Stop fighting for secrecy

The Fulton?County Economic Development?Corp. is a public agency. State officials and others who understand what the organization does and how it operates agree on that.

Unfortunately, at least some of the people running the EDC and its parent group, the Fulton County Center for Regional Growth, disagree. That’s a shame because they are inviting legal problems and creating a distraction for the agencies.

The EDC last week gave up a legal battle against the state over whether the EDC is a private agency. The EDC sued the state Authorities Budget Office after the office told the EDC it is a public agency and its records and meetings must be open to the public. The EDC had claimed it is a private entity and not subject to the state Public Authorities Accountability Act of 2005.

But the EDC last week withdrew its Article 78 petition against the state Authorities Budget Office. The petition was designed to determine whether the ABO exceeded its powers by demanding the EDC comply with the Public Authorities Accountability Act.

The state says the EDC, as a public authority, will have to be more accountable by doing things such as providing the state with a financial plan, releasing salaries and complying with the state Open Meetings Law.

We hope the CRG – and by extension the EDC – will agree to this. The group uses taxpayer money, and the public has a right to know precisely what the agency is doing.

This is especially important now in the wake of the bonus scandal involving the former heads of the EDC and Crossroads Incubator Corp. The people involved at the CRG, which oversees the EDC and CIC, have worked hard to distance the organizations from the scandal and get back to promoting Fulton?County.

Moving forward will be difficult if the CRG board members dig in their heels and continue to maintain the CRG is a private organization.

CRG Board of Directors Chairman Dustin Swanger noted the EDC is set to dissolve anyway, but he added, “Today, the CRG maintains we are still a private organization.”

We hope those in charge of the CRG change their minds – sooner rather than later.

ABO Director David Kidera said the EDC is now subject to any “sanctions” the ABO wants to impose against the EDC if it continues to maintain it is a private agency and withhold certain information from the state agency.

The CRG should avoid a legal battle with the state. If the group continues to insist it’s private, Fulton County should reconsider whether it should give the agency taxpayer money.

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