HCDC Study Recommends Partnership

The development commission is a public agency. Over the last year or so, it's spending practices have been scrutinized. The criticism got to be so intense, then commission president Bruce Nourse decided to take action.

"I thought it was probably time, because of the criticism, for us to get what I would call a second opinion," said Nourse.

That second opinion came from consultant Jay Garner. He concluded that the Harrison County Development Commission should be financed by both the public and the private sectors.

"It's a strong belief by the Competitive Strategies group that the development commission has no option but to pursue this change in governance and funding expeditiously," the consultant said.

The commission's administrative committee accepted Garner's report. It's now up to the entire development commission to determine if the public private recommendation should be adopted.

"This study is a good thing for the commission," said Nourse. "We're taking a close look at ourselves."

Henry Kinney believes the public private partnership is a big mistake.

"You would have to take their word for their expenditures and their success," Kinney said. "And I'm not prepared to take their word."

Kinney is an attorney who lives in Pass Christian. He's had an on going legal battle with development commissioners. Last week, he successfully challenged the development commission in court to get access to its public records.

"It's inconceivable to me that any governmental agency would propose to escape the scrutiny of the public in the way they spend their funds," he said.

The consultant said that based on finances, the public private approach was the only way the development commission could effectively do its job.

"You're living on reserves now," Garner told commissioners, referring to the recent funding cut by Harrison County Supervisors.

"And if you continue to live on reserves, you're out of money in about three-and-a-half to four years."

The consultant's report also critiqued the development commission's staff. It said staff members had to do a better job communicating with the public, so people can understand what the development commission has accomplished.