By STEPHANIE MOJICA
4:51 PM PDT, April 27, 2013
Danville City Commission will hold a special meeting Tuesday to further discuss its working relationship with the Danville-Boyle County Economic Development Partnership.
First-term Commissioner Paul Smiley spearheaded the idea to hold the special meeting after discussions last week on the topic turned unpleasant.
Last Tuesday, the EDP and affiliated agencies such as the Heart of Danville visited city hall for a special meeting and gave a presentation. But near the end of the meeting the environment visibly deteriorated as Mayor Bernie Hunstad and EDP president Jody Lassiter had several heated verbal exchanges. Several meeting attendees walked out of the room muttering comments of dissent and Commissioner James “J.H.” Atkins made multiple motions to end the meeting.
Tuesday’s special meeting agenda items are as follows: a letter of support for Corning Inc. and a letter voicing support for the EDP.
Corning, a New York-headquartered company that is a major manufacturer of glass and ceramics, recently received $500,000 of city and county tax incentives to remediate and redevelop the former Philips plant on Vaksdahl Avenue. During last week’s special meeting, Hunstad publicly questioned whether Lassiter negotiated on behalf of elected officials without their input.
“Due to the damage control I’ve had to conduct with Corning over the Mayor’s questioning the integrity of the incentive negotiation process, a letter of support/welcome will also be approved to be sent to the company to discount those comments,” Lassiter wrote in an email sent out Saturday.
Commissioner Kevin Caudill, serving his fifth consecutive term on the commission, reiterated his opinion that there is clearly a “personality conflict” between Lassiter and the mayor.
“I think back to what Jennifer (Kirchner, executive director of the Convention and Visitors Bureau) said Tuesday night about ‘walking on eggshells,’” Caudill said. “All the arguing creates a terrible environment for creating economic development. Paul (Smiley) had a terrific idea that I fully support. The EDP needs to know that we appreciate what they are doing.”
Lassiter commented in the email that he was pleased to hear about the special meeting and he hopes it will “close the book on this episode.”
During a telephone interview Saturday, Hunstad said he still believes that Lassiter is responsible for any conflicts between the groups.
“Basically, Jody’s saying you can’t question his organization,” the mayor said.
Hunstad again reiterated that not all of his concerns were addressed during the recent presentation and that the current relationship between the organization and local government appears to be a “one-way street.”
“What is Jody doing to support our city? He’s asking for another $10,000 in funding, but I cannot support that because he has failed to show a good use for that extra money. It seems to me he spends a lot of his time doing self-promotion through group emails and flooding social media networks so he and his followers can create their own powerful group. That type of behavior never benefits the public.
“If Jody worked as hard to bring in industry as he does building his own personal kingdom, the whole community would be better off.”
Smiley said he hopes Tuesday will “finish up” any outstanding issues and concerns so the EDP and the city can truly work together as partners.
“I want to see us move forward and put all of this behind us,” Caudill said. “I think it’s past time that the city government had a much more pleasant atmosphere.”
Danville City Commission will meet 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at city hall.