Open records request

Dear Editor,

Economic development is important to our community. It’s in everyone’s best interest to know how it’s being done. On Sept.17 I asked Victoria Pratt for the packets from all the ThriveED meetings.

Pratt is a top employee of Jefferson County, among the highest paid. She serves as the executive director of the Jefferson County Economic Development Consortium and the president of ThriveED, a second economic development corporation created by the JCEDC.

These packets of agendas, minutes and attachments have already been given to many people. There have been about seventeen meetings of the group since it started in 2017. The packets for past meetings of every other County committees and boards are freely available on the County’s website, but not ThriveED. Why not?

I confirmed with the County administrator’s office that this was not the case. These records can be requested.

It took a long time to get the records. As of Oct. 9, the minutes for the April, June and August meetings hadn’t even been finished. I received the last set on Nov. 25.

How long should it take to receive open records? The statutes say, “as soon as practicable and without delay” and the Attorney General’s office says 10 business days. It took 47 business days.

On top of the delay, many of the records were redacted without explanation. The names of contributors and sometimes the amounts they had paid were blacked-out with marker.

In 2017 Jefferson County promised to pay an outside consultant up to $100,000 to perform fundraising for ThriveED. The agreement says the JCEDC controls the funds raised and all the records connected with that. Why are they withholding this information?

I asked for an explanation. Pratt said there was strong public interest in protecting the names of investors and the amounts they gave and their contact information, because if this became known, it would discourage future contributions from present and future investors.

Yet when ThriveED asks for contributions, they promise prominent recognition of your contribution. On their website, the biggest contributors get the largest screen space for their logo.

I contributed to ThriveED and became a member. They put my company logo on their web site. I’m a member of the organization, but I can’t know who else contributed?

There is a joint meeting of the JCEDC and ThriveED at 8:30 a.m. on Jan. 23. Let’s ask why they need to keep these secrets.

John Foust

Jefferson

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