Regina Petty, corporate counsel of the Southeastern Economic Development Corp., will not seek to continue as the agency’s lawyer, Petty told SEDC’s board at last night’s meeting.

Petty will stay at the agency while SEDC searches for new legal representation, said SEDC board Chairman Cruz Gonzalez. The board voted last night to issue a request for proposals to find a new attorney for the troubled agency, but Petty said she would not apply to be the agency’s lawyer.

“It has been a privilege for me to be SEDC’s attorney, and, although I continue to be well qualified to serve — better qualified actually than when I started as counsel — in order to have a proper attorney-client relationship, you have to have board members that are willing to reasonably listen to your advice, and care about complying with the law. It’s not clear to me that that is currently the case with this board.” Petty said.

Petty has been criticized by at least one member of the board. In July, Derryl Williams sent a letter to Mayor Jerry Sanders criticizing the culture of SEDC and the way board meetings have been run.

Williams wrote:

Using corporate counsel and Special Agency Counsel, the President of SEDC controlled questions and the flow of information so that board members could not obtain sufficient answers to assist in making good judgments.

Petty was also criticized by City Attorney Mike Aguirre at an SEDC Executive Committee meeting last week.

“I want to look Carolyn in the face and I want to say ‘Regina, it’s time for both of you to go,’ in my opinion,” Aguirre said. “I’ve listened to several of the meetings, I’ve listened to the legal advice and I have to say the legal advice is skewed in favor of the existing management.”

And the author of a damning audit of the agency, released two weeks ago, also mentioned Petty’s legal advice. The lead auditor said some board members her team interviewed felt that Petty “would convey info they didn’t believe was quite accurate.” However, the auditor said she couldn’t verify the claims and it wasn’t in her company’s contract to look into the issue further.

The details of SEDC’s search process for new attorneys will be fleshed out at the board’s Executive Committee, Gonzalez said. While that process runs its course, Petty will remain as SEDC’s corporate counsel, Gonzalez said.

“We need somebody to push through this RFP. She will honcho it through and, in the meantime, if we need legal advice, she’s there for that,” Gonzalez said.


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