June 24, 2014

BDDC's director retires unexpectedly, with questions lingering

Since the Bristol Downtown Development Corp. got underway during Mayor William Stortz's administration, Richard Harrall has served as its executive director.
Through all those years, he's been a calm voice during some chaotic times, providing sage advice from his long years of experience.
But tonight, seemingly out of the blue, he resigned at meeting's end.
Harrall, who works for Milone & MacBroom, said he was retiring. He told commissioners he’d enjoyed with them and offered them his best wishes.
“We could not have gotten here without you,” said Jennifer Arasimowicz, chairwoman of the nonprofit overseeing the revitalization of the ex-mall site.
John Lodovico, another commissioner, praised Harrall for his guidance. He said Harrall proved himself “a big benefit to this board and to Bristol” and even to the state.
“Thank you for everything,” said Frank Johnson, the BDDC’s former chairman who handed over the reins to Araimowicz last year after his grandson became gravely ill.
So what's so odd about it? Well, to begin with, the agenda for the special meeting failed to include an executive director's report, a standard item at every BDDC session.
And Harrall himself had to sort of force the issue at meeting's end so that he could say goodbye, an indication perhaps that the BDDC either didn't know he was leaving or didn't want him to talk.
I believe that Harrall was hanging on in the position only because he wanted to see the project through. He doesn't need the money or headaches attached to it.
So why'd he go now, at a moment where it seems like everything is coming together? I doubt it's because he felt a sudden urge to go fishing or to sit in the sun.
Here's one more clue: since the BDDC met about six weeks ago and decided to try to work out terms to let Renaissance have more time to work out its financing plan, several commissioners have been involved in quiet negotiations. So has the city's lawyer. So has city Councilor Henri Martin.
But nobody gave the slightest indication that Harrall, the executive director of the BDDC, was involved at all.
There was an obvious tension in the air as all of this transpired. Nothing said made it clear what happened or why. But something was amiss.
Rest assured, I'll be trying to figure it out. Good people don't usually just up and leave for no reason.

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

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