CHIPLEY - After a month of debates and review from the CRA board and the Chipley City Council, council has finally given approval for the CRA to draft necessary documents to look for a dedicated CRA professional to give legal guidance to the organization.
Ted Everett, Executive Director for the CRA said what it basically was coming down to was that the organization was seeking professional, certified services from someone who could help them be certified by the Florida Redevelopment Association. Everett said while he appreciates Michelle Blankenship Jordan, who serves as the city’s attorney and also provides services to the CRA, he noted that the only other CRA board she serves is the city of Esto and says they would like someone with, “a broader scope” of knowledge.
Councilwoman Linda Cain said while she understood where Everett was coming from, she was disappointed in how the situation was handled.
“I thank you (Ted) for what you’ve done and I thank the CRA board because I know it is not an easy job,” Cain said. “Not only did Michelle drop the ball but you (ted) drop the ball too. You could have picked up the phone and called her.”
Everett said he understands he could have handled the situation differently and said he has publicly apologized to Blankenship-Jordan on several occasions.
Cain said she felt like there was bitter feelings between Jordan and Everett which played a part in the decision to look for the CRA legal representation, which Everett denied.
“We simply had alot of discussions in the CRA for a long time,” He said. “We know we want better grants.” We know there are other things out there that we want to do.“
Cain said one of her concerns was the fact that hiring a professional would require spending money out of the CRA fund that she felt could be used in other places. Cain questioned if the city attorney had been kept in the loop on the CRA business and also said she felt like the city attorney had been treated unjustly by the CRA in the past.
“I don’t know what all has taken place but I know she feels like she has been bullied and I am not so sure she hasn’t” she said.
Everett said the city attorney had been kept in the loop and mentioned the fact that the CRA was still awaiting an answer to a question asked of her from June.
Mayor Tracie Andrews clarified that the city attorney would still be involved with reviewing and giving input into the CRA Advisory Board and the chosen CRA professional’s finding and would be kept in the loop.
“We can’t fix anything that happened in the past,” Andrews said.
Blankenship Jordan said she would like to see the CRA and city council lay out the expectations for the type of services that are being asked for by the CRA. She also said that due to new State regulations there were stricter rules regarding the oversight of city council on CRA.
“In the past there have been a more casual relationship the boards,” Blankenship Jordan said. “But we really need to make certain we are on the same page about what services the CRA can engage in without needing the approval of the city council.”
Blankenship Jordan said in hearing what the CRA is wanting she believes the type of person being asked for is not so a lawyer as much as a “planner.”
Everett said the person who he had in mind for the role just happened to be an attorney who is also Florida Redevelopment Association Certified..
“If the (job advertisement) goes out it doesn’t have to be an attorney,” Everett said. “We are just trying to find the best person.”
Council voiced confusion on why the CRA was requesting to advertise the position after initially being told the CRA had a candidate in mind. Dan Miner, City Administrator, said the CRA has to advertise for the position to meet guideline requirements, even if the CRA board has someone in mind.
“They’re bylaws even require them to go out and bid,” Miner said.
Blankenship Jordan said under the current city ordinance the CRA does not have the authority to do the hiring process for the CRA professional. She said in order for the CRA to be able to do it council would have to approve a resolution to give the CRA that authority. Council approved for a resolution to be drafted to amend the ordinance to give the CRA the ability to retain a CRA professional. The resolution will be read at the January.