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IDA challenged about minutes

Two members of the public brought to light during a March 10 public hearing held by the Prince Edward County Board of Supervisors that the last Prince Edward County Industrial Development Authority (IDA) meeting minutes posted online were from 2016.

IDA Chairman Brad Watson said he had not been aware of this, and he added in a Monday, March 16, interview that the missing minutes would be posted as quickly as possible.

The March 10 public hearing pertained to the IDA request for the board of supervisors to provide the IDA with $1.9 million.

Michele N. Schumacher, of the Lockett District, was the first member of the public to speak during the hearing. She opposed transferring the funds to the IDA and criticized the authority for its lack of recordkeeping.

Brad Watson

“I’ve gone and tried to look for the minutes of the IDA online,” she said. “The last minutes published from that entity were from 2016, and they were only published when I raised questions about Robert Fowler and the Granite Falls hotel project. This is unbelievable that you would allow a commission of this county and an authority not to comply with the laws of this state.”

She said the Freedom of Information Act requires not only minutes, it requires meeting notices, and she said she has yet to see one meeting notice for the IDA on the county’s website.

A Monday afternoon, March 16, check of the IDA minutes webpage on the county’s website does confirm that the most recent meeting minutes posted were from June 28, 2016.

Rodney-Daryl Jones, who is planning to retire to Prince Edward County, spoke during the public hearing, opposing the transfer and also highlighting the lack of IDA minutes.

“If a corporate entity is looking to come to Prince Edward County, and they look at the website, and they look at the IDA’s minutes, and they basically go from 2007, they stopped in June of 2016 — they know something’s up,” he said. “It’s some type of clandestine, phantom operation going on.”

While Farmville 801 District Supervisor Pattie Cooper-Jones expressed support for the IDA’s project and was later part of the board’s unanimous vote approving the $1.9 million transfer, she stated her concern about what Schumacher and Jones were saying regarding the lack of IDA minutes.

“That is not a good look,” she said. “If you’re being an arm of this board and being stewards of the county’s money as well, then there should be some records of what you’re doing and how it’s happening.”

Other supervisors expressed agreement, as did Watson.

“I wasn’t aware that they weren’t being published,” Watson said during the meeting. “I am now. That will not be a problem anymore.”

Asked Monday, March 16, if he knew an approximate time when the minutes will be posted, Watson said he did not.

“I haven’t had any conversations about that since the (board) meeting except that we know we’re going to do it, and I don’t do it myself,” he said. “They have to do it in the county administrator’s office. It’s going to be as quickly as we can do it, and that’s all I know.”

He said he knows the office has someone that is out for health reasons right now unrelated to the novel coronavirus.

“(They) can’t get it done immediately, and plus they’re working on how to deal with the coronavirus right now, so it’s got some different priorities, but (the minutes) will be taken care of,” he said.

He also confirmed that the missing minutes have been written, meaning that it is not as if no minutes of IDA meetings have been taken since 2016.

“They’ve absolutely been taken,” he said. “They just, for some reason, weren’t posted, and I don’t really know why.”