I'm Back and More Determined As Ever: The Truth Will Be Televised or At Least Blogged About

For a moment, I felt like throwing the towel. I would attend the meeting, blog a review the next day and then I would get my copy of the Sunday's paper and wonder if I had attended the same meeting. Now before you all start taking mega doses of Geritol and get your granny panties in a bunch, this is not an attack on the writer of the Sunday editorials; it just shows that people see things differently. Thant's another reason why I started recording the meetings; so people can see for themselves. I generally don't take the mayor, board and city clerk at their word because they are trying their best to privitize public discourse. Just last night, I decided to stay after the meeting was over and I glanced up while Merlene Wall was explaining something to Alderwoman at Large, Cora Rogers and Alderman, Ward 3, Quincy Rogers. I noticed that Merlene motioned or pointed towards my direction; I guess that was an sign for the alderpersons to lower their voices to keep me from hearing what they were discussing. But didn't Merlene convince the board that I had a bionic listening device and that was the reason why they took away the public records rooms to hold executive session. Well, that and the allegation that I had planted listening devices in the room. How very James Bond of me. Anywho? I must say, the constant fight for the truth is very taxing and I think I needed to take a break. It's difficult to look at a board of mostly "Christian" individuals continue to lie and deceive the general public. As I said, I was about to throw in the towel, wipe my hands and shake the dust from my feet regarding the governing body of Lumberton but if I had done so, that would have meant that the rulers of darkness had victory. I refuse to allow the spirits of Jezebel, Nadab, Abihu and Eli make me flee. The word says resist the devil and he will flee. I know we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places but the fact that darkness is taking over the City of Lumberton is a choice made by those that refuse to let their light shine.

Since I took a voluntary break from blogging, I now must catch up from where I stopped. I want to give a review of my experience at the Lumberton Library during the Jail and Bail fundraiser and my interaction with District 2 Supervisor, Warren Byrd but I will provide those details in a later post and I still haven't met with Byrd to have our face to face on some serious issues (my fault, not his). I never posted a review of the September 5, 2014 meeting. This is the meeting where the board voted to accept the FY 2015 budget. The board adopted a resolution that allowed the millage rate to remain the same. Just a few months ago, the city officials were told that WSOM was not sustaining itself and they raised the water and sewer rates. The board had to slash personnel and cut hours but didn't feel the need to raise the millage rate; despite the fact that there's not enough revenue coming into the city. Although we have a smaller budget, they're still making large, unnecessary purchases; probably at the behest of embattled city manager, Richard Rose, who was terminated admist allegations of corruption, by the City of Diamondhead. The board also voted to select the audit firm of Wright, Ward, Hatten and Guel for the FY 2013 audit. It was my belief that this was another recommendation made by Richard Rose and once you Google the firm and Rose, you will see they are connected. Generally, the process for selecting an auditor is made after the ad is published in the newspaper. Once the advertisement for bids is complete, the auditors come to the board meetings and present their proposals. According to Mayor Ben Winston, the firm he selected, that just so happen to be the firm that was used by Diamondhead, "is the only firm that want to work with the City of Lumberton." If you doubt that's what he said, you can go to the Lumberton Informer Facebook Page and watch the video. I seriously doubt that Nicholson and Company turned down the opportunity to present a proposal to audit the City of Lumberton. As a matter of fact, I went to the office and requested, in writing, a copy of the proof of publication and have yet to receive a copy. You see, if I was one of those bobble heads serving on the board, I would just take Ben and Merlene at their word but I know that the bid for an audit had to be put in the newspaper and at the completion, there will be a copy of the ad, the dates the ad was published and the fee charged for running the ad; something Merlene Wall has not been able to produce. Let's just add it to the pile of other information that seemingly gets lost in that office. Her office must be the portal for the Bermuda triangle because everything gets lost there: receipts, insurance payments, minutes, proper documentation, BBI software does not work there and apparently integrity is something else that's lost in that mysterious triangle. The board also voted to pay Waste Pro $7,525 for the month of August for garbage collection; that's $90,300/year. We're told that's a great price compared to what we were previously paying to collect garbage ourselves. Unfortunately, there's no documentation to support this claim. Alderman, Ward 2, Jay McGraw, said he would give me a break down of the costs but that was over two months ago and I have yet to receive any paperwork. One would think the board would have had this information on hand before making a decision to turn garbage collection over to a private company. How did they make an informed decision without the paperwork showing this was an actual savings? Also, they're charging the citizens of Lumberton $2.25 more than they're being charged by WastePro. There was an agenda item to go into executive session but I can't remember if they went into executive session or not. That concludes the review of the September 5, 2014 board meeting.

Last night, there was a special called board meeting. The first agenda item was to discuss and approve the application for the placement in the Priority System Project list with the Mississippi Department of Health. The City of Lumberton has moved up on the list for a loan program to help with the water and sewer department. They must qualify for the loan but there's a chance that they will qualify to have 20-35% of the loan forgiven; which would be a great savings to the city but then there's the question of how they're going to repay the loan with a smaller budget and a millage rate that has remained the same. The City of Lumberton received a check from the Fireproof Panthers in the amount of $3,115. There's not enough clarity about origins of these "missing" funds. Perhaps this is an attempt to put money back on the books to cover the unauthorized payment made to Richard Rose for preparing the 2015 budget. As you know, the auditor was in town when Mayor Winston gave away the motorcycle and paid Rose $1,600 to prepare the budget. Winston was instructed to get the motorcycle back but there's still no word on what Frank Lucas has to do about the unauthorized payment made for services that were never voted on by the board. I guess they're waiting for Merlene to finagle the minutes to reflect a vote that was never discussed in open session. Maybe they voted on the matter in executive session. I guess I forgot my bionic ears that day because I didn't hear them mention that vote. However, there's some variations in the payment amount. During the discussions about "a person I know that could help us with the budget" the price quoted was $1,200. Alderman Rogers said he wanted to get another bid entered. Next thing we know, the work was completed and the check was cut. When I heard of this matter, red flags and sirens went off in my mind because no one, other that Quincy Rogers, thought this was an unethical matter. I thought for certain that Alderman Kent Crider would have objected to the unapproved payment since he sought an opinion on this matter when Mayor Holder was in office. According to Attorney General Opinion 2010-00463

There is no authority for a mayor to pay a claim that has not been properly approved by the board of aldermen. To do so may subject the mayor to the sanctions imposed by Section 21-39-17.All expenditures of money from the treasury of any municipality for any purpose whatsoever shall be in pursuance of the allowance of a claim as hereinbefore specified in Section 21-39-9, or in pursuance of a specific appropriation made by order, which such appropriation shall be specific as to each separate expenditure in so far as may be practical. If the mayor, clerk, or any other person shall willfully or feloniously issue, sign or attest any warrant for the expenditure of money from the municipal treasury when such expenditure is not authorized by an order entered on the minutes of such municipality, then such person shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction, shall be punished by a fine or not more than five hundred dollars, or by imprisonment in the county jail for not more than six months, or by both such fine and imprisonment, in the discretion of the court. In addition such person shall upon conviction, automatically be removed from office. (Emphasis added)
There's nothing in the minutes showing this payment was approved and now it's time for me to burn a DVD of the meetings where this was discussed and send it to the Attorney General and State Auditor's office.

Next on the agenda was an order to advertise for a new software program for city hall. The new software program will cost at least $10,000. Keep in mind, the current software program from BBI has the ability to do all the things they're looking for in another software program. As a matter of fact, the city has paid over $75,000 for the software and BBI training but this board now wants to throw all that money/training away for something easier. No matter how hard they search, there's not a software program out there that's going to do your work for you. There's claims that BBI is full of glitches, but somehow, it works for the other 99.9997% of the State but not in the City of Lumberton; which means it's not the software it's the hard headed operator that probably used an abacus to solve math equations when she was in school. If she don't know how to use the program, even after getting training, then step aside or step down and allow the city to get a clerk that's accustomed to the use of computers for something other than monitoring the Lumberton Informer and various Facebook pages. The city can advertise for another software program but in December, they're still going to be responsible for paying their contractual obligation to BBI in the amount of $7,000 until they opt out of the contract. Again, if they opt out the contract with BBI, that's over $75,000 they're throwing away. Another thing, how are they going to pay for this software program? They have a smaller budget and no millage rate increase.

After discussing the software program, the mayor wanted to adjourn the meeting but Merlene insisted on going into executive session. It has been alleged, that Merlene Wall want to have a Public Works employee terminated because his wife had the temerity to complain on Facebook about the lapse of their insurance coverage. The money is being deducted from the employee's check but the payments are not getting transmitted to the insurance company. If I was a parent and couldn't take my child to the doctor because the insurance I paid for had lapsed, I would be upset as well but who made Merlene the internet monitor. If she would stop monitoring Facebook accounts and reading the Lumberton Informer, she might be able to do her job and get the payments mailed in a timely fashion. Who knows, less time on social media might lead to checks getting deposited within 10 days; currently, it's taking at least 12 days for my check to clear the bank which is about a block from city hall. After the brief meeting in executive session, the mayor said no actions were taken. Surprise, Surprise, Surprise! The board then started a discussion with a customer about her water bill and the gallons used. The customer was upset that she was charged a late fee for a $3.23 balance. During this banter, the customer revealed that her late fee was waived before and didn't understand why they wouldn't waive the late fee again. Winston had enough wherewithal to know that waiving the late fee was a violation of the law. So, true to form, Merlene blamed the violation of the law on former deputy clerk Melissa Nightengale. She threw her friend under the bus very quickly. I hope Keenon Johnson is paying attention because she's going to be next; just give her time. She's already set the stage by having her name added to the accounts. By the way, when will the board vote to have Melissa's name removed from the account. Melissa may want to insist they remove her name before she gets blamed for other things. I think that caught me up. I will keep you informed. Ciao!

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