Board members learned only through a report in the Journal about authority executive director Nelson Geter’s offer to Republic Property Company as an incentive for Fabric.com to move from Marietta into a Republic building in Kennesaw. In addition, Kennesaw is also contributing $50,000 to Republic for the move.
The Journal discovered that Geter had been involved in the deal ever since he was hired in January, but he never gave the seven board members a clue. Why? For one thing, he told the board last Tuesday that he had unilateral authority to offer a business up to $100,000 for relocation — a power given to the executive director in 2009 long before Geter arrived.
At the Tuesday session, board member Thea Powell, not at all pleased about being kept in the dark on the Republic Property deal, asked the executive director: “You report to us, right, Mr. Geter?” He replied that he did. However, the explanation for why he withheld the deal from the board came from Powell herself. She said that she had called Geter a few days earlier and asked the question. The answer was both revealing and shocking.
“Mr. Geter, you said that the company didn’t want this to be public knowledge,” she recalled. She added, “So, I guess what somebody is saying is that…we can’t keep our mouths shut.”
Can you believe that a hired hand would not divulge information to his board because the members might run out and make it public? But in this case, yes, of course, you can. After all, the board has nothing to do with hiring or firing its staff. That’s in the hands of the Cobb Chamber of Commerce. Thus, Geter just showed up at a board meeting in January without the board even being informed of his hiring.
The chamber has a $96,000 annual contract to provide management and offices for the authority — plus receiving authority funds for various other activities of the chamber including billboards, ads in movie theaters, its annual golf tournament and expenses of the chamber chairman for the annual Washington fly-in, etc.
Chamber officials would relish taking over the county’s economic development office but the opposite should happen. The authority — which is needed to issue bonds for economic development purposes — now is essentially an arm of the chamber, yet all analytical work is done by the county economic development staff. The obvious solution is to move the authority’s offices and staff to the county development department. That’s the common sense approach followed by the Marietta Development Authority that uses City Hall offices and staff at no cost.
It is time for the Development Authority of Cobb County to be placed where it belongs and given the right of oversight of its own employees. If not, why not?