RI economic development nominee declines job

AP News
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Posted: Dec 31, 2009 9:12 AM

The nominee picked to run Rhode Island's economic development agency has decided not to accept the job because of personal reasons, just weeks after she was selected.

Ioanna Morfessis said in a statement Wednesday that she had learned recently that a family member was facing "serious health challenges" and would not be able to serve as executive director of the state's Economic Development Corporation. She did not identify the family member or say what the illness was.

Gov. Don Carcieri, who had nominated Morfessis, said he was disappointed but understood her decision.

The governor said he had consulted with House and Senate leaders and would announce an "alternative plan" next week, but his spokeswoman would not elaborate.

The corporation's board unanimously approved Morfessis' appointment as executive director with an annual salary of $250,000. Her nomination required confirmation of the state Senate.

Morfessis had previously run organizations in Baltimore and Phoenix focused on economic growth. The governor had touted her as well-qualified to confront the economic woes of the state, which has been mired in a deep recession and has nearly 13 percent unemployment.

At an introductory news conference earlier this month, she said there were no "silver bullets" to fix the state's economic woes but promised to present an economic plan of action in 100 to 120 days.

Carcieri, a Republican, had ordered a review of the quasi-public agency after its last executive director, Saul Kaplan, resigned last year. In April, that panel concluded that the agency had not created a clear strategy for economic growth and recommended conducting a national search for a new director.

Carcieri spokeswoman Amy Kempe would not give specifics about the governor's announcement.

"Recognizing the important role that the EDC plays in our economic development strategy, the governor is quickly working to decide how best to move forward," she said.