Mayor responds to Port Arthur Economic Development Corporation resignations citing council involvement

Published 12:40 am Saturday, July 24, 2021

Two members of the Port Arthur Economic Development Corporation resigned this week, citing issues with the city council.

However, one council member questions the abrupt announcements just when the two departments initiated discussion to improve communication.

“We appreciate every individual’s service that has served the EDC up to this point,” said Port Arthur Mayor Thurman Bartie. “If we decide to change it and they don’t want to stay, they’re doing the right thing. Change is difficult for the human race. I’m not alarmed neither am I dismayed. But don’t blame the council.”

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

The current discussion among the council, Bartie said, is whether or not to change the EDC from a Type A to a Type B. Doing so would allow city council members to serve on the EDC board.

“Why shouldn’t we if we have the opportunity?” Bartie said. “The law says they can’t do anything without approval of the council and they’ve been operating and doing whatever they choose.”

John Chirafis, who resigned from the EDC board Thursday after 5 years of service, said the city’s desire to get involved was a move to oust Executive Director Floyd Batiste. Batiste also announced his resignation this week but will remain in position through September, while Chirafis’ leave was immediate.

Calls made to Batiste were not returned by press time.

“Floyd was a special person that brought a lot of good things to the city of Port Arthur,” Chirafis said. “I just didn’t like the direction (the council) was trying to take this board. There’s a lot of stuff going on there that I couldn’t be part of.”

Bartie said the decision on whether or not to change the board from Type A to Type B is in preliminary discussions, and no decision has been made.

“I told the EDC business as usual they way they had been practicing would not continue under my service,” Bartie said. “That didn’t mean I was going to start firing anyone. We’re not trying to hurt them. If they love Port Arthur the way I love Port Arthur and want to do right the way I want to do right, they would agree to whatever changes we would like to implement.”

Bartie said all the council is aiming for is more transparency and better dialogue between the two parties.

Chirafis disagrees.

“When I lay my head on that pillow at night, I’m going to be able to sleep and not wonder if I did the right thing,” Chirafis said.

Councilman Cal Jones will appointment Chirafis’ replacement on the EDC board.