Monday, August 31, 2009

Has the Piedmont Triad Become an “Ethics Free Zone”?

Has the Piedmont Triad become an “Ethics Free Zone”?

Corporations and developers who purchase “Stakeholder” seats on land-use/transportation planning committees, allowing no collaboration with anyone outside their inner circles until their “preferred concepts” are in place, have usurped planning in North Carolina to promote financial self-interests. These highly concentrated “Authority and Agency” Boards receive federal, state, and local taxpayer funds and proceed with shameless impunity.

Does the “Global Transpark Authority” membership have financial responsibility to the taxpayers? They don’t have the cash to pay off the $32.1 million they own to NC (Escheats fund) or the $18.1 million they owe to the Federal Aviation Administration according to a 2008 audit.

Last week, Piedmont Triad Partnership President, Don Kirkman who makes $225,102 a year told landowners that the Aerotropolis Leadership Board meetings aren’t open to the public, even though they receive government funding and they are controlling land-use and transportation planning for thousands of acres in the Triad. Aerotropolis is simply the shark who ate Heart of the Triad.

Well, residents are on to a much larger issue. Representatives Pricey Harrison and Larry Brown, agree that PTP is shading transparency and believe that the board is subject to “Open Meetings Law” because it is tied to a group that receives state and local funding. Mike Tadych, Attorney for the NC Press Association agrees. “We believe it is both a public body subject to the Open Meetings Law and a public agency subject to Open Records Law. The fact that it was formed as a not-for-profit corporation is not really relevant to the analysis of whether it is required to comply with these open government statutes.”

It is also my belief that since the Piedmont Triad Partnership is a non-profit 501(c)3 meaning that they are being given tax breaks by the American public, may not be a valid argument for them to attempt to use to justify closed meetings. On the contrary, it may be a further argument that it is improper for them to hold closed meetings.

Shouldn’t all Authorities, chartered by the NC General Assembly and Agencies receiving public funding be subject to NC ethics policies and laws? It’s past time for these public/private partnerships to be held accountable to the taxpayers.

Cathy M. Poole

Coalition of Concerned Citizens of the Triad
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