Transparency still missing

We would like to know more details about why – after years of litigation – the Fulton County Center for Regional Growth’s two subsidiaries dropped their civil lawsuit against a pair of fired executives.

Unfortunately, the CRG insists on keeping taxpayers in the dark about some of its financial matters – though it will accept their money.

The Fulton County Board of Supervisors in March voted to allocate $40,000 to the CRG for attorney’s fees and forensic accounting services to “pursue recovery of monies taken by former EDC/CIC executives.”

The Crossroads Incubator Corp. and Fulton County Economic Development Corp. filed a civil lawsuit Sept. 29, 2011, in state Supreme Court in Johnstown against former local economic development executives Jeff Bray and Peter A. Sciocchetti.

The pair were accused by the CIC and EDC of taking more than $3 million in bonuses – which were uncovered in a May 2010 scandal – that were not approved by the agencies’ boards of directors. Both executives were later fired.

However, CRG board Chairman Dustin Swanger said the board voted in October to end the litigation.

He noted the CIC and EDC have actually been paying out “tens of thousands of dollars” in legal costs for almost three years. Swanger said the CRG has not spent all of the $40,000 at this point.

“We don’t want to throw good money against bad,” Swanger said.

That’s sensible. Of course, it begs two questions: How much money does the CRG have to throw, and why did this become an issue now?

Good luck getting good answers.

The CRG still lacks transparency, even though Fulton County has formed a partnership with it and is giving it tens of thousands of dollars.

Last month, we editorialized about how this newspaper asked for basic information from the CRG in a Freedom of Information Law request – and was ignored. The paper then submitted the same request to Fulton County government, and only got some of the information. Apparently, even the county has no access to some information.

The state Authorities Budget Office has censured the boards of directors of the CRG and EDC for “persistent failure to comply with state law.” In particular, the ABO says the agencies must be more public with their records. The ABO has long contended the CRG and EDC are public agencies, while the agencies themselves claim they are private.

Former U.S. President Ronald Reagan liked to use the phrase, “Trust, but verify.” While we could do the former, the CRG has made it difficult, if not impossible, for us to do the latter.