John Hubbard, executive director of the Stephenville Economic Development Authority, asked for, − and was given− an important component in the effort to enhance the city’s economic growth at the city council meeting on Tuesday night: A confidentiality policy to which all SEDA board members must adhere.
Hubbard’s address to the council was primarily geared toward getting approval for three SEDA policy documents, namely the confidentiality policy, a conflict of interest policy and verification, and an operating policy.
He explained to the council that at the June 16 board meeting, SEDA board members unanimously approved the confidentiality policy, which requires each board member to sign, indicating their agreement to adhere to a strict policy of confidentiality on information discussed and presented in closed meetings.
“It’s very important that anything we discuss be kept within our walls,” Hubbard said. “This is a vital tool in achieving the city’s goals in terms of economic development.”
In short, the point of the confidentiality statement is to assure that only SEDA and city council members know who the city is dealing with in terms of possible economic development opportunities, and what the terms of those negotiations might be.
After brief discussion, the council approved Hubbard’s request unanimously.
However, the wording of the conflict of interest policy and Verification caused some concerns for Councilman Rhett Harrison.
That policy is intended to assure that no SEDA board member will profit from any action taken by the group and the phrase in question reads: “The Conflict of Interest Policy is to protect the interests of the Stephenville Type B Economic Development Authority [SEDA] when it is contemplating entering into a transaction or engagement that might benefit the private interest of an officer, director, or employee of SEDA or might result in a possible excess benefit transaction.”
Harrison questioned the “possible excess benefit transaction” phrase.
He asked SEDA president Matt Harpole and Hubbard, “Can you define the ‘excess benefit’ part of this statement? What is excess? Is it a dollar or a hundred-thousand dollars?”
To which Harpole replied, “It means no benefit whatsoever.” Harrison then said that in that case, he thought the term ‘excess benefit’ should be stricken for purposes of clarity.
Stephenville City Attorney Randy Thomas then suggested that he review the document and the operating policy with Hubbard and they bring them back at next month’s regular meeting, to which the city council agreed unanimously.
Thomas then added that if the city council directed him to do so, he would review all such SEDA policies in the future, and again, the council agreed unanimously.