Resigns from Harrison County Development Commission
By Keith Burton - GCN
More signs of trouble within the Harrison County Development Commission. Commissioner Paige Gutierrez has resigned her position (Oct. 28) saying in her resignation letter that the agency is operating improperly and needs reform.
"I will not continue to serve as a Commissioner charged with oversight of this public agency, in which there is a lack of meaningful accountability, a disregard for lawful procedures, unnecessary secrecy, a disdain for public input and opinion, and wasteful spending of taxpayers' money. Moreover, as a Commissioner who must vote on issues, I have learned that I cannot trust the information presented to me by staff," reads Gutierrez's letter of resignation.
Gutierrez was appointed to the Development Commission by District 5 Supervisor Connie Rocko. Rockco was in a meeting and unavailable for comment at the time of this report. Gutierrez submitted her letter to the Harrison County Board of Supervisors Tuesday.
For months, Gutierrez has been concerned over how the commission operated and had written several opinion articles over her concerns that were published on GulfCoastNews.com. Gutierrez said her efforts to help bring about changes within the commission had fallen mostly on deaf ears, except with co-commissioner Richard Bennett of Long Beach.
Michael Olivier, the director of the commission, has not responded officially to any of Gutierrez's allegations that the commission is operating improperly and needs reform. The Harrison County Board of Supervisors oversees the agency, and while Olivier has been criticized by board members in the past, such criticisms have not changed how he runs the multimillion dollar agency that administers the county's industrial and commercial parks.
Olivier was not available for comment at the time of this report, however Brynn Joachim, marketing manager for the commission said the commission would have no comment on either the resignation or on Gutierrez's allegations.
"We have been made aware of this and the staff will not make a comment," Joachim said. "And that includes Michael Olivier."
Later Wednesday, the commission President Bruce Nourse responded in a prepared release. In his statement, Nourse sharply criticized Gutierrez and her allegations.
"This issue has been discussed beyond its merits and is the opinion of one commissioner. It should be noted that ten other commissioners charged with the responsibility of overseeing the commission are very comfortable with its operations and activities," Nourse said.
Just this week, the commission took secret ballots on selecting a new attorney and an accounting agency. The vote reportedly was taken early into the regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday. Gutierrez did not attend Tuesday as she had earlier submitted her resignation.
Paige Gutierrez is the wife of attorney and former Biloxi Mayor Gerald Blessey. Gutierrez, who holds a PhD., uses her maiden name in her professional activities.
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The Following is a complete transcript of Paige Gutierrez's letter of resignation:
October 28, 2003
Marlin Ladner, President
Harrison County Board of Supervisors
P. O. Drawer CC
Gulfport, MS 39502
Dear Mr. Ladner:
I submit my resignation as Commissioner of the Harrison County Development Commission, effective immediately.
I will not continue to serve as a Commissioner charged with oversight of this public agency, in which there is a lack of meaningful accountability, a disregard for lawful procedures, unnecessary secrecy, a disdain for public input and opinion, and wasteful spending of taxpayers' money. Moreover, as a Commissioner who must vote on issues, I have learned that I cannot trust the information presented to me by staff.
I urge the Supervisors of Harrison County to address the need for reform of the Harrison County Development Commission. I have authored or co-authored two articles on this subject, with more to be published in the future. You may conveniently access these articles at www.GulfCoastNews.com.
Thank you for allowing me to serve as HCDC Commissioner. I have learned much about the workings of county government during my tenure, and I will continue to work in other arenas for reform of HCDC and county government.
Supervisor Connie Rockco
Supervisor Bobby Eleuterius
Supervisor William Martin
Supervisor Larry Benefield