I was surprised to pull up today's Palladium-Item online and see four more articles about Don Holbrook and questions surrounding his role with the Wayne County Economic Development Corporation. Last Thursday's article, "EDC leader takes hits from all sides," already seemed unnecessarily harsh in that it publicly framed the EDC's current budget concerns around Don Holbrook's working relationship with the EDC board; the implication was almost that he'd been stealing cash from their bank account. And then today's articles, "Heat's on Holbrook,""'Character assassination' played part in the past,""Raising concerns may cost board member leadership post," and "What EDC members say" make it sound like the EDC is falling apart at the seams with political earthquakes and personal smears. What the heck is going on here?
I should say that I'm *not* surprised that the EDC's leadership and spending practices are being called into question. Ever since I've been aware of them as a political "player" in town, I've heard whispers about how obscene some of the travel spending is, other questionable budgeting decisions, rocky relationships with other city and county development entities, and a general sense that they are force unto themselves - sometimes great, sometimes not so great - in the way Wayne County has progressed or lagged behind over the years. And knowing those things, I would say it's probably good that they undergo a process of self-auditing, making sure they're doing the best they can for the area in the most efficient ways possible. I think most of us *want* them to succeed in their mission, "[t]o improve the business and community environment and employment opportunities in Wayne County..."
But whatever their troubles, to imply that Don Holbrook is the sole reason for them seems unfair. To do so by bringing out questions about his education and employment history, and to identify specific spending choices he made (e.g. "the large, multi-sectional, desk that he bought for $8,000") out of the context of the organization's internal affairs, seems outright malicious. Whether it's the EDC board members or some other political players or the Pal-Item's own news editors that are driving this effort, I hope they'll consider stepping back and reconsidering how they want to present this information to the public.
What Wayne County does *not* need right now is further erosion of public confidence in the overall hope for economic development in the area. If certain staff or board members need to go, or if budgets need to be tightened or re-thought, so be it - but the people who decide those things should be having those conversations together and reporting on the results, seeking public feedback through their own channels, not through the Pal-Item opinion page. To have those conversations on the pages of the newspaper is disrespectful to Don, to each other, and to the public who deserve better from officials working on taxpayer time.