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Frierson on investigation: Process needs to be seen through

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Earlier this week in Paris, the city council rejected a motion to send the results of an investigation into the local Economic Development Corporation to the State of Texas. Paris Mayor Matt Frierson discussed the council’s decision with KETR.

Haslett: Recently, a private investigative firm from Dallas completed a review of the fiscal operation of the Paris Economic Development Corp. The city chose to have an outside organization conduct the study after accusations and rumors of financial misconduct convinced local officials that an internal audit wouldn’t be enough. At this week’s city council meeting, councilman Dr. A.J. Hashmi suggested sending the findings of the investigation to the Texas Attorney General’s office and to the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts. Hashmi’s motion was voted down, 4-3. Paris mayor Matt Frierson voted against the measure. He said he wanted the council to review the investigation’s results with the Paris Economic Development Corp. before deciding whether the city council should formally request that the state get involved.

Frierson: From my side of things, quite honestly having read the report, I felt the need to vote the way I did because of the request of the Economic Development Corporation. They have had a chance to comb over the information and what I’m basing my timeline and position is I’d like to talk to them first and see what information they were able to glean from the report, if the report does not list any criminal activity. It lists recommendations, as far as moving forward and control and these along those lines, and what I would like to talk to them about and clarify is the recommendations themselves, what their findings were, and what direction their board chooses to go with this, as far as moving forward with a positive and constructive manner. My personal opinion is moving straight to a different avenue circumvents the entire board number one, and quite honestly the flow of information. I think we all want to do the right thing and make sure that our community is operating on a moral and ethical and legal level, but at the same time I think there is a process that needs to be seen through, and I think we owe that, not only to ourselves, but certainly the board and the constituents at large.

Haslett: The purpose of the Paris EDC is to promote the development of industrial commerce in the city. The EDC is having to foot the bill for the investigation by Dallas-based Defenbaugh and Associates. Frierson says that a tip to the city council started the current process.

Frierson: I was actually on the city council, just not in the position of mayor at the time, actually Dr. Hashmi was the mayor at that point. Someone on the city council received, not myself, but someone on the city council received an anonymous letter with some concerns regarding loan documentation that was made to a local industry and provided one piece of property from the Lamar County Appraisal District website.

Haslett: The loan was from the Paris EDC to Paris Warehouse Southwest. Frierson said the letter alleged that the size of the loan was disproportionate to the value of the business’ property. However, Frierson also said that the location in question was composed of several adjacent properties, all owned by Paris Warehouse Southwest but with different listings on the appraisal district’s website. The meeting between the Paris city council and the EDC to review the investigation’s findings has been set for Sept. 15.

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