“It’s my job to be well connected.,” said Mike Rankin, Branson’s economic development director. Debate over paid city administration’s duty to report activities ensued Tuesday, May 1, during the second and final orientation session for Branson’s new leadership.
Rankin claims over 20,000 emails are fielded annually from his office. Some of the inquiries come from large corporations who want to keep their interest in Branson secret during the discovery phase of their investigation into the local market. Many of Rankin’s leads come from the Chamber of Commerce and trade shows. Rankin is a registered lobbyist though reports from the Missouri Ethics Commission show he hasn’t spent a dime wooing legislatures. “I want to keep it that way,” says Rankin, “I spend a lot of time sitting in committees, I’m not there to wine and dine legislatures.” His activities with private companies are less regulated. In fact, communications with different business entities aren’t communicated to elected officials until they come to the attention of planning and zoning, a policy challenged by Branson’s elected leadership.
Bob McDowell found the idea of a developer requiring non-disclosure from city council particularly disturbing. “I don’t want my rights signed away,” said McDowell. Terry Dody said the issue of liability comes into play. According to Dody an elected official has protection from litigation and can’t be held to confidentiality agreements. Alderman Stephen Marshall questioned the legality of failing to disclose information to the board citing regulations affecting information availability in the private sector.
Mayor Raeanne Presley addressed the broader issue of controlled growth. Presley wanted to know what business sectors were being promoted and expressed concern that development projects were in a mature phase of development before elected officials are briefed. Rankin said, “I don’t cut deals, my job is to get their attention and encourage them to come to Branson.” Marshall believes city officials can help bring deals to fruition. Alderwoman Sandra Williams challenged the idea that a developer would be able to, “trust the city employees but not the elected leaders.” Presley promised to research the legal issues and Dody suggested a policy change could be made through local legislation.