PEDC director speaks out on allegations

PARIS, TX -- Questions over the Paris Economic Development Corporation's spending has been a hot topic for the past few weeks and Monday's presentations at the city council meeting rolled over to yesterday's PEDC board meeting.

PEDC Board President Rebecca Clifford and former councilman, Bill Strathern both gave shorter presentations at yesterday's PEDC meeting.

After refusing to comment on councilman Matt Frierson's questions Monday, Clifford says she'll meet with Frierson in person this week.

"We are going to meet tomorrow to discuss fully what my presentation was about." said Clifford.

PEDC Executive Director Steve Gilbert, who has remained quiet throughout all the allegations of inappropriate spending, spoke out at yesterday's meeting saying, "we have done nothing wrong."

"I've taken as much of this as I can without saying anything." said Gilbert. "I've not responded to the mayor out of respect and the discussions he and I had."

Two weeks ago Mayor AJ Hashmi presented several receipts showing purchases by the PEDC and questioned why there was no clear documentation on why the money was spent.

Gilbert says that documentation has been presented to the PEDC board providing every line item expense on a monthly basis, but past boards have only requested a summary of the expenses and budget.

"This report has been maintained and every month it is reconciled with Gene Anderson's (city finance director) financial report, that's a cash basis report that he sends to the PEDC."said Gilbert.

Gilbert also added, "I have today handed out a memorandum to this board trying to refute some of the nonsense that has been said about this organization, me and this staff."

Both yesterday and Monday, Strathern, said there was no explanation of PEDC expenses and there's a pattern of misinformation.

"There are no trip reports, no explanation of expenses and so it is ripe for fraud, waste and abuse."

Strathern added, "What it shows is a pattern of misinformation. The question is: Is it real? Did they do it deliberately? Or is it just that's the way it is."

"As it's structured right now and managed, its ineffective and changes are necessary." said Strathern.

At both the city council meeting and the PEDC board meeting, Clifford made a motion to move forward.

"We need focus on our objectives and we need to get down to business of attracting primary jobs to Paris." said Clifford.

The PEDC Board has formed committees to review operating policies and procedures and plans to give a report at the next board meeting followed by another presentation to the City.

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