Thompson asks DDA for ‘new course’

By Monroe Roark
Times Correspondent

Stockbridge Mayor Tim Thompson made a public plea last week to members of the Downtown Development Authority board to return its assets to the city and start over working hand in hand with him and the City Council.

“Let’s put this behind us, set it back to zero, re-engage and chart a new course for the city,” said Thompson during his regular comment time at the June 8 City Council meeting.

He was referring to eight pieces of property given to the DDA along with funds allocated by the previous administration in a special called meeting Dec. 30, 2013, just days before the current mayor and council took office. Thompson said the monetary amount given to the DDA was $6 million but now was around $500,000.

Thompson also referred to recent discussion regarding the possible naming of a facility somewhere in the city after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and from there he pointed out the arrangement surrounding the Multiplex building acquired by the city in 2013.

After the city spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to purchase and renovate the Multiplex property, it is now under a lease agreement for $10 per year, Thompson said.

“I’m all about economic development, but this is totally inequitable,” he said. “It’s not fair.”

Shortly after Thompson’s remarks, during the public comment portion of the meeting, DDA member Houston Nelson said he had received communication from the state Attorney General’s office about the March 17 DDA meeting called less than an hour after he and other new DDA members were sworn in. The AG’s office has stated that the meeting in question was convened illegally.

Nelson said he was directed by city staff at that time and didn’t know the proper protocol, but since then he has received training about matters such as open meetings laws.

While calling the actions of the Dec. 30, 2013 meeting “a grave tragedy for the city,” Nelson said he would only go about correcting those actions legally.

“I will not break the law for anyone, including you,” Houston told Thompson, adding that if the DDA board granted the mayor’s request it would countermand a recent judge’s order. “You can do the right thing the wrong way.

Nelson said he requested a meeting with Thompson several months ago and received word from the mayor indicating that city manager Michael Harris would reach out and set up such a meeting, but that has never happened.

“I welcome a chance to sit down and discuss with you how to do this legally,” said Nelson.

Thompson did not dispute Nelson’s assertion about a meeting but said it was “a two-way street” and he was not going to violate the law.

Noting that it has been three months since what he called an “allegedly illegal meeting,” Thompson said it was interesting that the DDA has tried to negotiate an end to the ongoing litigation and even submitted a proposal to the council.

“It’s interesting that you guys have lost every court case, and you are the one trying to make a deal,” he said.

City clerk Vanessa Holliday asked for a chance to speak and said it has been alleged that she called the March 17 meeting but that did not happen. She said that Nelson called the meeting and it was seconded by a DDA board member.

“I never called that meeting. Mr. Harris never called that meeting. It was called by members of the DDA board,” said Holliday. “The DDA members were given their bylaws and also signed affidavits at that meeting.”

Thompson asked city attorney Michael Williams if the city has been notified by the Attorney General’s office about that meeting being illegal. Williams replied that the DDA received a notice from the state and memorandum of understanding is in the works but he has not seen any subsequent communication.