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Gutierrez Says Development Commission President Owes Her Apology
by Keith Burton - GCN

Departing Harrison County Development Commissioner Paige Gutierrez says the public was mislead in a statement released by the president of the commission and he owes her an apology.

Gutierrez resigned last week saying that the commission was operating improperly and needed reforms. Prior to her resignations, Gutierrez had written two opinion articles published on GCN outlining her concerns and making recommendations for reform.

"In response to my resignation letter,  Bruce Nourse made false and misleading statements about my goals as a commissioner and about my  participation in commission business.  The truth is, I have put in as much or more useful time and thought into helping improve HCDC than any other commissioner." Gutierrez told GCN.

Gutierrez says Nourse did not include all committee meetings she attended as part of his figures, and he did not include the enormous amount of time she spent researching issues on her own. 

"Moreover,  the committee meetings that I attend have not necessarily been the ones that Bruce Nourse and Michael Oliver have “assigned” me to attend,  at  which I am “allowed” to vote.  My participation in “unassigned” but significant meetings was  left out of the computations cited by Nourse in media reports, for obvious reasons," Gutierrez said.

Part of the way the commission operates is to subdivide the commission's board into committees, which increases the number of meetings each month. Gutierrez says this committee activity has a detrimental effect.

"The division of HCDC into various committee meetings, with arbitrary and sometimes floating voting rights, is a way of making it more difficult for commissioners and the public to follow issues, difficult for alliances of diverse opinions to arise, and easier for the executive director to manipulate commission decisions," she said.

More HCDC stories are coming on GCN. Visit the site often for updates and additional information.

The full text of Gutierrez's rebuttal of the commission's statement to her resignation is below.


From Paige Gutierrez via email to GCN
Nov. 3, 2003


Response to Nourse’s statement:

HCDC President Bruce Nourse owes me a public apology. In response to my resignation letter,  Bruce Nourse made false and misleading statements about my goals as a commissioner and about my  participation in
commission business.  The truth is, I have put in as much or more useful time and thought into helping improve HCDC than any other commissioner.

Attending every rubber stamp-meeting-plus-lunch at the Great Southern Club, paid for by taxpayers, is not necessarily in the public interest, and certainly does not necessarily make a commissioner more knowledgeable about commission business or economic development in general.  Dividing commission business into five or six meetings a month—with commissioners receiving $40.00 per diem for each meeting—is an unnecessary waste of time and taxpayers money, especially when most commissioners do not read the meeting material ahead of time.  I insist on receiving the documents for every meeting, and I read them—though I am rarely given all of them despite my requests.  Bruce Nourse and others have repeatedly criticized me for wanting to read documents related to HCDC, but I have not let their opposition deter me.

Moreover,  the committee meetings that I attend have not necessarily been the ones that Bruce Nourse and Michael Oliver have “assigned” me to attend,  at  which I am “allowed” to vote.  My participation in “unassigned” but significant meetings was  left out of the computations cited by Nourse in media reports, for obvious reasons. The division of HCDC into various committee meetings, with arbitrary and sometimes floating  voting rights, is a way of making it more difficult for commissioners and the public to follow issues,
difficult for alliances of diverse opinions to arise, and easier for the executive director to manipulate commission decisions. 

Over time, as I learned more and more about HCDC, it became clear to me that in order to serve the public’s interest I had to think outside the box and find ways to transcend business-as-usual at HCDC.  In addition to attending meetings, I have spent enormous blocks of time researching issues related to various aspects of HCDC and economic development in general.  I do this without “per diem” or monetary compensation of any sort, and this very significant contribution is not included in Nourse’s computations. 

As a Ph.D. with experience in economic development,  community development,  planning, paralegal work and other areas, I have much to offer as a public servant. I have attempted, with some successes, to stimulate creative thinking that could bring us to a higher level of success on the Gulf Coast.  Unfortunately, I have also had to bring to commissioners’ attention unlawful or unproductive practices that need to be changed.  The reaction to this has rarely been “we’re glad you noticed that; we need to fix it” but more often “you’re just a troublemaker.”

Nourse claims that that other commissioners are very comfortable with HCDC’s operations and activities.  This is not true of all current commissioners, and it is not true of all past commissioners.  There are other commissioners, past and present, that have been unable or unwilling to speak out publicly for fear or repercussions in their jobs, businesses or social relationships.

Was Nourse’s press release endorsed by other commissioners by a properly recorded commission vote at a properly noticed meeting? 

More later on my “agenda….”
Paige Gutierrez
 


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Text of Gutierrez's Resignation Letter....Click Here
Text of Commission's Response to Gutierrez Resignation....Click Here
Gutierrez First Article....Click Here
Gutierrez Second Article...Click Here
Sun Herald Story on Secret Vote - Click Here