The newly-appointed Van Alstyne Economic Development Corp. board voted to void an employment agreement for EDC Executive Director Jodi Carr that had been approved by the former EDC board of directors and dated September 16, 2018.
All the new members of the board attended their first meeting Monday. Carr was at the meeting for a short time but left the building when the board went into executive session. She continues to be an EDC employee but now reports to City Manager Lane Jones, after the council approved the change last week.
The Van Alstyne Leader obtained the agreement through an open records request. One section in it states that “If … Carr’s employment service is terminated, either voluntarily or involuntarily … the EDC agrees to pay Carr $100,000 and provide to Carr all benefits due hereinunder for a period of one year.”
It defines those benefits as insurance, retirement, and car allowance. The agreement also stated that “regardless for reason of termination, the EDC and the City of Van Alstyne shall both notate that Carr is eligible for rehire.” It also put restrictions on the city — without any city officials as signatories of the agreement — stating that “at no time will EDC or the City of Van Alstyne be allowed to speak of this Employment Agreement and/or the details of the termination of service.”
The board also unanimously agreed to acknowledge that the city is conducting an investigatory audit of the EDC’s transactions and financial accounts, thereby recognizing that the city has right of access to EDC’s books, records and electronic devices.
“It is important that these (finances) are all in line,” said Ryan Neal, who chaired the meeting, with Robert Jaska, Steve Riley, and Marla Butler also sitting at the board members’ table.
The city had requested that EDC acknowledge it had returned two checks provided for non-budgeted items at the September 16 meeting, which were to have been used as bonuses for the executive director, along with an additional deposit to her retirement fund with the Texas Municipal League. The City Council denied the two expenditures at its previous regular council meeting. The $4,500 check was to be deposited with the TML retirement fund and had been returned October 1. At Monday night’s meeting, Riley took out a pocket knife and opened a sealed envelope and pulled out one check, which he explained was the EDC check for $30,000 previously given to the city. He showed that to each board member. The board unanimously voted to acknowledge the money had been returned.
An executive session followed, with the agenda saying it was to consult with the attorney on “contemplated or threatened litigation,” stating this was based on a “letter received by the City from (attorney) Ron Huff.” They were in closed session, also, to discuss “employment, evaluation, reassignment duties, discipline, compensation, resignation, or dismissal of the executive director,” which is standard legal wording when a government agency deliberates any one of those items.
Upon return from the closed session, the board agreed to invalidate the September 16 Revised Employment Agreement.
The agenda first called for the hiring of an attorney for EDC, and it was Lance Vanzant who was chosen unanimously. Vanzant is a partner with the Denton firm of Hayes/Berry/White/Vanzant.
At Vanzant’s recommendation, the board unanimously agreed to change EDC’s designated registered agent with the Secretary of State, appointing the city clerk, Jennifer Gould, and removing EDC Executive Director Jodi Carr as its agent. Vanzant said that was “efficient” and “not unusual for the city clerk to be that designated agent.”