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Jay Smith selected to remain as EDC board chairman

Board member questions EDC chair about possible conflict of interest

Albany Mayor Dorothy Hubbard and Dougherty County Commission Chairman Jeff Sinyard address the Albany-Dougherty Economic Development Commission board at its annual meeting Wednesday. (Staff photo: Carlton Fletcher)

Albany Mayor Dorothy Hubbard and Dougherty County Commission Chairman Jeff Sinyard address the Albany-Dougherty Economic Development Commission board at its annual meeting Wednesday. (Staff photo: Carlton Fletcher)

ALBANY — Jay Smith was selected by the Albany-Dougherty Economic Development Commission board to serve another term as chairman of the board, but before he received the unanimous approval of the EDC he was asked about potential conflicts of interest.

Albany City Commissioner B.J. Fletcher, one of the city of Albany’s four EDC board representatives, said she asked “on behalf of some concerned citizens in the community” whether Smith “struggled with (your position on) the EDC and (your job with) Georgia Power?”

Smith answered with no reservation.

“I don’t know about any struggle,” he said. “Georgia Power does compete (for larger customers that have the option of selecting Georgia Power or the city’s Water, Gas & Light Commission as its utilities provider), and it will continue to compete. There’s no question about that.

“But I have a code of ethics that I have to operate by. That’s something I’ve been very careful about; I’ve made sure to remain above-board.”

Fletcher said her question was not part of a personal agenda.

“I have no problem with you; I think you know I have nothing but respect for you,” Fletcher said. “But this is a question that concerns some people in the city, and I felt an obligation to ask it.”

Smith said after the meeting that he was glad to have had the opportunity to address the question.

“This has never been an issue, I don’t believe, but I have heard rumblings in the community,” the EDC chairman said. “I think Commissioner Fletcher and others (who might have had a concern) heard what they wanted to hear. Now it’s time to keep the momentum we’ve started building, to move on down the checklist of projects that are on our radar.”

Before the EDC’s regular meeting, representatives of the primary components of EDC funding — the city of Albany, Dougherty County and the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce — conducted the commission’s annual meeting to announce their delegates for Fiscal Year 2015.

Albany Mayor Dorothy Hubbard said the city’s EDC board members would remain Milan Pitel, Chad Warbington, Fletcher and interim City Manager Tom Berry. Dougherty County Commission Chairman Jeff Sinyard said the county’s contingent of board members would remain Chris Hatcher, Anthony Parker, County Commissioner Lamar Hudgins and County Administrator Richard Crowdis.

Chamber Board Chairman Jim Deal said he, Smith, Ron Wallace and Cynthia George would remain that group’s EDC board members.

EDC President Justin Strickland, in his monthly report to the board, said the “Only One Albany” campaign had had a great kickoff.

“People ask how they can get involved, and I tell them to just tell the great stories of Albany,” Strickland said.

In response to the EDC’s work with the city of Albany to utilize the city’s so-called Deal-Closing Fund, Warbington, who represents the Water, Gas & Light Commission on the city Long-Term Financial Planning Committee that oversees distribution of the fund, said, “I think this is a monumental moment, and what better use (of the fund) than for a hometown company like Thrush?”

Added Hatcher, “(The proposed allocation of $200,000 in funding) will make the fund real.”