EDC’s decision to appoint Cribbs deserves second look

The decision by the directors of the Marble Falls Economic Development Corp.  to appoint one of their own to a lucrative $73,000-a-year job as special projects coordinator may not be illegal, but that doesn’t make it right.

Instead of giving the job to someone from inside their  inner circle, the directors should reverse themselves, advertise the position and launch a comprehensive search for the most qualified candidate possible to help fulfill the mission of the EDC, which is to encourage the economic growth of the city.

Ex-EDC director Olivia Cribbs was offered the job after an October closed-door session in which she did not participate. 

The EDC’s October meeting minutes indicate Cribbs stepped down from the board not long before she was offered the job.

Her credentials, not her connections, should be the basis for being qualified for this post. What training does she have? What networks?

Even worse, the position was never advertised. There was no search committee. No other candidates were considered or sought, much less interviewed, a fact that surfaced during a recent Marble Falls City Council meeting when two councilmen called Cribbs’ appointment into question.

This deal creates the appearance of a “good old boy” network taking care of one of their own.

For starters, there could be other qualified residents in the city who wanted to apply for the job. With the economy in a recession and businesses failing or leaving Marble Falls in droves, residents deserve to have the best-qualified candidate filling that position.

In addition, hiring an EDC board member for a spot with a $50,000 salary and $23,000 in benefits doesn’t look right  and it sets a disturbing precedent.

The directors who offered the job to Cribbs, a Marble Falls business owner and former councilwoman, include City Council members and area businesspeople — individuals who have worked with her for years, many of them her friends. 

They include EDC president Nona Fox, Mayor Raymond Whitman, councilmen Mike Pilley and Jim Weber, and businessmen David Ives and Larson Lloyd.

The EDC is a nonprofit corporation funded by city sales taxes with nominal oversight by the City Council. The corporation is responsible for hiring its own employees, though the council appoints its board and oversees any amendments to its budget.

This is taxpayer money, and the taxpayers deserve a transparent attempt to hire the best candidate possible to help guide the city’s economic future. The $73,000 salary is more than enough to attract very qualified candidates and capable individuals.

According to the city attorney, the EDC’s decision to hand Cribbs the job without first advertising the position did not break any laws.

While that may be true, the entire action suggests favoritism.

As the EDC’s only full-time employee, Cribbs is now responsible for coordinating EDC initiatives with local businesses, as well as keeping tabs on development of the city’s Business and Technology Park on U.S. 281 North.

Cribbs will also work with several organizations, including the Marble Falls/Lake LBJ Chamber of Commerce, to attract new businesses and jobs to the area.

As part of her first official report, Cribbs advised directors to authorize the planting of eye-catching flowers near the business park’s entrance. 

EDC members say Cribbs is getting out to the local businesses and has even gone as far as the governor’s office looking for economic development opportunities. 

Cribbs will come under review in six months.

She has served the city well in the past, is a respected member of the community and is well-regarded for her charitable works. But none of that means she is the right person for the EDC job.

The members of the EDC are all responsible citizens with the interests of the community at heart. But sometimes good people with the best of intentions make ill-informed choices. 

That seems to be the case here.

The EDC directors should rescind the Cribbs appointment, advertise the position, conduct a comprehensive and thorough search across a wide field of talented applicants with solid business credentials, and assure voters they are pursuing a qualified hire with due diligence.