Perhaps three times will be a charm when it comes to hiring a new executive director for the Tourist Development Council.
Concerned that a discrepancy existed between the wording of the recent Request for Qualifications, and how they planned to do the hiring, county commissioners decided to advertise for a third time.
“The RFQ says that the TDC will, “will” not “shall” send the top three ranked applicants back to this board and it’s in the RFQ. It says that at the Sept 12 meeting the top 3 applicants would be known to the public, said Commissioner Cheryl Sanders, who also chairs the TDC. “Now as you got it you have the four (applicants coming for interviews before the commissioners.)
“It’s all a mess and some of the members were very concerned were we going against what the RFQ says or are we doing it?” she said. “My thing is if it’s going to be different than what was advertised two times, we need to do it again,”
At the last round of bidding, which was commenced after the first round yielded only two applicants, applicants included Laura Graham, of Forgotten Coast Management Services Inc.; Debra Davis, of Debra Davis and Associates of Franklin County; Forgotten Coast Creative LLC, managed by Cutler Edwards, of Apalachicola; and the Apalachicola Bay Chamber of Commerce, under President Donna Duncan and Director John Solomon.
The commissioners decided last month that it would best not to strike just one of the applicants, and interview only three.
“We didn’t want to be seen as singling one out, that was our concern,” said Commissioner Ricky Jones.
“I’ve sat on that TDC for 12 years; that’s the most confusing thing I’ve ever seen in my whole life,” said Sanders. “I think everybody’s confused about it. We need a very large amount of clarity in this.
“I am concerned about the time constraints as of the new budget coming in October. We have to move quickly,” she said.
County Attorney Michael Shuler stooped short of advising the commissioners that the discrepancy required them to rebid the RFQs
“You can’t change the material requirements of the RFQ midstream,” he said. “What you’re talking about is non-material process, by choosing to interview all four instead of all three.”
Commissioners Smokey Parrish said the whole idea was to be more inclusive with the interviews, rather than less. “We were being more responsive and less restrictive,” he said.
“The RFQ says the TDC will rank them and y’all asked the ranking not be done,” said Sanders. “It could potentially set you up to a legal question. The RFQ says one thing and the county commission directed the board to do something different.”
Commissioner Noah Lockley, a proponent of bringing the job in-house, as a county employee, tried again, but no one took him up on the offer.
“If it’s causing all that, bring it in house,” he said.
Jones moved, and Commissioner William Massey seconded, to readvertise, with the TDC scrutinizing their adherence to the application requirements, and their returning the top five applicants although not in any ranked order, but on what was termed a “coequal basis.”
Parrish specified that after it is drawn up by Shuler, the advertisement be brought back to the commissioners for their OK.
“Whatever we do, when it comes time to be ranked, anyone with a conflict has to abstain at the TDC level,” noted Jones.
Following the vote, the commissioners approved a recommendation from County Coordinator Michael Morón to extend Curt Blair, the current director, on a month-to-month basis for a maximum of three months.
In his report, Blair said collections for June were at a little more than $269,000, an increase of $42,253 over the year before. Collections so far this year are running nearly 9 percent over last year’s.