Port Arthur EDC meeting canceled as numerous board members, residents arrive with questions

Published 12:18 am Tuesday, April 2, 2024

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A decision on hiring a marketing firm to handle the Port Arthur Economic Development Corporation’s existing workforce programs along with other pertinent action was sidelined this week due to a lack of quorum.

PAEDC Board President Darrell Anderson noted there would not be a quorum Monday, which is the minimum number of members to hold a meeting. Since the PAEDC has seven board members, there would need to be four members present at the 6 p.m. meting.

Board members were notified shortly after 3:40 p.m. In addition, a note of the cancellation was taped to the front door of the offices.

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Three board members; Jerry LaBove, Morris Albright and Beverly Raymond arrived at the office, as did Port Arthur Councilman Harold Doucet and three Port Arthur residents.

None of the three PAEDC members wanted to provide a comment on their thoughts on the cancellation of the meeting.

One of the agenda items was for the PAEDC to enter into a professional services agreement with “Mookie’s Marketing Group LLC for services involving the management and delivery of the PAEDC’s existing workforce programs and development of its proposed marketing programs.”

Background information provided to Port Arthur Newsmedia indicated Mookie’s Marketing Group LLC is managed by a former PAEDC employee who filed a grievance against former PAEDC director Floyd Batiste, citing hostile work environment and racial slurs in 2021.

The former EDC employee filed a lawsuit against the City of Port Arthur. Details of the outcome of the lawsuit were not immediately available Monday.

In the background information regarding the contract with the marketing firm, CEO Terry Stokes noted in August 2023, the PAEDC “suddenly and without warning was separated from its manager for workforce and business development services.”

Since the loss of the employee, other staff members stepped up to fill in but these employees do not have the institutional knowledge that the former employee was privy to.

The PAEDC placed the positions of business attraction, retention and expansion manager and the position of workforce and community development manager on various governmental websites seeking qualified applicants.

Stokes, in the background information, states the immediate solution is retention of Mookie’s Marketing Group LLC as the leadership of the firm is familiar with the PAEDC’s workforce and marketing programs, while Deputy CEO Krystle Muller and Stokes work to find a permanent workforce and community development manager.

Port Arthur resident David Jones has been critical of the leadership of the PAEDC and the city.

“I would like to say that the city and the EDC have gotten out of control. It’s unfortunate that the blatant and clear disrespect that they have for the citizens,” Jones said. “I believe the EDC and the city of Port Arthur needs to be investigated by the FBI and Texas Rangers and also any other law enforcement agency that has jurisdiction over them.”

Jones questioned the Woodworth Beautification project.

The Woodworth Beautification Project is a multi-million project to beautify Woodworth Boulevard from Lakeshore Drive to Gulfway Drive. It includes rehabbing pavements, widening sidewalks, enhancing lighting, adding additional parking near Lakeshore Drive and adding irrigation as part of landscaping.

Jones believes the reason Monday’s meeting was canceled was that the public learned of the PAEDC leaders’ recommendation to hire a company represented by a former employee who won a legal battle with the city and was awarded upwards of $145,000.

The lawsuit occurred before Stokes was hired for CEO.

Port Arthur resident Joan Jones arrived to attend the meeting only to learn it had been canceled. She said she is concerned about the cancellation of the meeting to the public.

Other agenda items

Monday’s meeting had a number of items listed including a presentation by Larry Kelley, Port of Port Arthur director and CEO, on the community engagement session regarding the proposed Flyover Project, and discussion/possible action on crafting language for the boards policy and procedures manual on submitting agenda items and canceling meetings as well as other business.