Crooks and Liars: The Winston Administration

Last night, a decision was supposed to be made about shutting down the city but the board decided to halt that decision until after Christmas (or until they get a chance to beg the Lamar County Board of Supervisors to take over the police department on December 18, 2014). When I arrived at the meeting and noticed the absence of the Public Works Director but saw most of the police officers and their family members, I knew the police department was on the chopping block. Mayor Winston had the city clerk, Merlene Wall, give a report of funds that were obtained from a surplus sale that would carry the city through the Christmas holiday. Winston claimed that it was a false report that the board planned to terminate officers without giving them at least two weeks notice but when the police department was cut to it's current roster of three officers, no notice was given. In the midst of the fiscal hardship of the city, Alderman H.Jay McGraw found a provision that allowed him to get paid $453.82 for serving as administrator for the Hurricane Issac grant. The board voted to allow him to receive pay but the funds from this grant has yet to be received. It seems that the city clerk is going to pay him from the Hurricane Katrina grant money and then put the money back into the account once the Hurricane Issac money is received. Keep in mind that Katrina grant funds are from FEMA and Issac is from MEMA. But more importantly, borrowing from other accounts is what caused this financial crisis in the first place.

The vote to grant an extension to C.D. Johnson resulted in a tie vote and Mayor Winston refused to break the tie. This is when the meeting took a u-turn. A concerned citizen wanted to know how the finacially strapped city was goong to pay the money to close out this deal. Mayor Winston then went into his tirade about how he was elected to bring unity to this city (How's that working?) Winston also said he wasn't breaking the tie because it would bring division because the two white aldermen votes yes and the two black alderpersons voted no. He said either way he voted would be considered racist. This analogy rubbed Alderman Kent Crider the wrong way and he accused Winston of being a race baiter for trying to make this issue about race. Crider told the mayor that it was his responsibility to break a tie. At this time, Merlene Wall chimed in, saying she called the State Auditor's office and was told that the mayor can abstain from breaking a tie. Well, in accordance to Mississippi State Law, to abstain, the vote goes with the majority. There is no majority when the vote is a tie. So, refer to the attorney general opinion. Also, just the other week, when Winston wouldn't break the tie to allow Merlene to attend a training class, Merlene said, and I have her response recorded on video, that the attorney general states that the mayor must break any tie votes. So, which is true? She said the tie must be broken when it was to benefit her but for some reason, she changed her tune last night. Who can blame her? I would probably lie for the mayor too if he allowed me to do whatever I wanted despite the fact that I can't use the expensive software program or know how to prepare a budget. Later in the meeting, Merlene claimed she was never trained to use the BBI system to prepare budgets. But when she first started, she came from a training class, and presented several certificates showing she aced her training class. Also, when she started as clerk, she prepared a budget spreadsheet, shortly after training, and former alderman, Timothy Johnson, boasyed about how the report was so organized. So, did she do the report or did her trainer crrate the report? During the last months of the previous administration, she was doing the work but for some reason, she's either having problems retaining the information from training or simply refusing to do the work. I find it hard to believe that BBI trained her for WSOM and payroll but not budgetarty matters. I think Chief Elsie had the best suggestion, if Merlene is not trained, then get her trained. If the Mayor is going to support the lie that Merlene was mot trained, then the city need to be prepared to fund this lie. Call a special called meeting Friday, approve BBI training and have them here first thing Monday morning to complete budget training. Sitting in a meeting, claiming the numbers are not correct because of a lack of training is no excuse. The board needs to nip this in the bud now, get the training completed before the end of this month and there will be no more excuses for inaccuracies in January, 2015.

Ultimately, this board's goal is to rid this city of it's police department. The Mayor and board are planning to plead with the Lamar County Board of Supervisors on December 18, 2014, asking them to take over the Lumberton Police Department and I, along with other concerned citizens, will be there to rebut their plea. This board caused this problem and this board needs to correct the problem. We don't need Lamar County Sheriff's Office coming in to fix Lumberton's problem. If you have to file bankruptcy, then so be it. At least it will get someone in to actually go through the accounts and make sure cuts are not arbitrarily made; but that could be the problem. This board is saying they made cuts in every department but that's not true. The only department that suffered cuts was the police department, with a few cuts in public works, but they're counting people who died, retired and quit as cuts to the public works and clerk's office. As a matter of fact, they still have a retired, part time employee working in public works; despite the fact that the department does mot have the necessary funds to make any repairs. Other than checking lift stations and water meters, there's not much they can do. Alderwoman at Large, Cora Rogers, boasted that she gave up "the biggie", her insurance coverage, to help the city save money. Now let's be truthful Mrs. Rogers. You gave up your insurance because you are covered by your husband's insurance and due to federal and state regulations, you could not be covered by both. So don't look down your nose at the police officers and ask what they're giving up, when they put their lives on the line everyday, knowing they don't have the support of this mayor or board. As a matter of fact, Aldermen Quincy Roger gave up his insurance coverage years ago because of a similar situation but at least he has enough integrity that he's not using his compliance with federal regulations in an attempt to guilt law enforcement officers into accepting more cuts. Shame on you Cora! For some reason,this board does not want a police department. After Crider exited the meeting, Winston allowed some comments/questions from the citizens. Rachel Jefferson suggested that Alderman J. McGraw donate the $453.82 back to the city since we're so fiscally drained. The meeting took another turn and McGraw wanted the police to have Jefferson evicted from a public meeting for exercising her freedom of speech. It amazes me that the board does not want to pa2u to keep officers but at the same time, want them to serve as their personal bodyguards. According to sources, McGraw allegedly threatened to do bodily harm to Jefferson once he exited the board room.

This board is still playing the blame game; trying to place blame on the previous board. According to Alderman Quincy Rogers, the previous board left the required 25% cushion. Winston and McGraw said that's not true but the clerk said she wasn't trained for budgetarty, so how can they say what was or wasn't left? Also, how many more administrations are going to blame the closing of Cooper for the budget woes of this city? The bottom line is this, the bills were current when Mayor Holder was in office, we had a full police department when Mayor Holder was in office, MDEA was paid when Mayor Holder was in office; if they were not paid, the account would be twenty two months behind in payments, instead, they're nine months behind, which means the payments stopped getting paid during the Winston administration. Stop trying to pass the blame to others and accept your responsibility in these matters. Everyone knew the city was struggling before they had their names placed on the ballots; so each one of you came in with your eyes wide open and knew tough decisions had to be made. The city clerk is the auditor of the city and if she can produce reliable reports, she's useless. A person of integrity would admit that they had training, say they need help or step aside but that's not the type of person we're dealing with. She's going to lie til the end and a person that will lie, will steal. So, bite the bullet and pay for additional training and the end result will be the same; this job is too much for her to handle. While we're at it, is there a training class for the mayor? He needs to know his role in a code charter municipality. When I think about it, I realize that Lumberton is in the shape it's in because of the citizens. How can a moderately educated voter pool elect Ben Winston to be their representative three times? It just boggles the mind. Until this city set aside their perceptions of who they think should be in leadership positions, it will continue to falter.

Comments

  1. Cora need to sat down somewhere acting like a monkey in a musty wig.

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  2. Most of the criminals in Lumberton are related to the mayor or board members. That's why they don't want a police department. And Jay is drunk or intoxicated on any given day so he definitely don't want police on duty.

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  3. Are the police trained to know when a person is under the influence? MacGraw was obviously under the influence of something last night. Are the police afraid to pull him over because he's not afraid of putting them out of a job?

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  4. Remind me again why they got rid of Stephanie? At least she was paying the bills.

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    Replies
    1. I'm putting a blog post together about this matter. It will probably get posted Monday. I don't want to distract from the cat show and Christmas parade this Saturday.

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  5. They know they're reading the blog posts and they know you know what you're talking about. Since there's a vacant deputy clerk position, why not set aside their pride and hire you as deputy clerk? Let's be real, Merlin can't serve as clerk too much longer and they will have someone there that can move into the clerk position. If that's not reason enough, then they should hire you just to keep you from blogging.

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    Replies
    1. Are you kidding me? This board will watch this city crumble before asking for help. By the way, was Merlene's name misspelled on purpose?

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  6. Is it just me or does anyone else think our city clerk look like Mrs. Doubtfire?

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  7. Someone texted me and asked how did I know about Cora's insurance matter. I got the information from the city clerk. It was said during a board meeting. In case you didn't know, I actually pay attention at these meetings.

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  8. All I want to say is, Cora needs to buy a new wig or borrow one from her momma because she looks hideous.

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  9. Where is the Concerned Citizen group. Now is the time for them to act.

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    Replies
    1. We are getting organized. Hope to have our first meeting in January.

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  10. (((CORRECTION))) After reviewing this post, I noticed an error. I listed to the recording and realized that I provided the wrong response made by the city clerk, Merlene Wall. In the post, I said she told the Mayor and board that the Attorney General said that tie votes must be broken. I discovered that what she actually said was that she spoke with someone in the State Auditor's Office and that if a tie is not broken nothing happens. I apologize for the minor error. I generally blog from memory but unfortunately mistakes are bound to happen. It is my goal to have a transparent, blog based on factual information. Although this blog is primarily composed of fact based opinions, I make every effort to ensure that all posted information is accurate. Again I apologize and will continue to strive for excellence. Thank you for your consideration and continued support.

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