Commissioners end COVID-19 disaster declaration

Morgan Boyd

The Lawrence County Regional Chamber of Commerce Foundation chairman reportedly asked a county commissioner to step down from his position on the chamber/economic development boards.

Commissioner chairman Morgan Boyd said John Cournan, chairman of the foundation board, invited him to breakfast privately last week and asked him to either step down or apologize to the board.

The reasons Cournan gave, Boyd said, were because of his comments in the newspaper about the completed Forward Lawrence study that was presented to the community last month.

Cournan would not confirm nor deny Boyd’s claim in a phone conversation.

“At this time, I have no comment,” he said.

Forward Lawrence, a $175,000 initiative spurred by the chamber and economic development, is intended to position the county to attract potential investors by providing an in-depth study of the county’s economic strengths and weaknesses. The chamber hired Jay Garner, president and founder of an Atlanta-based consulting firm, to conduct the study. Garner made a presentation Dec. 1 at a luncheon at The Villa.

Boyd, who did not attend the luncheon, told The News he had read the plan and likened it to other planning efforts already undertaken in the county, including the county’s comprehensive plan which already is in place. Boyd said the county doesn’t need more plans, it needs better quality housing, sites of mid- and large-sized businesses and blight remediation.

He added that “it just takes people willing to put forth an effort.”

Boyd said that Cournan “told me either to apologize to the board for my comments or to step down.”

He vows he will not resign, he said, and “I won’t be apologizing, because I believe my comments to be truthful, and the taxpayers pay me to have an opinion. I won’t be stepping down, because I believe it’s critical that a diverse set of opinions guide our economic development process.”

One of largest areas of concern is the agency doesn’t engage with municipalities on a regular basis to find out their aspirations for their communities, he said.

Boyd has been a member of the foundation and the chamber and economic development boards for two years since he took office as a commissioner in January 2020.

The combined board — chamber of commerce, chamber foundation and economic development — have 29 members that serve in combination on three boards, and Boyd serves on all three

He pointed out that the commissioners budgeted $100,000 for 2022 to fund the Lawrence County Economic Development Corporation. He said he firmly believes the commissioners should have a seat on the board.

“The taxpayers deserve to be represented,” he said. “We’re the second largest funder of economic development in in Lawrence County.”

Alex McCoy, chamber CEO, said he views Boyd as an intelligent member with a lot of insight. He said he would be willing to hear his views and thoughts first-hand, and that he values different opinions for the betterment of the community.

McCoy said he was directed by the heads of the three boards — the foundation, the chamber and the economic development corporation — to draft a letter regarding Boyd, which he has done, but he does not have a role in the board’s internal workings.

He explained that Boyd, a Class 1 member, has a vote on all three of the boards.

Whether the boards can or will remove Boyd also remains to be seen.

Cournan, generally speaking on Monday, said that the bylaws permit the addition and removal of directors with or without cause, and that is by a vote of the directors.

The commissioners do not have a standing position on the boards, he said, and there is no person or organization that holds certain positions on the board. If there are relationships with the county, those people are approached often times about participating on the board level, because of working relationships, Cournan said.

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