Editorials

Port officials, state auditor should know better

David Palmer and Michael Parker paint parking space stripes at the state Port of Gulfport recently.
David Palmer and Michael Parker paint parking space stripes at the state Port of Gulfport recently. ttisbell@sunherald.com File

Unbelievable.

That one word sums up recent claims by public officials.

Let’s start with the big whopper: Port of Gulfport Director Jonathan Daniels’ claim that the half-billion dollar Port of the Future has created 425 jobs.

We now know that simply isn’t true. Of those jobs, 326 are at the Island View Casino Resort’s hotel. Those jobs have nothing to do with the port other than the hotel sits on land leased from the port.

We want the port to succeed. The entire Coast and all its industries will benefit if it succeeds. But fudging the numbers on job creation won’t help it succeed. We know the port has to create 1,300 jobs to meet its agreement with HUD that brought it $570 million originally intended for post-Katrina housing.

Using such heavily massaged numbers won’t satisfy that requirement.

Imagine if you were a prospective tenant. Would you trust the port knowing Daniels has been telling tales about job creation?

Straining credibility is no way to earn trust. We expect better from our port director.

Then there is the case of state Auditor Stacey Pickering.

Pickering seems to believe it’s illegal for a city council to meet in private, without properly notifying its constituents — unless he’s around.

The Diamondhead City Council in effect shut out one council member and the mayor when it met with Pickering to discuss a recent audit.

Here’s Pickering’s defense:

“An Attorney General’s Opinion ... dated April 4, 2003, addressed a very similar gathering, stating ‘a meeting called by state or federal economic development agencies whose sole purpose is to disseminate information of available grants and favorable loans for public projects, is not in violation of the Open Meetings Act.’ ”

Pickering said he was merely “providing copies of the report and disseminating information relating to the report.”

Had that been truly the case, why not mail the report?

Something more was going on. One councilman said they also were discussing a letter Mayor Tommy Schaefer sent to Pickering’s office concerning the audit.

On top of that, the opinion Pickering cited didn’t cover a quorum of the board of supervisors in question, just more than one member. Pickering, at best, is twisting the attorney general’s words.

Once again, the issue is trust. We demand public officials operate above board.

And when they’re caught acting otherwise, the proper procedure is to ’fess up and promise to do better.

The editorial represents the views of the Sun Herald editorial board. Opinions of columnists and cartoonists are their own.

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