The Morning Report
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A committee of the Southeastern Economic Development Corp. board met this afternoon but did not discuss two of the four items on its agenda, both of which dealt with the agency’s pay practices.
The agency’s Personnel and Budget Committee was due to discuss a staff report on historical employee compensation policies, but SEDC President Carolyn Y. Smith said the report has not yet been complete. The item was continued at her request.
Compensation at the agency is currently a hot topic after it was revealed that the agency has paid out $1 million in staff bonuses and extra compensation in the last five years. Members of the SEDC board and the City Council said they were unaware of the bonuses.
When that item will actually be heard is uncertain. The committee is supposed to meet quarterly, but none of the three SEDC board members I spoke with at the meeting knew when it had last met or when it will meet next.
The second item, detailed on the meeting’s agenda as “Presentation Regarding Executive Compensation Tax Regulations Applicable to Governmental Entities by Gary Brownell, CPA,” didn’t happen either. Brownell was at the meeting, but he looked pretty flustered and only said that he did not yet know the answers to SEDC’s questions.
Brownell was evidently researching how compensation tax regulations apply to SEDC, an issue my colleague, Andrew Donohue, wrote about in this story. The accountant said he hasn’t figured that out yet.
“This is a very specialized area of law,” he said. “It’s going to take another week.”
The meeting’s third item was simple: The committee was asked to make a recommendation to the full board regarding the mayor’s decision last week to slash funding to SEDC to the bare minimum needed to pay employees’ base salaries. The committee voted unanimously to make a recommendation to the full board that SEDC implement the mayor’s request immediately.
Lastly, the committee voted on a personnel issue. Committee and SEDC board Chairman Artie M. “Chip” Owen presented to the committee that SEDC staff has been discussing with the Mayor’s Office the possibility of installing a city official within SEDC to monitor SEDC’s finances and to aid the agency with its budgetary procedures.
SEDC’s current finance director, Dante Dayacap, is embroiled in the bonus scandal, having received more in extra compensation than anyone else at the agency except Smith.
The Mayor’s Office has asked that the agency appoint the new financial officer on at least a temporary basis, but Smith and Owen said the details of the appointment have not been finalized. The committee voted unanimously to recommend the appointment for presentation at tomorrow’s board meeting.
After the meeting, Owen and Smith sped for the back door of the meeting room, pursued by three journalists and two photographers. Both declined to answer questions.
At tomorrow’s meeting of the full board, the board will meet in closed session to discuss the termination of Smith. Smith has been called upon to resign by the mayor and three members of the City Council. She has given no indication yet that she intends to step down but she could be forced out by SEDC’s board. If Smith is terminated, she could collect between $200,000 and $300,000 as part of a golden parachute written into her contract.
Tomorrow’s meeting is at 5 p.m. at SEDC’s headquarters, 4393 Imperial Avenue, Suite 200.