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Media Coverage of Olivier's Appointment Heats Up
By Keith Burton - GulfCoastNews.com filed 7/7/04

News media coverage of former Harrison County Development Director Michael Olivier is heating up in Louisiana.

Stories in the New Orleans Times Picayune, The Advocate in Baton Rouge and in online news sites in that state are examining Olivier's record at the HCDC during his 17 year career in Harrison County. News reporters have been confirmed talking to HCDC reformers, Harrison County supervisors, and others who know Olivier.

Wednesday,  stories appeared on Olivier's appointment to Louisiana's top economic development job, an appointment that was made by Gov. Kathleen Blanco June 24. Now, Olivier is at his new post and facing questions regarding his performance in Mississippi.

In The Advocate, Olivier defended his record saying that charges of misspending and lack of openness in the job he just left, was due to "jealousy" and his aggressive style.

Charges of Olivier's lack of openness were well founded. The HCDC under Olivier participated in a lawsuit that it lost trying to keep records from a private citizen, even though the records are public records and open to such scrutiny.

Olivier also went on the record for the first time this week regarding the State Auditor's investigation into the HCDC, which he says began as far back as 2002.

According to The Advocate Olivier said:

"I was at the state auditor's office with the two people principally involved in the investigation which has been going on since December 2002, and they told me they found nothing on Michael Olivier that I'm responsible for. Nothing."

The State Auditors have refused to go on the record regarding their investigation, neither confirming or denying that an investigation is underway. However, in April, the auditors issued statements to current and some past members of the commission indicating money they will have to repay stemming from a retirement incentive plan for Olivier that was determined to be illegal, which the commissioners had voted approval.

The State Auditors have yet to issue their report on their findings on their investigation, though a report is expected.

The Harrison County Board Supervisors were also ready not to renew any employment contract for Olivier just prior to the Blanco June 24th announcement.

In two Times Picayune stories published July 7, the state's largest newspaper questions Olivier's job performance and ethics.

In a story titled "Blanco scrambles to hire an egg-breaker," the Times Picayune reports:

"A Biloxi Sun Herald review of the commission pointed to questionable spending and sloppy management. Questions were raised about Olivier's alleged destruction of public records and a possible conflict of interest. And three commissioners resigned, citing Olivier for a lack of accountability, secrecy and waste."

"Sounds like he should feel right at home here." adds The Times Picayune story.

Olivier still has the support of Louisiana's governor and many others who see him as being successful during his tenure at the HCDC.

However it is clear that the Louisiana press has Olivier in their sites.

HCDC APPOINTS INTERIM DIRECTOR

Meanwhile, the HCDC voted today to appoint Kim Compton, HCDC's deputy director as acting director. The commission has begun a search for a replacement for Olivier, which the commission will recommend to the Harrison County Board of Supervisors.


Related stories:

New Louisiana Economic Chief Responds to Misspending Charges - The Advocate 7/7/04

New Guy New Rules New Louisiana - bayoubuzz.com 7/7/04

Blanco Scrambles to Hire an Egg Breaker-Times Picayune 7/7/04

No place to go but up: Job hunt scores - The Times Picayune 7/7/04

GCN Archive - "Slippery Business"-Stories on the HCDC

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