Business & economy

Smith leaves key tasks undone as he ends economic development tenure for Malheur County

VALE – The steps Greg Smith was tasked to follow as he closed out his nine-year economic development role for the county were specific.
By the end of July, Smith was to furnish Malheur County officials with a list of all outstanding and ongoing economic development projects, hand over all electronic files, records and work products, disable his economic development email account and transfer the emails to the county. He was to switch control of Malheur County Economic Development Department website to the county.
Smith also was directed to maintain “open accountability and communication with the Malheur County Court.”
The Malheur County Court agreed to extend his contract by one month for $9,000 to see the tasks were finished. Smith had signaled his intent to quit the contract when it expired June 30.
The county has yet to get all it paid for, according to Dan Joyce, Malheur County judge.
The county has contracted with Smith since 2013 to run the economic development department. An investigation by The Enterprise last year established he had not performed tasks his company had been paid for years to do.
That pattern continued as he left Malheur County. He didn’t respond to requests for comment.
A list of economic development projects Smith was pursuing to build business in the county “was not complete,” Joyce said.
“I don’t know how much information has been transferred, and I don’t know what the reason is,” said Joyce.
Joyce said Smith also did not provide much in terms of written or verbal communication regarding economic development projects.
“I do get some emails every once in a while, from Greg,” said Joyce.
Joyce said he didn’t ask Smith for a briefing on finalized or pending economic development projects in the county, though such a session was called for in the contract extension.
And, more than a month after Smith left the county job, the economic development website remained unchanged, directing prospective business leads to someone who was no longer in charge of the department. The site also contained stale information about the Treasure Valley Reload Center project.
Joyce said he had “no idea” why Smith was still listed as the county’s economic development director for so long. He also wasn’t sure what the ultimate status of the site was going to be, either.

“I believe it needs separated but a lot of that is in limbo for the next step,” said Joyce.
Joyce said the county’s information technology director, Josh Kreger, was in charge of updating the website.
After the Enterprise began to make inquiries about the status of the website, the county acted.
Kreger said the website was updated last week, but the only addition was a page explaining the economic development department wasn’t staffed.
Kreger also said the email account for the economic development department was changed – and an email directly linked to the county substituted – so that now county staff can check it for potential business leads. Those sending messages to the email account used for years as the key economic development department contact get a response that “This email account is no longer being monitored” and two other emails are provided.
Kreger also said Smith’s company did transfer emails to the county but only in the form of 28,000 PDF copies of the original emails.
Joyce said he also didn’t believe Smith had transferred economic development files or records to the county.
Joyce, in charge of the county day to day, said he couldn’t determine whether the last $9,000 payment to Smith was justified.
“I don’t know if anyone can answer that one,” he said.
Joyce could shed no light on the county’s plans to build a new program to lure employers to Malheur County, seen as critical to creating jobs and lowering poverty. He said there was an “ongoing” effort but could provide no details.
Joyce said the county court is in charge of sifting through economic development inquiries and planning for now.
He said court members and “several groups around the valley have got a lot of ideas who have sent them forward to us.”
“How we go through that and sort out what is necessary and what is important, we have not got there,” said. Joyce.
Joyce said the county court has received input from the Snake River Economic Development Alliance and the Treasure Valley Business Development Center regarding economic issues.
“We don’t have a plan but a lot of ideas and suggestions,” said Joyce.
Joyce said economic development remains a priority for county leaders.
“We’ve been through this before. We’ve done different venues with economic development over the years. So, it will be interesting to see what the bottom line is going to be,” said Joyce.
News tip? Contact reporter Pat Caldwell at [email protected].

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