Partnership moves to clarify bylaws

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Debates over who can serve on the Craig/Moffat County Economic Development Partnership board of directors and who is allowed to vote ended abruptly Wednesday when board members said the group's bylaws are clear on those issues -- once they've been read.

"There's a lot more sense in here than is seen at first glance," said Bill Johnston, who serves on the board representing the city of Craig.

Johnston is one of the two ex-officio members the board is required to have according to its bylaws. He was denied a vote on several issues because he was an ex-officio member and other board members didn't consider that to be a voting position.

Board members, however, agreed during their regular meeting Wednesday that the bylaws allowed ex-officio members a vote.

"A lot of these topics we've been fighting about -- discussing -- are addressed in the bylaws," board member Sid Arola said.

According to the bylaws, the board of directors is made up of five to 11 people elected by the membership. Those who contribute at least $250 to the partnership are considered members. As the bylaws read now, members get one vote per every $250 donated. The board agreed Wednesday to eliminate that portion of the bylaws, giving all contributors one vote no matter how much money is donated.

The members are expected to meet annually to elect a board of directors but those members will be encouraged to attend any board meeting.

"I wouldn't want to exclude anyone who wants to be involved," board member Jerry Thompson said.

The EDP's first annual membership meeting will be May 12.

There was discussion about what the board would do until then.

Thompson suggested starting over.

"I think as far as credibility goes, on a scale of one to 10, we're at a negative 15 and I think we need to start over," he said. "We need to fan out and get contributions and try to get more people involved and then let the members elect a board and let that board write new bylaws."

Seventeen entities, including the city and the county, have pledged $65,750 to the EDP.

That's not enough to keep the effort going, board members said.

"There's a lot of people I've talked to who had checks written, but didn't like the direction we're going," Thompson said. "They thought the tail was wagging the dog."

Johnston said the feedback he's received is that people who have had difficulty working with the EDP's former executive director would contribute and participate now that he has resigned.

"I think we have a bad reputation because we've not made anything materialize," board member Dave Dempster said.

Johnston said the current board had too many things it could accomplish to start over now. He suggested amending the bylaws to clarify who voting members of the board were and move forward.

"I don't think we'll lose a lot of time in the process," Thompson said. "The membership should have a hand in putting this back together."

The board plans to invite business owners to a luncheon in an effort to increase funding, participation and faith in the effort.

They plan to send the message that the EDP is business, not government, directed, although some government participation is necessary considering the level of funding it brings.

The city and county each contribute $25,000 annually to the partnership.

"One of the big issues is people see this group as having too much government involvement and that's what's holding some people back," Thompson said.

The bylaws require the board's two ex-officio positions to be held by a city and a county representative, currently Johnston and Moffat County Commissioner Les Hampton.

Hampton also serves as chairman of the board. He has said he will resign at the annual membership meeting in May, but offered to resign Wednesday if board members thought that would increase community faith. He also asked if those who thought there was too much government involvement wanted him to go to the other commissioners and ask that they pull their funding from the EDP.

"This concept of too much government involvement sounds like something that came straight from the cave," he said.

Board members said May is soon enough for Hampton's resignation.

"I think this effort should be business driven and the city and county should have a vote, but not serve as chair," Johnston said. "I understand people don't want this government controlled and I agree."

It was not determined whether to amend the bylaws to state an ex-officio member cannot be the chairperson, but all agreed that a representative of the business sector should fill that position.

In the end, the board agreed to make two changes to the bylaws: Eliminate the section that allows members to have one vote for each $250 contributed and to include a specific statement giving ex-officios the right to vote.

The board also agreed to begin advertising for a new executive director immediately. They will use a similar job ad to the one used when the first executive director was hired, but will add requirements in terms of education and experience.

They will give applicants approximately 45 days to respond to the advertisement before beginning interviews.

The board will narrow down its selections to at least three candidates and personally, along with a panel made up of EDP members, interview them.

Former executive director Wally Ralston resigned in January during a board meeting at which a motion to terminate him ended in a tie vote.

The board interviewed several candidates over the telephone, but Ralston was the only one invited for a personal interview.

He was the board's second choice. Their first choice declined the position.

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