Tag Archives: JOBS Inc.

Parsons City Commission Code of Conduct – proposed

 It appears that Parsons City Manager Fred Gress and Commissioner Greg York are pushing a code of conduct for our City Commissioners. This code seems to be aimed at new commissioner Frankie Barnett, since he is to our city what “Columbo” was to detective shows.

 True or not, the appearance (to the public) is that Gress basically wants control over who Frank can speak with, and what the topics/questions are.  Since the other commissioners almost always vote in favor of whatever the City Manager proposes, and Mr. Barnett is often the only dissenting vote, it only stands to reason that certain portions of this proposal are intended to affect Barnett and his remarks regarding the issues at hand.

Love or hate Frankie, I believe there are NO inappropriate questions, as long as they pertain to city works and finances. We elected Frank to shine some light into the process so that we see where our tax dollars are going.

Here’s a sample that reads much differently than Fred and his allies propose. This sample certainly does not need a manager or mayor to filter questions to city staff.  http://www.battlecreekmi.gov/City_Government/Mayor_and_Commission/Code_of_Ethics.htm

I’m assuming you haven’t seen a copy of this proposal, so I have attached this below. There are other copies already around town, so some of you may have seen this.

I believe section 6 of the proposed rules is completely unacceptable. It basically says asking questions is inappropriate, unless Fred Gress says it’s appropriate.

From section 12, who will it be that makes the judgement call on what comments are “belligerent, personal, impertinent, slanderous, threatening, abusive or disparaging? Will Mr. Gress or Mr. York be making these decisions?

It is a well-known fact here in Parsons that Mr. Barnett has been attending public meetings and has often irritated Mr. Gress and other commissioners by simply asking that they enforce City regulations with a fair and even hand for all, while pointing out cases where inconsistencies exist. He has admittedly been an outspoken critic of the current City Manager and the city’s management in general. This past history practically insures that Frank Barnett has prejudice against him when someone claims he is making disparaging remarks.

We elected Frank to ask questions and get information. Especially when taxpayers feel inappropriate actions or spending is being done.  In essence, he was elected to be an outspoken critic. Not liking Frankie’s “tone and tenor” at a meeting is an emotional reaction, and not a good reason to create this over-reaching code of conduct.

If Frank speaks the truth, as he sees it, he will be in danger of being labeled belligerent and then being admonished publicly. Is that what this document is leading to, a public spanking for constantly asking tough questions?

Who would be a fair and impartial judge of what a disparaging (section 12) or “personal remark” is? Are we leaving it up to Gress and York to decide what’s appropriate and what’s not?……well THAT’S NOT APPROPRIATE!

Much of the document below is “standard boiler-plate” stuff and just common sense. I have no objections to those ordinary and customary requirements of code, they are quite acceptable and possibly should be accepted.

My questions are these: why wasn’t some of this boilerplate already in place years ago? If this was un-needed before, what has suddenly changed that we need to adopt these rules and give the City Manager these new controls and powers? 

Some of this common sense stuff was needed in the past, especially for conflicts of interest when giving JOBS Inc. $24,000 that was ultimately wasted. The City Manager and a former City Commissioner (the Commissioner has since been voted out) who belong to that private group had a glaring conflict of interest then (see section 2). What has changed?

The bottom line is this; The document and the timing of it’s proposal just don’t pass the “smell test”. Does anyone else get that feeling? If so, or not….feel free to comment!

Sorry so small – please ZOOM IN.


Filed under Human Rights, Kansas, Labette County, Opinion, Politics, Southeast Kansas

Who JOBS, Inc. Is? – a letter from Bob Wood

Bob, thanks for all the information! – sekanblogger

Current makeup of board and their particular expertise

President – Pat LaForge – President of Laforge and Budd Construction – Valuable contributor to the group because of knowledge of construction and it’s costs, as well as being a large employer in the area. LaForge and Budd has partnered with JOBS and the City in the past in the construction of “spec” industrial buildings to have in inventory for the attraction of new industry. LaForge and Budd was also a major contributor of funds in the initial fundraising effort. Pat also serves as a director on the Parsons Community Foundation.

Vice President – Bob Wood – President of Wood-Dulohery Insurance, Inc, and Wood-Dulohery Real Estate (formerly Seaton-Wood) – Involved in Economic Development efforts in Parsons for over 20 years. Currently serving as Vice Chair of the Great Plains Development Authority, and a founding member of the effort for the transfer of the KAAP property, Served as Co-Chairman of the Redevelopment Task Force formed in the aftermath of the Tornado, and led redevelopment efforts for the downtown renovation, Served as co-chairman of the bond issue campaign for renovation of Parsons Middle School, led task force on two occasions to oppose closure of PSHTC, past President and long term director of Parsons Chamber of Commerce, and founding board member of Downtown Parsons, Inc. Has direct involvement with outside prospects as they tour the community for site selection, as well as explaining housing options for owners and employees that would relocate to Parsons.

Treasurer – Ray Jacquinot, Vice President of Commercial Bank – One of the more recent additions to the board, taking over for Phil Eaton, who had served since the beginning. The local banks need to have a strong presence in this group, as they have come to the table with many “joint venture” funding vehicles for projects in the past. One of the local banks will act as “lead lender”, but all of the institutions involved share in the risk of a loan. Loans have been made to construct buildings, buy property, or simply operational funding to assist companies create more jobs. Commercial Bank was a major contributor in the original JOBS fund drive.

Secretary – Bob Bartelli. Bob is the only founding member of the JOBS board that still serves on the board. He, along with Dick Dearth, Jerry Carson, Chuck Brown, Gary Seaton and a few others that I’m sure I’m forgetting, were the leaders that came up with the idea of JOBS and had the drive to organize and solicit the funding needed to make it work. Gary Seaton was an original board member of JOBS and the firm was a major contributor of funding for JOBS, Inc. It’s hard to go ask your friends to donate $5,000, $10,000, even $20,000 to a cause like this, but they did it and raised almost $700,000. Bob has the experience of all decisions made in the past about JOBS activities, as well as knowledge of the city’s economic development strategies as they relate to a local business that needs help expanding, or just maintaining, as well as new prospective companies that may want to locate here. It is important to have this tie in, because there are some things that the city just can’t do, and that is where an entity like JOBS becomes valuable in the process.

Director – Montie Taylor – President of Great Southern Bank, Parsons – Montie has been a long term member of this board, and his bank has been involved in many positive ventures, as noted above, to help provide jobs. Montie serves as a Trustee of LCC, and as a director of the GPDA. There aren’t many volunteer organizations in Parsons that he hasn’t been involved with in some capacity. The First National Bank was a major contributor to the initial JOBS effort.

Director – Ann Charles – Deputy Director of GPDA- Past editor and publisher of Parsons Sun –Ann has been heavily involved in all things around Parsons for some time. During her time at the paper, she became very involved in the political systems, both on a statewide and national basis. She can pick up the phone and have a conversation with the Governor, or any of our Senators or Reps in DC. She was very involved in the last comprehensive highway plan that led to the construction of HWY 400. Transportation is very important in economic development decisions, and having the right contacts in Topeka and Washington help. It is also very important that the efforts of the GPDA align with the activities of the city’s eco devo department, and the efforts of JOBS, to make sure that everyone is moving in the same direction, and not duplicating efforts. The Parsons Sun was a major contributor to the initial effort.

Director – Rich Proehl – See above about financial and political. Rich covers both. Vice President of Labette Bank, and current State Representative. Labette has been involved in the joint ventures mentioned above and was a contributor in the initial effort.

Director – George Knox – President LCC – The president of the college has always had a seat on the board. Any issues regarding workforce training can involve the college, and assistance has been given to prospects in the past. The college is also a large employer in our community.

Director – John Kelly – Plant Manager – DuCommun Aero Structures – John is a recent addition to the board, and was asked to join to bring manufacturing expertise to the board. Knowledge of issues ranging from workforce quality and training, transportation and shipping, utility costs and availability, etc. create the need for this voice at the table.

Director – William Mahoney – Labette Health Administrator (resigned while I was working on this) – The hospital has a huge impact on economic development, both as an industry in itself, and as a contributor to the “quality of life” issues that make Parsons a desirable community to locate your company in. Recently, Dr Welch acquired a company in Texas and relocated their jobs to Parsons, which is a perfect example of the medical community tie to Eco Devo. The improvements being made at the hospital, along with ongoing successful programs, are a large economic contributor to the community. The hospital is also a large provider of jobs to the community.

Ex-Officio Members of the board; City Manager – currently Fred Gress, City Economic Development Director – Carolyn Kennett, President of Chamber of Commerce

Read more, plus commentary here-> Continue reading


Filed under History, Kansas, Labette County, NEWS, Opinion, Politics, Southeast Kansas

JOBS Inc., the Height Of Hubris?

  Last week, I asked the question; ‘JOBS Inc, who and what are they?’ Now it’s time to talk about the answers to that question. Dr. Steve Miller was the only person to respond and volunteer any information at all. Everything else I learned I had to find out on my own. Here is what I found out, and my opinion of what I learned.

 JOBS Inc, was formed as a private corporation after the MKT railroad was purchased in 1988 and formally merged into the Union Pacific railroad in 1989. This was done with the intention of finding, and funding, ways to bring employment to Parsons. The KAAP was another struggling long time area employer, and it was continually in the process of being downsized and closed by the federal government. In short, the employment prospects in Parsons were bleak. That has not changed, in fact it has worsened. Many people contributed money to this new corporation, anywhere from $100 to $10,000, each according to their own resources.

 Although I can find nothing written about this corporation, some of the original contributers tell me that it was their understanding that this group was creating a “special fund to allow money to be available to land businesses to increase the economic viability of Parsons.” The money “was a gift to help the help the economic development of the community with funds outside of the legal and statutory requirements of the city.”

“(We) donated the money so that those trying to bring businesses here could bypass long and involved red tape.” -Dr. Miller

 Fair enough. Sounds like a great mission, bringing jobs to our foundering town. That was 20 years ago. I have no idea what JOBS has accomplished since then. Mostly due to the fact that JOBS does not publicize anything they do, who their members are, or anything else. Being a private entity, they are not bound by the open meetings or open records laws. That was the original intention, bypass all that ‘red tape’ and bring employment here. Great. Let’s GET ‘ER DONE! We all need jobs, now more than ever.

 So what am I writing about? To support JOBS Inc.? Well, yes. And no. I support them in their original mission to bring jobs here, but they seem to have suffered what the military calls “mission creep”. That is to say that their priorities seem to have changed. Now their priorities are to bring what sounds like a ‘gated community’ housing development to Parsons.

 You see, they have this problem. The problem is that they have already purchased this land near town. Now they have this investment that is not paying off for anybody. No jobs, nothing. Just taxes to pay on the land they bought. Not good. Mission not accomplished. What to do? Well, obviously get this land off their hands. This is where the mission starts creeping, and things start getting a little dubious.

 The dubious part of their new mission, to build a housing development called Redtail Ridge, is the problem of conflict of interest and some concerns that our city government is so intertwined with this group that in some cases, this corporation and our city government are one in the same! On top of that problem, the voting members of this corporation stand to make profits above and beyond just recouping what the investment in the land is. It is true that JOBS Inc. is a nonprofit organization. However, when these people go to their regular paying jobs, they will benefit from the development of this property.

 How will they benefit, and what are they other conflicts of interest that I mention above? First of all, the voting members are bankers, real estate professionals and construction company owners, or at least some of them are. One of the voting members is also a sitting city commissioner. Other de facto members are apparently our City Manager and Economic Development Director. Although these two may not vote, in all practicality, they should be considered as members due to their heavy involvement in the group and the group’s new interests. I see this group as the local equivalent of Washington D.C.’s K Street lobbyists, complete with the revolving door to and from local government.

 In light of this past Monday’s unanimous vote to authorize a $30,000 payment to this corporation, out of the city’s budget, I see many reasons to be concerned about ethics and conflicts of interest. And that does not address the issue of if this new housing is needed. Many may think it is, certainly JOBS Inc. will argue that it is needed and the project has merit. They will argue that they are doing this for the suffering community, and any profits made by members will be just coincidental. I would argue that if the project indeed has merit, and the housing is needed, this group is still a private entity and should use private money to finance their project. As well I would argue that the $30,000 amounts to another tax on Parsons residents that we cannot afford at this time.

 I have no problem seeing private corporations thrive. In the past, our city has already set a precedent for laying out this kind of money to private interests though. Other people seeking to start, or expand their businesses have been subject to much scrutiny and have had their books and business plans made public. I would think this would be more than appropriate in this case also.

 I believe that the reasoning for JOBS Inc. venture into housing development has stemmed from some twisted “trickle-down” logic. As their members will gladly tell you, if they thrive, the community at large will also thrive. When the local captains of commerce do well, so will the average worker. You really have to jump through some mental hoops to get the same conclusion. I believe that decades of stagnant wages, along with the upward migration of real wealth have more than disproved this fallacy.

 As massive layoffs and double digit unemployment plague our nation, the city is now raising our water rates by nearly 50%. I agree, our sewer systems are in bad need of repair and replacement. We could use the $30k for that. As our privately funded animal shelter is about to disappear, our cost of dealing with an unwanted animal population is spiraling upwards. Wouldn’t $30k go quite aways in funding the shelter we are about to lose? I wonder if our more than generous benefactor from California would consider this $30k given to JOBS a kick in the teeth?

 In conclusion, I do not want to be part of a movement that would in any way quell job growth. I hope and pray that Redtail Ridge will become a necessity in the near future. I envision only a positive outcome for the people of Parsons, and for JOBS Inc. too. I do not seek to be “anti” anything, but I do seek to be “pro” something else. In this case, I could even be pro-JOBS Inc. ….IF they, along with our city government would do the next right thing. That is, be transparent and forthright with who your members are and what you seek.

 Now that the $30,000 is allocated, I would ask that any new money directed to JOBS or Redtail Ridge would come to a vote of the people. After all, isn’t this money actually the people’s money first, and the city’s money only at our expense?

 You decide…. JOBS Inc., the height of hubris, or just good business?


Filed under Kansas, Labette County, Opinion, Politics, Southeast Kansas