Monday, January 10, 2011

EDC Exec Board Supports Mayor's Stance on Port Authority Leadership

EDC rift with Port Authority widens

“This is a major, major distraction.” — Clyde McQueen, chair of the EDC’s executive committee.
Michael Mansur & Dave Helling

The executive committee of the Economic Development Corp. of Kansas City took several actions today aimed at discouraging the Kansas City Port Authority’s move out of EDC’s control.
They included approval of a resolution asking the Port Authority’s current board chairman, Trey Runnion, to resign.
Runnion voted against the resolution and said he would not resign. And Runnion added that the Port Authority’s planned move out of EDC offices Downtown would proceed as scheduled next week.
Nonetheless, the EDC’s executive committee passed resolutions directing its staff not to pay for invoices related to the move or new leases for the office space. It also encouraged the Kansas City Council to resolve issues regarding the Port Authority’s governance.
Members of the EDC’s executive committee, which include Mayor Mark Funkhouser, expressed dismay about having to deal with continuing controversies regarding the Port Authority.
“This is a major, major distraction,” said Clyde McQueen, chair of the EDC’s executive committee.
McQueen added that weeks ago he had supported the Port Authority’s move out of EDC, but too many questions have arisen.
“The circumstances have changed since then,” he said. “People on this board are nervous…People are concerned.”
Other board members said they’ve heard no explanation why the Port Authority needed to move to a different location.
Port Authority leaders, including Runnion, have pushed in recent months for the separation, saying their agency — which is authorized under a state statute — could function more effectively if it were not housed with the EDC.
Runnion cited a Kansas City Council-approved resolution in November approving the Authority’s move.
But Funkhouser was openly critical of Runnion, saying he had no confidence in him. “One person has balled up economic development for the city,” he said.
The Port Authority has signed a five-year lease on office space outside of the EDC headquarters offices and has entered into several other contracts related to the move.
The dust up is the latest development in an ongoing dispute with Funkhouser and the City Council over who has the power to appoint members to the Authority’s board.
In recent weeks, the Authority has been embroiled in a controversy over a potential conflict of interest involving its general counsel, William Session. Port Authority board members pledged on Monday to approve a new conflict-of-interest policy that is expanded to include staff and consultants.
The Kansas City Star reported in December that Session established an excavating company called TWS in Missouri in 2007, just days after his law firm agreed to represent the Authority in an oversight role at the old Richards-Gebaur air base in south Kansas City.
Then in 2008, TWS got no-bid subcontracts worth at least $9.7 million for earthmoving work with another private company doing construction at Richards-Gebaur.
Although two earlier investigations cleared Session of any conflicts under the existing Authority conflict-of-interest policy, an outside attorney recommended that the Authority broaden its rules to apply to more than just board members.
Meanwhile, the City Council has asked the city auditor to investigate the Richards-Gebaur deal. Funkhouser also has asked U.S. Attorney Beth Phillips to consider examining the Authority’s financial activities.

No comments:

Post a Comment