EDC airs out dirty laundry in Pal-Item

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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.

3 thoughts on “EDC airs out dirty laundry in Pal-Item

  1. I appreciate your candid approach to these troubling media stories. I have spent much of the first year reorganizing the EDC into a much more highly productive unit (within the staff itself) and focused a great deal of attention on reducing needless expenditures, unwarranted overhead, and adminstrative burden. These efficiencies are not painless but they have proven to be effective. In addition I have enhanced the EDC's public accountability by designed a far more public and accountable reporting process now available by e-mail to anyone whom is interested in our business. We measure our goals and effectiveness aginst real market based metrics for the first time. Let me give you some examples: 1.) increased employment (net jobs)- this is the first time in over five years that we have created more jobs than we have lost under my new focus. 2.) increased tax base - the EDIT taxes realized from the income taxes has risen by nearly $500K and is the fist time in several years it has went up instead of down and it is the highest it has been in over five years. This gives us more funds to do continued investment into industry parks, infrastructure, etc without taking it from the general funds. 3.) We have more deal activity this year through our new focus than ever in the entire history of the EDC and this equates to more inevitable successful company announcements. 4.) We have landed a new HQ manufacturing facility that will employ between 200-250 well paying jobs, the largest deal in the history of the EDC.

    My focus is to reduce unnecessary expenditures that do nothing to assist or facilitate our client relationships. Spend our money on things that are important to our clients. This seems to have paid off well for the EDC. The EDC is on the short list for several additional major announcements with several thousand jobs at stake if we are successful. Another record for the EDC.

    All this and yet we have trimmed the budget to lower than it was in 2003. That would seem to reflect we are being good stewards of the publics funds. I don't think many other government related agencies have been able to make those kind of cost adjustments and still perform at a record setting pace. Our travel budget has been lowered to less than it was in 2002. I have adjusted and reduced our overseas travels to more acceptable levels and focused our travels on domestic based business primarily.

    With regard to the $8,000 office furnishings it was an entire office. I gave my old office to our SBDC director and purchased a new complete office for my own use. From Rosas office a local company I might add. office furnishings are expensive...but my office is the primary place all of these CEO's coming to Wayne county spend their time with me and I felt it should be appropriate and professional but not too flashy. We are in the business of setting good first impressions and I believe this was the right decision. We delivered all our services under our dedicated budget and will return funds to the county at the end of 2005. So we performed at a record pace with less than we were given as a total budget. Most private sector companies would say... "a job well done."

    Now let me tell you what I believe is the root of all of this; Change! Change is inevitable but progress is optional. Change is required if we want to break the status quo and get new and better results. Staying the course would have produced the same results the EDC had been getting year after year. My new approach which is stylistically different and thus to some uncomfortable has been very positively received by our clients... thus our record setting year. But change makes many people uncomfortable because it requires them to change their own comfort zone, expand their own knowledge base and even be tolerant of others opinions of better ways to accomplish the stated goals. Some people adapt and learn to thrive in these competitive environments and some just rebell and want great results by doing the status quo. Most of you can recognize that the status quo is simply insanity to believe it will produce different results.

    With regard to my former employment in Red Wing Minnesota the Judge exonerated me and forced my former employer to provide me with a letter of apology and misunderstanding and pay me $160,000 for the character assasination that they employed to deflect attention away from my real reason for termination. I turned in members of the board for violations of the law under self-dealing (Ricoh violations) and they wrongfully terminated me for my turning in the culprits to the legal system. During this process they inaccurately reported my education, accused me falsely of resume fraud, and defamed my character to my fellow economic developers. My family was stalked, threatened and we received hate mail and phone calls. My vehicle was vandalized to place threat letter in my front seat threatening my family's safety. So as you might suspect I have no desire to relive those times and put my family through that oncemore especially since I was fully cleared of any inaccuracies, wrong doing or allegations about my character and education.

    With regard to my education. I like several thousand people was misled by LaSalle University in Louisianna. They claimed to be an accredited university and lied to us. Many fortune 500 executives, government leaders, elected members of all branches of government were also misled by this university. I did not just send money in for a degree I completed four years of research and papers several hundred pages to receive my degrees. None the less LaSalle was fraudulent but very smart in how they did it. It took years for them to get caught. I believed I was in a solid distance education based program. Once I receivd notice in approximately 1997 of their fraud I immediately brought this to my employers attention and asked them how they wanted to proceed. They responded in official communications that they appreciated my honesty and this situation did not change our relationship nor my ability or professional knowledge and experience to carry out my job. They stated no further action was required and none would be taken any further on their part. Still I felt it was only right to remove these unaccredited degrees from my resume and discontinue any use of them or mention of them in the future. It was this information that I had voluntarily provided to my past employer that they used for the basis to fire me. They had forgotten about their previous memoo some months earlier it seemed. This was one of the major reasons I was able to prevail. The judge in fact said how else would we want an employee to behave but just as I had proven I had acted upon my knowledge of the Lasalle situation. I have not used these degrees in the past three positions I have held. I did not use them in my resume for my position in Wayne county. I feel that this is only right to not disclose unaccredited degrees. I have two accredited degrees a bachelor of Arts from Wright State university with a dual major and an MBA from the University of Phoenix. Both of these are highly accredited schools. I am now considering my doctoral education through an accredited university in the near future.

    I hope this information sheds some light on the true situation and helps you to regain faith in the inevitable mission of the EDC, my hopeful continued role in leading this fine organization to serve your best interests in the future, and our public accountability with regard to economic development matters. I want you to know I have done nothing wrong nor nothing that I am ashamed of that I would not discuss in public meetings. I try to live my life in such a matter that I can always discuss such matters in an open, candid and professional manner. I deeply appreciate your support in healing this situation.

  2. I cannot begin to tell you how gratified I am with Eric VanVleet and other two people who resigned from EDC.

    Where were the other members of the board? Why, rubber stamping their own political power bases, of course.

    It just goes to prove once again how severely lacking our society is of people of integrity....

    Those who remained on the board, and thus lacking any integrity whatsoever, should be run out of town on a rail (or should I dare say on an $8,000.00 desk) !!!

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