Jobs group will show records; officials want to see how county funds were spent
By Jessie Burchette and Mark Winekajburchette@salisburypost.com
Leaders of Rowan Jobs Initiative have reversed course and decided to provide county officials with records covering the four years the nonprofit organization has existed.
Earlier this month, top officials of Rowan Jobs refused to provide copies of minutes and other records. Instead, they offered to meet with commissioners one at a time and allow them to review some records.
At their Aug. 4 meeting, county commissioners were unanimous in calling on Rowan Jobs’ leadership to provide all the documents they had requested.
Rowan County and the city of Salisbury have provided funding for the organization, which originated with the Committee of 100 and has been marketing Rowan County to site selection consultants and real estate brokers.
Commissioners cited the $325,000 the county has put into the organization in the past four years and said the public has a right to the records.
Earlier this week, Arnold Chamberlain, chairman of the Board of Commissioners, contacted Chairman Skip Wood and Secretary-Treasurer Bruce Jones and asked them to comply with the request for records.
Chamberlain said he decided to reach out to the Rowan Jobs leadership to avoid additional public acrimony but made clear commissioners wanted the records.
He said Thursday that Wood and Jones assured him they will provide the information and “will try hard to get us the information by the Monday evening meeting.”
Commissioners are scheduled to discuss the Rowan Jobs Initiative and a new policy that would require all non-profits receiving county funds to comply with the state’s open meeting and public records laws.
County officials have said repeatedly they don’t believe Rowan Jobs has done anything wrong but are determined to see the records and get a full understanding of how the county’s funds have been spent.
Rowan Jobs Initiative has raised more than $600,000 for its branding and marketing program. It produced the “Available for Work” brand, which has been used in advertising, direct mail and other media.
Nearly two months ago the county pulled all its funding from Rowan Jobs after discovering the organization contracted with a firm owned by one of its directors, Mike Miller. County officials said it had the appearance of a conflict of interest.
Miller and several Rowan Jobs officials said they saved money by using his firm, Miller Davis Inc., to place advertisements and, thereby, saved thousands of dollars. They also said Miller did not participate in the decisions regarding the contract with his company.
Rowan Jobs has worked closely with the Salisbury-Rowan Economic Development Commission in promoting Rowan.
At its meeting Wednesday, the Salisbury-Rowan Economic Development Commission reported it no longer keeps records associated with Rowan Jobs Initiative.
During the Wednesday meeting, Commissioner Tina Hall pointed out a passage in the Economic Development Commission’s public records policy that says, “If the EDC generates, stores or maintains a document, that document is a public record and shall be made available to the public upon request.”
Hall said Economic Development Commission Office Manager Bettina Dickert took minutes for the Rowan Jobs Initiative and stored records of that organization in the Economic Development Commission office. Hall asked if those minutes and any Rowan Jobs documents shouldn’t be public record, based on the development group’s own policy.
Robert Van Geons, executive director, replied that Rowan Jobs Initiative “moved all of their records out of here.”