Polk ETDC chairman blasts commissioners before resigning

Published 8:30 pm Tuesday, July 28, 2015

After seven years of serving on the Polk County Economic and Tourism Development Commission (ETDC), current chairman Bob Morgan resigned after a speech during citizen comments of the county board of commissioner meeting last week.

Morgan told commissioners that the most difficult decision commissioners have made regarding the ETDC was to change its make-up from an action-oriented board to an advisory board to commissioners. He also said commissioners ignore the advise given by the ETDC and questioned how the county can justify having a full-time recreation director and agricultural economic development director but only have a part-time economic development director during the county’s highest times of economic development. Morgan also pointed out that other directors are full-time county employees, while economic development director Robert Williamson is not a county employee, but is employed by contract.

Commissioners met Monday, July 20 and heard many comments over Duke Energy’s plans to run a transmission line through Polk County and comments on a proposed water contract during citizen comments when Morgan addressed the board to resign.

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“I address you tonight not from my position as chair of the economic and tourism development commission but as a private citizen of Polk County,” said Morgan. “You’ve been hearing about two very important topics tonight, and I need to introduce a third.”

Morgan said in his seven years serving on the board there have been many changes, the most difficult was commissioners changing the ETDC from an action-oriented body to one limited to providing commissioners with advice.

“That process cost the ETDC and the county the services of several very talented citizens who resigned in protest,” said Morgan.

He said the ETDC is now structured to advise commissioners, yet recently commissioners have without comment, ignored the board’s advice in matters particularly important to the ETDC board, its budget and its membership.

“Your own economic development policy statement specifically describes the funding the county is to provide,” said Morgan. “Yet you have violated your own policy by continuing to underfund economic development activity.”

Morgan said the under-funding results in the county having a part-time director of economic development who is not even a county employee.

During the 2015-2016 budget this spring, the ETDC requested that current economic development director be made a county employee instead of being contracted. Commissioners denied the request.

“Considering that the county finds it possible to employ a full-time director of recreation and a full-time director of agriculture development, by what logic do we have only a part-time director of economic development in a time when the county is experiencing its greatest economic development activity?” asked Morgan. “The ETDC is now an advice giving organization yet you do not value or follow our advice.

“So that you may appoint ETDC members whose advice you will find acceptable, I hereby resign as a member and as chair of the Polk County Economic and Tourism Development Commission. Thank you.”

Commissioner Michael Gage answered, “You’re welcome.”

Commissioners did not discuss Morgan’s resignation. The board appoints vacancies for all volunteer boards and commissions during regular meetings.