GPA at PTC

Only a handful of Greenwood Partnership Alliance's board members attended the in-person meeting on Wednesday at Piedmont Technical College.

Greenwood Partnership Alliance board members voted unanimously to extend the 2019-20 budget for 90 days while the board decides what to do about reduced investment.

“It’s a difficult time right now to pass a budget,” GPA Board Chairman Chip Stockman told board members.

The move is a response to Greenwood County Council’s decision to remove its funding and membership in the public-private entity. The county provided $300,000 annually to the Partnership.

County Chairman Steve Brown explained the council’s decision to sever ties with the Partnership in a statement delivered last month.

“The organizational structure of the GPA provides little or no credible process of accountability of the CEO,” Brown said at the county council meeting on May 19.

He also cited public chiding by GPA board members and disparaging remarks from staff about the county council and the county manager.

Since the county’s decision to withdraw funding, the GPA board has twice met behind closed doors to discuss personnel matters.

After the second meeting, the board unanimously accepted the resignation of GPA CEO Heather Simmons Jones.

Jones, citing careful consideration in her resignation letter, said she made the decision to resign in order to prevent layoffs of staff members.

At the board meeting Wednesday, board members voted unanimously to extend the terms of the current executive committee for up to 90 days.

The only problem: Greenwood County Council Vice Chairman Chuck Moates serves as secretary for the executive committee.

With the removal of Greenwood County Council’s membership in the Partnership, he will no longer have that position.

Stockman asked Greenwood Commissioner of Public Works Art Bush to step in as secretary, which was included in the unanimous vote.

The board also discussed how to fill the positions of Brown, Moates and Greenwood County Councilman Robbie Templeton, who were board members with the Partnership. The GPA bylaws require 51% of its board member to be from public entities.

“We will analyze, within the next week, of exactly who is going to be here for the public sector, who is going to be here from the private sector,” Stockman said.

At Wednesday’s meeting, the board voted unanimously to enter a closed-door meeting although no reason was given. When Stockman was pressed for a reason by a reporter, he deferred to GPA Board Member Frank Wideman, who made the motion for executive session, for the reason.

“Personnel matters,” Wideman said.

Jones and her staff left when the executive session began.

After 50 minutes, the board exited the executive session without any votes or action taken.

“We collectively are all just trying to figure out what I refer to as three things: structure, mission and purpose,” Stockman said after the meeting. “It’s hard to know what you’re going to do until you know why you are doing it.”

Stockman said the timing of the transition complicates things for the board.

Only a handful of board members were attending in-person at the meeting while others attended virtually.

In addition to Stockman, Bush and Wideman, Kristin Manske of Greenwood Regional Rehabilitation Hospital, Dan Martins of Teijin Carbon Fibers, Jason Eppley of Davis and Floyd, and Rick Green of the Upper Savannah Council of Governments were the other board members attending in-person.

Contact staff writer James Hicks at jhicks@indexjournal.com or on Twitter @jameshicks3.