Mayor Jerry Sanders this morning urged City Council approval of reforms for the Centre City Development Corp. and Southeastern Economic Development Corp. proposed after scandals at both agencies threatened their very existence.
The changes would give the mayor and City Council far more control over the city-run nonprofits. When scandals hit the agencies in mid-2008, the mayor and City Council were largely powerless in their ability to clean house.
They had to rely on political pressure rather than any true policy power in trying to remove then-SEDC President Carolyn Y. Smith, who stayed on for weeks after the mayor and three council members called for her resignation.
The council is scheduled to vote this afternoon on more than two dozen changes to the rules the agencies must follow. If approved:
- The mayor would hire the president of both agencies with City Council approval. The mayor would choose from at least three candidates selected by a committee comprised of a representative of the mayor, two from the council and two from each agency’s board. Both agencies have had interim executives since 2008.
- The mayor and City Council could fire each agency’s president for cause. If the mayor fires the president, he or she could appeal to the council.
- The mayor can suspend and recommend the City Council remove SEDC and CCDC board members if they breach the agency’s rules. The council could remove any board member for any reason with a two-thirds vote.
- The city can inspect documents from CCDC or SEDC within 10 days of making a request. It currently lacks the ability to inspect personnel and financial records.
- Each agency will have to adopt financial policies limiting the size of contracts staff members can sign off on without board approval.
- The city’s Redevelopment Agency can order performance audits of CCDC and SEDC annually and require those agencies to pay for them.
- The Mayor’s Office can review and comment on each agency’s budget before it’s approved.
Hiring permanent presidents for SEDC and CCDC would “move forward fairly rapidly,” Sanders said.
“Nothing we can do can prevent true criminals from engaging in criminal behavior,” the mayor said. “But we can provide heightened levels of oversight to prevent individuals from brazenly damaging the credibility of these agencies.”
— ROB DAVIS