Contract Options

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 1, 2008

Contract, options worth second look

Our county supervisors’ swift hiring of a financial advisor earlier this month seemed to occur at break-neck speed. Now supervisors have a second chance, and good reason, to slow down and regroup.

For this newspaper the sudden hiring of Charlie Joiner caused concern when Joiner’s brief and vague presentation was not followed by even the most basic of questions from the five-man board. Instead, four supervisors quietly followed the request of the board president, Robert Avant, to hire Joiner.

Panola County urgently needs to find an estimated $12 million to build two new industrial parks, so the supervisors’ decision to hire Joiner to seek those funds is a serious matter.

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Why is it serious? Because Panola County’s industrial employers account for one-quarter of our jobs. If that vital segment of our job market doesn’t grow, neither will Panola County. In fact, we will move in reverse. Is that serious enough for you?

Now, two weeks after Joiner’s appearance, County Administrator David Chandler has shared concerns with supervisors about Joiner’s proposed contract. Chandler told the board that Joiner’s work would duplicate the services of North Delta Planning, a government agency already at work in Batesville. He also suggested that Joiner’s contract does not include any plans to seek grant funding.

If Chandler’s assertions are correct, then supervisors clearly erred when they voted to hire Joiner before reviewing her proposal, a backwards way to conduct county business. Since Joiner is technically already hired by the county, the county administrator must now negotiate with Joiner then report back to the board.

Judging by Avant’s defensive nature last week, Chandler must also report to a board president who seemed intent to keep his personal pick no matter what red flag was raised. While Chandler raised a red flag, Avant’s four colleagues again waved a white flag, leaving Chandler alone to confront Avant.

If the other four supervisors ever hope to balance Avant’s apparent power and influence, this is a clear opportunity, with a clear reason, to do so.

Why not ask for a board vote to reverse Joiner’s hiring? Then advertise for other proposals.

If Joiner’s new and improved contract is the best presented, then rehire her. But in this and future decisions at least allow the process to work instead of letting one supervisor work the process. Panola County’s future may depend on it.