.
In a further proactive effort to bring clarity to the many facets of what turned out to be a very complex mess, I pointedly asked questions and even wrote a public letter to Board of County Commissioners trying to understand why such conditions exist.
Most questions went unanswered, and to this very day have not been answered. I did not even receive the courtesy of a response to the letter.
Not that I expected one.
Citizen inquiries are routinely simply ignored by county officials. All one has to do to verify this is to review the minutes of County Commissioner meetings.
I approached this from the position that the cup was half full, that no one was deliberately not doing their job, and that everyone was well intended.
In spite of what others were saying about duplicity and corruption, I dismissed most of it as groundless banter and resolved it may be more a case of a lack of competency.
September of this year, I concluded I had sufficiently addressed the matter and moved on to finding other things I thought you may find of interest.
My intent was to follow up at a later date as things developed.
I was pleased to read Carey Johnson’s, Nov. 7 article in this newspaper where he reported the county commissioners were going to seriously take on the issue of Franklin County’s economic development.
My elation was short lived. The very next meeting the Director of Franklin County Economic Development, Ronnie Goswick stood up in one of the very few meetings that were actually held this year and defended, or tried to defend, why meetings were not being held.
His words, “We’re busy, but not like we used to be.”
In a weak effort to excuse why monthly meetings were not being held he said, ”the EDC bylaws only require bimonthly meetings,” and then said the group would follow that schedule unless an issue came up that required more frequent meetings.
Well, maybe the bylaws should be changed! Remember me saying I verified the “facts.” The bylaws notwithstanding, monthly like clockwork, the meetings were scheduled, and many then cancelled.
I guess 30 days a month is not enough time to come up with something to talk about. No sense in following up on other things either, I guess?
What about the answers to the questions?
What about the jobs?
Why since 1998 has there been so much money and time spent on strategic planning and we still have no functioning plan?
Now because, and only because, “the puppy had its nose put in it” there is going to be yet another plan and or summit; a three-peat.
To add insult to injury, County Commissioner, and Chair of the Board, Shane Mitchell, stood up in the same meeting and said he wanted this paper to be sure and report the bylaws stated the meetings were only “required” every two months.
I guess working to the minimum standard, is the standard.
Additionally, it is clear neither the commissioners nor Goswick even knew what the bylaws said until I addressed this.
It appears Mitchell feels it is more important to stand to defend one of his own rather than to hold him accountable. This may be a reason Franklin County carries the “good old boy” network label.
It is clear many county officials are not taking this seriously. They will hold their summit, “sometime next year,” and buy a little more time until this dies down.
Some of those referenced here are pulling down over $100,000 a year; Goswick was hired 1998.
The time for personal sensitivities has passed. It is time to simply get rid of people that will not do their job. Some of this can be taken care of with the 2014 election.
Why are other counties and states beating us when it comes to bringing jobs to Franklin County? Why?
Doubling down to defend failure is failure. This, in part, answers the above question of why.