Issues with media on reporting

Baldone: BP’s attempt to quell future claims is ‘horrible’
July 19, 2011
Floyd Toups
July 21, 2011

The Terrebonne Economic Development Authority (TEDA) recent executive director’s selection process warrants some clarification and correction beyond what several local media outlets have recently reported.

First, however, it is important to acknowledge the important role those media outlets played in calling attention to some of the weaknesses in our candidate review process.

Clearly, despite our use of a well-regarded national search firm, and a lengthy process we believed to be thorough and well-informed, certain mistakes were made as we sought to identify and recruit the best candidate to fill the important role of leading our parish’s economic development program. The public can rest assured that we not only acknowledge those mistakes, but more importantly, that we have learned from them. In the process, we have now identified, recruited and named an outstanding applicant who is fully capable of serving the best economic development interests of the parish.

Contrary to some media reports, we believe our process was fully open and transparent and that the best interests of the public have now been served. Local media was informed of our activities and, in fact, reported on various aspects of our work throughout the process.

Significantly, as well, one local media outlet erroneously reported that TEDA expended public funds to purchase alcohol in the course of entertaining applicants, when in fact our private foundation covered the purchase of alcohol and a large portion of this dinner with non-taxpayer funds.

Also meriting a brief comment is the unfortunate way at least one local media outlet mishandled coverage of the personal bankruptcy of one of our applicants. In these stressful and uncertain economic times when bad things really do happen to good people, it is unfair to paint everyone who suffers the pain of bankruptcy with the same brush.

This is especially true in the case of the above-mentioned applicant who, as was well known by a media outlet that failed to report the true facts, was hospitalized for nearly a year due to a horrible auto accident, lost his job and health insurance as a result, which then pushed him to the point of bankruptcy.

Stereotyping all bankruptcy cases is unfair and does a real disservice to hard working men and women who are met with challenges that are sometimes beyond their control.

Today, as a result of this lengthy candidate review process, TEDA has in fact selected and named an experienced and outstanding executive director who comes to our area with the highest of recommendations. Steve Vassallo has public and private sector economic development experience in several states including Mississippi, Colorado and Texas, winning praise from local elected officials and business interests for a unique combination of vision, follow-through and administrative skill.

Mr. Vassallo looks forward to putting these talents to work for Terrebonne Parish beginning on August 8th, and we look forward to working with him, the local business and governmental community, and our friends in the news media who have now taken such an active interest in economic development.

TEDA’s past accomplishments have been many including our role in the Civic Center Courtyard by Marriott project, the Buquet Distributing bond issuance and expansion, the Weatherford-Gemoco expansion which helped retain 400 local jobs, and the creation of the area’s first Contractors College, which recently graduated its first class.

Let’s remember that TEDA board members are unpaid volunteers who each have a common interest of wanting to improve the overall economy and, ultimately, the quality of life for all citizens of Terrebonne Parish. I can say with total conviction that all decisions of the board are made based on the mission of improving our community.

This process began in late December and it has been a long and tedious process which was necessary to find the best person for the position.

I applaud those men and women of the board who have given an inordinate amount of their time and effort to find the best possible CEO for TEDA, despite our own mistakes and negative criticisms from many fronts. Board members also were instrumental in running an office of six people for nearly eight months without a CEO at the helm.

A board consisting of 14 people may not always have 100 percent agreement, but we get things done and usually with 100 percent consensus. I am proud of our efforts and thank the Executive Search Committee members for their perseverance and steadfastness.

With our new executive director on board, we look forward to sharing our upcoming successes with all our stakeholders and the community at-large.