By Monroe Roark
It was business as usual at
Monday afternoon’s Stockbridge Downtown Development Authority
Well, almost. There was the
matter of each DDA member receiving a cease-and-desist letter from
That wrinkle was not
addressed at the meeting, although it became obvious from the way
the board conducted its business that the DDA members disagree with
the city’s recent declaration that the DDA was improperly organized
The DDA convened in a special
called meeting at Los Portales restaurant, which is run by DDA
member Ron Castillo, because of scheduling conflicts that made the
regular meeting time impossible, according to DDA chairman, J.T.
The group approved the 2014
meeting schedule, which is the third Thursday in February, May,
August and November. Special meetings could be called in between as
Williams was reappointed to
the chairman’s post and was named interim executive director, as
city economic development director B.J. Mathis is no longer with the
city. Her position was eliminated with the approval of the 2014 city
The DDA named Robert Beall
vice chairman and Robin Buschman secretary. Buschman, in her third
year on the Stockbridge City Council, has been that body’s official
DDA liaison since the DDA was reorganized in early 2013.
Beall and Richard Teate were
absent from the meeting, while Rocio Camacho and Vivian Thomas-Smith
were in attendance.
Al Bantley will continue as
the DDA’s real estate attorney and Ken Bernard was appointed its
Williams noted what he called
“a tremendous year” in 2013 during which about 700 jobs were brought
to the city through the DDA’s efforts. He said this was particularly
important in light of recent reports that Henry County’s
unemployment rate is 23 percent higher than the state average.
Citing such recent
announcements as the fiber-optic Internet initiative by Community
Broadband now in development in the city and the recent relocation
of World Internet Group’s headquarters here as a result of that,
Williams said Stockbridge is “on the verge of an explosion of new
Buschman said that Community
Broadband head Allen Davis was honored by the Henry Council for
Quality Growth last week, adding that the company’s work here will
benefit the entire county, not just Stockbridge.
Just before the meeting went
into executive session, city attorney Mike Williams gave envelopes
to two members and left two others for members who were not in
attendance. It was confirmed later that those envelopes contained
letters from the city ordering the DDA to cease and desist.
The City Council convened
Jan. 7 and nearly the entire agenda was devoted to reversing various
actions by the former administration concerning the DDA. The
council’s position as presented that night was that the DDA was not
properly constituted last year according to state law, and any
previous action taken by the council was void.
As a result, new mayor Tim
Thompson and the 2014 council reconsidered and disapproved several
governmental agreements, Main Street appointments, real estate
acquisitions and action taken by the DDA at its own Dec. 9 meeting.
Also reconsidered and disapproved were an Urban Redevelopment Agency
action, renovation funding for the city’s new arts center, deed
transfers for nine city properties under DDA lease, a $5 million
loan to the DDA, and an economic incentive program previously
approved by the city.
All of the above motions were
made and seconded by new council members Anthony Ford and Lakeisha
Gantt, with incumbent council member Alphonso Thomas also voting in
favor. All actions passed 3-2 with Buschman and incumbent council
member Richard Steinberg voting against.
There was no discussion at
the Jan. 7 meeting on any of these items.
Thompson also exercised his
veto authority on a few items pertaining to the DDA, reaffirming the
position that the DDA was never properly reactivated, has no
authority or powers and is not capable of entering into any
Before announcing his candidacy for mayor,
Thompson applied for a seat on the DDA board and later publicly
criticized the city for not vetting the applicants properly, saying
he was never contacted about his application. It was eventually
revealed that Thompson was deemed ineligible for a DDA seat because
he did not own property in the city and did not operate a business
in the city.