Friday, August 21, 2015

Chamber President: State auditors got everything about me wrong

(From the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce)

Today Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce President Rob O'Brian responded to the state auditor's report, which was released Tuesday evening.

"The time after the tornado was an extraordinary time with extraordinary people doing what they could to help us rebuild," said O'Brian. "And they were doing it all without a playbook.

"Once I read the full report, it was clear a number of items in State Auditor Nicole Galloway's report concerning the Chamber and my work on the Implementation Task Force (ITF) were
incorrect. I would like to make corrections or explanations of those items. "

The report states O'Brian and former Chamber employee Gary Box traveled to Houston
Oct. I, 2011 to meet with Wallace Bajjali. This trip was not to meet with Wallace Bajjali, and O'Brian knows of no such meeting. In fact, O'Brian, Box and their spouses traveled to Houston and immediately drove to Galveston, where they stayed as guests of the Galveston Chamber of Commerce. O'Brian's counterpart at the Galveston Chamber knew they had cancelled a large group vacation in July to concentrate on recovery efforts, and he wanted to give them a brief break. They met with members of the Galveston Chamber and thanked them for their support of funds and personnel.

The report states O'Brian and employees of Wallace Bajjali met in Dallas in December 2011. O'Brian and five other people from the region were at a large trade show event in Dallas. During that time, they had 14 individual meetings with companies at that show and attended the trade show sessions. They hosted the reception prior to the awards ceremony one evening. O'Brian does not recall any meeting with Wallace Bajjali or its representatives at that trade show and does not recall speaking with anyone at that trade show about a master developer for Joplin.

The report states the Chamber president met with Wallace Bajjali numerous times before an official Request for Proposal was issued. Chamber representatives and City leaders met with many developers in the months after the tornado to learn what could be done to rebuild. Most of them either dropped by the office or called to offer assistance. "It would have been a disservice to the community to ignore all those folks out of fear that someone later would claim any meeting caused bias," O'Brian said.

The report states the Chamber president was unfairly biased toward Wallace Bajjali and used a Request for Proposal supplied by Wallace Bajjali. "When the implementation task force, of which I was a member, made a determination to see if there were others besides Wallace Bajjali who were interested in being a master developer, I was asked to develop a Request for Qualifications or Proposal," O'Brian said.

"I have experience writing and reviewing RFPs, and as part of the Chamber's economic development, we've managed the development of Crossroads Park and constructed spec buildings. Once it was known the task force would have a process, Wallace Bajjali did offer a template, but they were not the only one. Others offered full templates or wording specific to a sector such as commercial development. I did not rely on any of them; rather, I focused on what we had as samples, and in addition, did research online. There are many, many examples of master developer RFPs from around the country. In addition, language was already being used by the City and other agencies, mainly about the background and impact of the storm, that I used for consistency. The ITF then reviewed and modified the draft RFP before a version was forwarded to the City for final revision and publication."

The report states that a member of the task force gave O'Brian a document questioning Wallace Bajjali's staying power. As O'Brian recalls, the task force member was going to be absent from the next regularly scheduled ITF meeting. O'Brian conveyed the committee member's concerns at the meeting. Committee members had many pros and cons of all the finalists.

For more information, please call Kirstie Smith, Communications Director, at 417-624-4150.

(Note: The Chamber news release also included e-mails and documentation for the Galveston trip and the Dallas trip.)


Anonymous said...

"I was just holding it for someone else".��

Anonymous said...

I expect Mr. O'Brian's resignation to be presented Monday.

Anonymous said...

Why did the State Auditor have to subpoena Mr. O'Brian for information? What was he trying to hide?

Anonymous said...

I thought Hillary Clinton was a woman.

Anonymous said...

4:40 PM: And one wonders what he said in private to the auditors under penalty of perjury vs. what he's saying to the public to save his job.

Considering how much his stewardship is going to be costing the Joplin chamber, I'd say anything goes for the latter.

Anonymous said...

All cattle no hat?

Anonymous said...

Please correct me if I'm wrong, but I would have sworn that O'Brien and another exec with the Chamber of Commerce had briefly resigned and accepted positions as manager of Wallace Bajjali local office. This would have occurred after they'd sat on the board that selected WB. I am relying on memory. I looked at his CV and it isn't mentioned.
The Joplin Globe, i.e. "Daily Disappointment" hasn't mentioned it so maybe I'm wrong...or maybe the Globe is a CofC bum boy?

Anonymous said...

And lord knows with a hairline like that, he could certainly use the hat.

Anonymous said...

Go away!!!

Anonymous said...

"How fast officer?"

"Didn't think it was loaded!"

"Only had one. Well it might have been two."

"That's not mine!"

"Don't know his last name."

"I can explain everything."

Anonymous said...

Let me see who to believe: Someone who has everything to lose, or an state auditor who is trying to report facts as they have been told?
Let me see who to believe: Someone who is telling a story now, or someone who collected information and reported the facts.
I will go with the auditors...

A few more Bullshitisms... said...

"I did not have sexual relations with that woman."

"I don't recall."

"I was framed."

"Everyone (else) is lying."

"Are you going to believe me, or the facts?"

"This is a vast ____wing conspiracy. "

"They are just playing politics."

"They are all out to get me."

"Hey, it wasn't me."

"I'm not saying I didn't say that. I'm saying I didn't say that I said that.'

"I am resigning my position to spend more time with my family.'

"She said she was eighteen,"

"I was just cleaning it, and it went off,'

Anonymous said...

If collecting information and reporting facts were important, then the Globe would be doing it... instead of just auditors and bloggers.

Anonymous said...

It is very common for those in business to speak under subpoena. It is especially helpful for someone who consults. Many manufacturers require you to sign confidentiality agreements protecting their proprietary inforation. So touring a facility, meeting, or repairing equipment in many businesses requires signing their corporate forms. I would be shocked if Joplin doesn't have confidentially agreements with the chamber. A subpoena allows you to speak freely without having to worry about being sued in civil court by any company where you have signed a confidentiality agreement. Same reason why a bank or hospital employee wants a subpeona so they have protection from a privacy violation lawsuit.

To type in the question of why did he need a subpoena shows to me that person asking the question has little experience in the business world working with larger companies. It is common practice.

I did laugh at the all hat no cattle comment. That sums up chamber people across America. Mostly bank employees, insurance agents, and sales people. Networking is a great word for hey look at me.

Monday should be interesting. The amount of contract seems high. The auditor comparing the amount to other 50k population cities is silly. You have to compare the amounts to the duties required by the contract for services. $$$ to population is comparing apples to oranges. Typical accountant approach to only look at the numbers. Basically need to look at the duties. Cost of bringing those duties inhouse (does anybody think that the City of Joplin could make and manage that hire because I don't). Then look at tangible results. Determine ROI (return on investment).

From an employer recruitment standpoint for MO economic development department and governor, there are two cities in MO. Those cities are St. Louis and Kansas City. That is their focus especially with a Democrat governor. Joplin has to be actively recruiting employers. Blue Buffalo and the new Owens Corning are wins. The state isn't going to do it for us. I think it needs to be a consultant as the city would screw it up. This may not be the best one. Look around.

Anonymous said...

I will repeat my earlier thoughts:

•Begin a citizen's petition for the resignations of Woolston, Seibert, Shaw, and Glaze from the City Council. Their support and involvement with Wallace-Bajjali and those that advocated for Wallace-Bajjali is well documented.
•Require the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce to terminate Rob O'Brian or terminate the City's contract with the JACC. Remove the influence and control that the Chamber has in directing the City's policies and decisions. The Chamber is not a department of the City and should not be treated as if it were. It is a service provider just like any other contracted service provider.
•Remove all Chamber employees and/or designees from all City boards and commissions. Their presence of these boards represents a major conflict of interest. The Chamber's role with the City should be strictly limited to providing economic development services...not involving itself in city government.
•Do not allow any individual to serve on multiple city boards or commissions at any one time.
•Make meeting minutes of all city boards and commissions available online to the public.
•Terminate the City Finance Director. She utterly failed in her responsibility to the citizens.

The audit report clearly indicates that there was a concerted effort by members of the City Council, Chamber of Commerce, and individuals who were too heavily involved with either the Chamber or the City, to direct City policy and decisions in a direction to either benefit themselves or the special interests they represented without due regard or diligence to doing what was right for the community as a whole. This was not government of the people for the was politics for the privileged few and it represents the worst of what is wrong with our society today. It's time for the citizens of Joplin to take back control of our City and lead the way to a better future.

Anonymous said...

I believe him about the Galveston trip. And the second trip to Dallas.

Anonymous said...

All prattle; no cat.

Anonymous said...

Mr. O'Brian has never resigned. He has ran the COC with an open book. Everything he said was true. He was never asked to speak to anyone from the auditor's officeor look at the audit until after it came out. All documents, emails and any other proof that was asked by the state was handed over immediately without question or hesitation. There was more information available if the auditor wanted it. The auditor chose not to take it. If anyone in the public has a question about me. O'Brian all they have to do is go to his office and talk to him in person. He isn't shy and will always welcome anyone from the public to the COC.

Anonymous said...

8:05 AM is right-on with their assessment and course of action. It's time for a purge.

Anonymous said...

While I understand and agree with the logic of removing Chamber employees from other boards and committees, I don't see how you do that or how you can afford to do that in regards to designees assuming you can't look into their soul and see who is serving their community or employer.

No Chamber employee has more power in Chamber policy and actions than the board and large dues paying employers. So, do you want to ban all employees of both hospitals. Missouri Southern, Empire, and the large banks from serving on city boards or committees? Some are company people serving as an extension of their job. Others are citizens want to improve the lives of their family or neighbor.

I contend that there is a very easy way to determine who runs a large Chamber. It is a theory that I have applied in my cities where I have lived. If the Chamber has a leadership program (Leadership Joplin) then look at several years of the groups and chart the employers of the graduates. 50-70% of slots tend to fall to the same large employers almost like a reserved slot. The remaining 30-50% of the slots are open to the application process. No inside info here. Just a theory from my observations.

Anonymous said...

To hell with this, call a Grand Jury.