By Perry Hicks for GCN filed 7/2/04
Biloxi newsman and founder of GulfCoastNews.com, Keith Burton, has formally demanded a written apology from the Harrison County Development Commission, its former director, Mike Olivier and HCDC staffer Brynn Joachim. The demand stems from comments made publicly by Olivier and HCDC staffer Brynn Joachim carried in a Baton Rouge, newspaper, The Advocate on June 24th and June 29th. The comments were picked up and widely reported by other Louisiana publications.
Mike Olivier and the HCDC have been under fire for shredding financial documents, expenditures of public funds, suing a citizen for demanding public documents, excessive use of closed executive sessions, and numerous other management practices. Gulf Coast News is the on-line publication that was the central point of documentation and some lead reporting on HCDC controversies over the past year
Olivier told the Louisiana publication, The Advocate that Burton was angry because a contract he had with the HCDC was not renewed.
In an email to The Advocate Burton said that he “never had a contract with the commission, never lost a contract with the commission, nor had a contract that needed to be renewed.”
Burton then went on to say, “I have no reason to be angry. I'm a journalist covering a story. That is all."
The Advocate goes on to report that the HCDC marketing director, Brynn Joachim claimed that Burton had been a vendor who provided computer and management information services to the commission 8 to 10 years ago.
However, when asked for evidence of a contract, Joachim stated that Burton, in fact, did not have a written contract, but HCDC “budgeted” his work as contract services and those services were not renewed.
This could pose a problem in that if the commission stands by their claim that Burton had been paid for work done, they may have to produce those payment records. The word “budgeting” implies a considerable number of payments.
“Whoever did that work certainly wasn’t me,” Burton said. “Their comments are outrageously false and they should have known better considering the positions they are in.”
Burton has given the Development Commission ten days to respond to his demand. Meanwhile, The Advocate and Burton have separately ordered the Development Commission, under the state’s Open Records laws, to provide documents on the claims by the HCDC regarding Burton.