Published 12:00 am Friday, February 15, 2008
Monday’s swift decision by the Panola County Board of Supervisors to hire a financial advisor to guide them in seeking funds for developing industrial park property begged several questions.
Unfortunately, none of the supervisors thought to ask those questions.
Consultant Charlie Joiner of Jackson spoke about six minutes about her qualifications (wham!), Supervisor Robert Avant bragged about her qualifications (bam!), and then without comment the other four supervisors voted along with Avant to hire her (thank you, ma’am).
One question that might have been asked was how much Panola taxpayers will be expected to pay for the consulting services. Our reporter did ask the question. He tracked the consultant down after the meeting. She said that she gets a retainer and a percentage of the funds she secures for the county. “That would be in the two-percent range,” she told the reporter. “It would be best to quote that as a negotiated rate.”
Another question might have been asked is when the consultant would report back to the supervisors. Again, our reporter, gathering information for the story published in Tuesday’s edition — “Consultant will chase industrial park funding” — learned that information when he tracked her down afterwards
Yet another question that might have been asked is whether the Panola Partnership had been told that the supervisors planned to hire a consultant with whom the Partnership must work closely in coming months to become successful in developing new industrial tracts. The Panola Partnership’s director learned of the supervisor’s action the following day when he read it in the newspaper.
The supervisors might have also asked if any of the municipalities — Como, Sardis, Batesville along Panola’s I-55 corridor where industrial property might be located — had been clued in. The most successful industrial recruiting efforts in the past have come when the county, the municipality and the state have presented a united front and spoken with one voice.
Instead, supervisors posed no questions to Joiner – not a single one.
An observer might assume that Panola’s supervisors are indifferent, unconcerned or not understanding. Or an observer might assume that supervisors had already asked their questions and received their answers — out of public view of their discourse. We can think of a number of conclusions that the observer might draw from this county government quickie, none good.
Maybe Ms. Joiner will find some good revenue sources — her resumé sings like she knows where to look. She will likely return with suitable funding options.
But this commentary isn’t about her qualifications.
During the most recent term four supervisors appeared to routinely fall under a spell of silence when matters of import come up in their board meetings. Instead of speaking up for the people they have been elected to represent, too often there was silence.
Just two months into a new term in office, our supervisors seem to be continuing that habit. Already they seem to forget that they serve not themselves but the constituents who elected them to be their voice.
Sometimes being a voice means taking the time to think of a few basic questions.