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Fund increase should wait

August 5, 2012
The Leader Herald

It has been more than two years since a scandal involving exorbitant bonus payments to Fulton County Economic Development Corp. officials became public.

The scandal prompted Fulton County to lower its contribution to the group, from $75,000 per year to $25,000.

Recently, it was revealed the Fulton County Center for Regional Growth - which was formed in March as the new parent corporation for the Crossroads Incubator Corp. and the EDC - requested the county restore the funding for 2013 to $75,000.

Despite the time that has passed, there are still too many unanswered questions for Fulton County to give more money to the organization.

The EDC and CIC were hit by the scandal in spring 2010, when it was made public former EDC Senior Vice President Jeff Bray and CIC Executive Vice President Peter A. Sciocchetti received $3 million in bonuses their boards of directors later said were not approved by them. Both men were fired in August 2010.

The CRG is suing to get the two former executives to give back their bonuses.

The CRG also is in litigation with the state Authorities Budget Office in Albany County because the CRG contends it's a private agency and the ABO contends the CRG is a public agency.

It would be imprudent for the cash-strapped county to increase its funding to the group while these questions are unanswered.

The county might better wait to see if the CRG is able to get its $3 million back - which certainly makes $75,000 look like peanuts in comparison - and if they will be dealing with a public or private entity before they boost their payments. At the very least, the supervisors would not be digging themselves a $50,000 hole in their latest budget.

Of course, there is at least one other unanswered question: Will the board members of these agencies provide the necessary oversight so funds go to help businesses, not toward lining an executive's pockets?

To their credit, the groups have taken actions with the stated goal of increasing transparency in their operations. When the CRG was created, officials noted it brought the EDC and CIC together under the control of one central board of directors, with a single committee overseeing all financial transactions of the three entities.

However, it is still unknown how effective these - or any other - actions will be in making sure funds are used appropriately.

 
 

 

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