Thomas draws criticism at meeting

By Emily Crowe
CNJ staff writer
ecrowe@cnjonline.com

A Clovis resident asked for City Manager Joe Thomas’ resignation on Thursday, but at least one city commissioner supported Thomas and said city officials should instead focus on preventing future losses related to economic development tax incentives.

The heated discussion at a City Commission study session centered around the failed Beauty Health and Science Innovations deal that cost taxpayers nearly $2 million.

Clovis resident Jose Griego asked for Thomas’ resignation after the city manager was peppered with questions from resident Jack Muse about his knowledge of a bad credit report on BHSI CEO Brian Sperber.

Thomas has said he made mistakes related to BHSI, but he followed standard operating procedures.

“If a majority of the commission feels like I need to (resign), I’ll consider it,” he said after the meeting. “Otherwise, I feel like I’ve got things that need to be done for the city.”

Commissioner Chris Bryant said after the meeting he won’t be asking Thomas to step down.

“Mr. Thomas does a good job for the city. Lots of mistakes were made by everybody, including Joe Thomas,” he said. “What we need to do is work on a plan to not let this happen again.”

City Commissioner Randy Crowder said he does not want to rush into any decisions.

“It was an overwhelming meeting, with lots of passionate statements,” Crowder said. “I don’t know if I agree with them 100 percent. I understand how they see how (Thomas) is at fault.”

An investigation completed last month placed much of the BHSI blame on an Economic Development Tax Advisory Board for failing to follow established policies and procedures.

The 24-page report, prepared by an Amarillo law firm, also concluded that multiple city officials, including former Mayor Gayla Brumfield, Thomas and commissioners, bear some of the blame for the failed venture.

No action related to the report was taken at Thursday’s meeting, but the commission did discuss how to move forward from the botched deal.

Mayor David Lansford suggested an overhaul of EDTAB.

Crowder suggested creating a committee to consider and resolve all of the issues brought forth in the investigation.

“There were a lot of issues. It’s a lot more complicated than it sounds,” Commissioner Juan Garza said.