Miscommunication among a six-member board formed to drive economic development in Beaufort and Jasper counties frustrated and confused some members and supporters this week.
The Lowcountry Economic Alliance, which has struggled to redefine its role as the area's primary business recruiter, hit another snag Wednesday when Beaufort County officials asked to cancel an alliance boardmeeting planned for Thursday morning while they sorted out questions about how the county appoints members.
Executive director Kim Statler canceled the meeting Wednesday afternoon, but Jasper officials decided to meet informally because they had invited four local business owners and the mayors of Hardeeville and Ridgeland.
Although four of six alliance members were at that meeting and apparently formed a quorum, member Jerry Stewart, who also sits on Beaufort County Council, announced he was there as a private citizen.
"It was a purely informational meeting," he said. "I was there as a courtesy to the Jasper County businesses." He denied the group had a quorum.
Member Marty Sauls, who also sits on Jasper County Council, also denied there was a quorum, saying Stewart was there as a private citizen. Sauls reiterated the meeting's information-only purpose, but said he was frustrated about the lack of communication from Beaufort County."I'm confused about the whole thing," he said. "I am disappointed."
No votes were taken at the meeting Thursday.
Beaufort County Council Chairman Weston Newton said a procedural flaw in a four-year-old resolution for appointing alliance board members was discovered last week when alliance board member and Beaufort County administrator Gary Kubic told him he no longer wanted to serve on the board. Newton said he told Kubic that he couldn't resign until the county determined who would be qualified to replace him.
"That's the genesis of how the issue came up," Newton said. "What started out as a really simple research inquiry about how to appoint someone else raised the issue."
Josh Gruber, the county attorney, said he wrote a new resolution and it will be voted on Monday by Beaufort County Council. The resolution will ratify all three county alliance board members. Until then, Kubic said the county's alliance members should not participate in the economic group's meetings. Statler released an agenda Wednesday morning that included a vote to elect a new chairman and approve membership costs and investor benefits.
Beaufort Mayor Billy Keyserling also was to talk about his city's job-training plans, part of its proposed purchase of the Beaufort Commerce Park. The city has looked to the Lowcountry Economic Alliance to help promote the park to prospects.
Keyserling said he was not notified that an informational meeting would take placeand said the apparent rift between the counties lowers his confidence in the alliance.
"They've wasted a lot of time bickering among themselves," he said.
Another meeting is scheduled for 11 a.m. Tuesday at 108 Traders Cross Road in Okatie, Sauls said.