The La Grande City Council voted Wednesday night to discuss all options for terminating its contract with the Union County Economic Development Corporation.
UCEDC President Mark Davidson presented to the council at Wednesday’s meeting regarding what the agency has done since it discovered the organization’s administrative assistant embezzled more than $20,000 over a two-year period. Davidson said UCEDC has canceled the agency’s credit cards and have implemented a more thorough review process of the money spent, among other changes.
In reference to the agency’s request for additional funding during the city’s 2017-2018 budget meetings, Davidson said the request wasn’t based on the embezzlement. At that time, restitution was being negotiated.
At the end of the meeting, during the council comments, Councilor Corrine Dutto remarked on Davidson’s presentation. She noted that the agency had failed to report embezzlement to the and in her opinion hadn’t sufficiently shown the council how it is making sure an embezzlement wouldn’t happen again.
“I am not satisfied with what (Davidson) said,” Dutto said.
Dutto’s motion to add an action item to October’s agenda — to discuss the termination of UCEDC’s contract — was seconded by Councilor Gary Lillard.
“This is a conversation we probably should’ve had before (the budget meetings),” Mayor Steve Clements said. “We obviously didn’t know (the embezzlement) was happening.”
Clements pointed out that there have been questions about what the City of La Grande is getting out of its partnership with the agency for a while.
City Manager Robert Strope mentioned the Joint Review Team, a group of six members, three from the city council and three from UCEDC who meet to talk about the goals for the agency. Strope suggested having a work session with this team before the October meeting.
Through some more conversation, the city council decided to have a meeting with the Joint Review Team and then to hold a public hearing and discuss the council’s options at the Oct. 4 meeting.
Davidson, UCEDC Executive Director Dan Stark and Board Member Tim Seydel, who had been there for the presentation, left before terminating the contract was discussed.