CATLETTSBURG Less than two weeks after finalizing the Camp Landing deal, the Boyd County Community Economic Developer resigned to go work as the Vice President of Operations for the principal developer, Jason Camp.
T.J. Morrison effectively resigned July 23, in a departure that both he and Judge-Executive Eric Chaney called friendly and amicable.
Morrison was one of the major deal-makers behind the scene — he said on Day 2 of accepting his position at the county (a 3-1 decision by the fiscal court), he sat down with the Reyton Group (then-owners of the KYOVA mall) to discuss them putting the property up on the market.
While the departure might raise questions of a double-deal — meaning Morrison got the deal rolling to get himself a better job — Morrison said the job offer was organic and a result of working alongside Camp for months on the purchase.
“First off, I would say if anybody looks at the details of this deal, I would find it a little absurd that any of this would have been done on my behalf,” Morrison said. “To be honest with you, the reason it was so quick from my standpoint, I wanted to take any of those concerns off the table. If there was any kind of inkling in my mind that in the next six months to a year I would go work for Jason Camp, I don’t think it would have been fair to stay on at the county.”
Morrison continued, “I feel like the longer I would’ve tried to stay at the county, there would have been those who assumed I’d tried to double-dip. I never had any intention on doing that. Ethically, I felt like it was best to cut ties as soon as the opportunity arose. And I knew I was going to take it and not prolong it any longer than it needed to be.”
Morrison said he’s working for Camp overseeing the renovations at the mall, working with Malibu Jack’s and working to help get the theater open. He said his decision to leave the county wasn’t taken lightly — he prayed on the decision and spoke with Chaney and his wife about the move.
“I think his (Chaney’s) motives were pure; he is a true public servant to every definition you can look up for the term. And it wasn’t easy to leave working for somebody like that,” Morrison said. “I would give as much high praise to Jason Camp as I would Eric.”
Morrison continued, “Jason doesn’t have to be doing what he’s doing in our community. He hasn’t always had the easiest road as the public is concerned by tying him to people who he doesn’t have ties to anymore. But time and time again, he still keeps giving back to our community and keeps pushing forward. I feel like I’ve left one great leader to go work for another great leader.”
Chaney said it is quite normal in the private sector for folks to hop ship over to another company following the conclusion of a deal. He said the job offer was extended by Camp to Morrison as the deal was winding down.
“The deal was already going to happen — Malibu Jack’s already put money in. I had put $11 million in taxpayer money in before these conversations ever took place,” Chaney said. “There were dominoes in this deal that already fell prior to these conversations taking a foothold. The deal was essentially done, we were just waiting on the signatures.”
Chaney said during his conversations with Morrison, he consulted “legal” to see if Morrison was considered a public servant and if there was any issue with him leaving the county for that particular job.
County Attorney Phillip Hedrick said he was not consulted in the matter.
Chaney quoted KRS statute as a public servant being “from the governor on down, basically elected officials.”
Hedrick said an employee qualifies as a public servant, whether elected or not.
KRS 522, which pertains to official misconduct, gives four definitions as to what constitutes a public servant. One definition states a public servant is “any public officer or employee of the state or of any political subdivision thereof or of any governmental instrumentality within the state.”
Now the county has a hole to fill in economic development — a hole Chaney said he hopes to fill through internal promotions. When pressed as to whether the role of economic development director (which was a $75,000-a-year job) would be filled, Chaney said there would be a “department.” He indicated two people would fill in the position, as a part of a rotation throughout the county government.
Larry Brown, a Boyd County Commissioner, said he wants the “best person for the job.”
“We need to continue our economic development and focus on our infrastructure so we can get good paying jobs here in Boyd County,” Brown said. “I think we should advertise this posting both internally and externally so we can get the very best person for this job.”
Chaney said he didn’t want to take the time to get a new hire up to speed.
“I got two people in mind who already work here to fill economic development,” Chaney said. “We’re working on projects right now that could be bigger than Camp Landing ... I don’t have time to wait two months to bring somebody up to speed.”
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