Sonora, CA — The Tuolumne County Economic Development Authority Board of Directors met before a packed room last night to review a response to this year’s recently released Grand Jury report.
There was a mix of business leaders offering strong support for the TCEDA and its director Larry Cope, and others who were critical of the organization. On the Grand Jury finding that businesses have an inconsistent awareness about the existence of the TCEDA and its services, the board agrees with the statement, and notes that the TCEDA has only two positions (the director and a clerical staff member). The board often provides direction to the director on how much time should be spent on business attraction and retention and which types of businesses to focus on (larger industrial and retail businesses versus smaller) and how much time to spend on regional partnerships. The TCEDA also recently contracted out for services to provide one-on-one consulting and business outreach for owners of businesses in downtown areas of the city and county.
There are some items the TCEDA Board is planning to request more details from the Grand Jury before responding. They include the assertion that the board fails to provide effective operational oversight or monitor the accuracy of information presented to the public, and that the TCEDA lacks both internal and public transparency regarding the appropriateness of budget expenditures.
On the claim that there is the appearance of a conflict of interest for the TCEDA board and staff members serving on multiple boards, the group “partially agrees.” The draft response argues that while there could be an appearance of conflict of interest, government code legally exempts conflicts with some types of people who are appointed to a JPA board. They include the Sonora City Council and Tuolumne County Board of Supervisors. The TCEDA board will work with county counsel to review any potential conflicts of interest with at-large members, and should one be identified, it will be immediately rectified.
On the claim that the TCEDA Board lacks sufficient metrics to evaluate effectiveness, the board also “partially agrees.” The TCEDA does a 5-year work plan and there are quarterly reports. The TCEDA process was cited as a “model practice” in a 2011 CALED publication entitled, “Growing Thriving Rural Economic Development Corporations.” However, the board acknowledges that this was seven years ago and the TCEDA has evolved, and improvements can be made.
The TCEDA response will be finalized at a future meeting.
Also last night the board met in closed session to further discuss a transparency related lawsuit filed by resident Kenneth Perkins. No report was given after that closed session.