NEWSOM: An odd response from SMPDD

Irecently asked the Southern Mississippi Planning and Development District for the qualifications it required of its last executive director and I got a comical answer.

The district has been the center of controversy over the hiring of its new director, Southern District Public Service Commissioner Leonard Bentz Jr., whose father was on the SMPDD board of directors until Bentz was hired. The elder Bentz didn’t participate in the vote to hire his son, but nonetheless there have been plenty of questions of conflict of interest.

There’s also been talk the qualifications for the job were changed to allow Bentz to get the position even though he has no college degree. So naturally, I asked for the qualifications posted for the job Bentz had applied for, and the qualifications posted the last time the group hired a director. Turns out, the qualifications for the job Bentz got said the candidate “should” have a four-year college degree and listed the pay range between $150,000 and $200,000. Bentz, who has no collegiate sheepskin, got $150,000.

So, what were the qualifications the last time the group hired a director? That’s where the story gets just plain silly.

Several days after I asked the group for that information, I received a formal letter on lovely SMPDD letterhead from Lynn Cartlidge, president of the group’s board of directors. For more than 37 years, Cartlidge has been a member of the group’s gigantic board, which has 34 directors from the Coast as far north as Wayne County.

Cartlidge said the group doesn’t have an answer to my question about the qualifications posted the last time the job was open. The reason? That happened before the Richard Nixon administration.

Sun Herald
8/17/13