Move of ex-Port Arthur Economic Development Corporation CEO to leadership board meets resistance

Published 12:36 am Wednesday, June 28, 2023

A bid to place the former executive director of the Port Arthur Economic Development Corporation on the organization’s board was met with questions and eventually defeated.

Port Arthur Councilman Willie “Bae” Lewis planned to appoint Floyd Batiste to the PAEDC board earlier this week, but the resolution to appoint Batiste failed by a majority vote.

Batiste had led the EDC for 17 years when in February 2021 a staff member filed a grievance against him citing hostile work environment and racial slurs.

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Batiste denied the allegations; however, the PAEDC board accepted the findings of the grievance in April 2021.

During Tuesday’s council meeting, Councilman Donald Frank asked the city’s attorney Val Tizeno for clarification of the resolution appointing Batiste, wondering if the resolution was simply a formality or does it have substantive value.

Councilman Kenneth Marks was more direct in his line of questioning, wondering if the reasons of his departure should be considered “before allowing him to be reappointed to the board of directors, who will be making decisions concerning issues that may have been covered while he was employed in his position as executive director of the EDC.”

According to city bylaws, a councilmember can appoint a person to the EDC board.

Frank addressed Lewis regarding his request.

“There is no precedent that perhaps would bar what it is you want to do and you have every right to do it, but let me quickly rush to say that everything lawful is not expedient,” Frank said, adding the past executive director “maliciously maligned this council” before being stopped by Tizeno.

The discussion was moved until after council returned from executive session giving Tizeno time to research the bylaws and state law.

In order for the resolution appointing Batiste to pass, it must first be approved for discussion per the city. A roll count vote was taken and the resolution failed with Lewis making the only “yes” vote.