The Fork in the Road

We have one more day before we discover the fate of the City of Lumberton. On Friday, the board went into executive session to discuss the budgetarty shortfalls. As the city appoaches the fiscal cliff, the board still finds time to violate the laws, but I guess at this point, it really doesn't matter. Thankfully, the State of Mississippi, is finally cracking down on the disregard for the Open Meetings Act. After a recent investigation, it was discovered that the Biloxi Board of Supervisors violated the Open Meetings Act one hundred and fourty times within a period of less than twenty four months. Now that larger municipalities are being investigated, I'm almost certain that smaller municipalities, like Lumberton, has an equally staggering number of violations. I just don't understand why a person would run for office and have no regard for the laws governing that office. If transparency is the goal of the law, and according to the Legislature that is the goal, then it seems extraordinary to me that an executive session would be needed in almost every meeting. That doesn't lend to much transparency. I guess that's something that will be addressed in due time. Now, for the matter at hand, the elephant in the room; the fact that there's not enough money in the budget to pay the employees or bills. What's going on? How did we get here? Are they using the BBI software or using pen, paper and a calculator to try to keep up with the budget?

The city is in dire straights and in a last ditch effort, the board sent certified letters to Governor Phil Bryant and State legislators for assistance. Personally, I think this is just another tactic used by the board to create a papertrail; trying to have a record to show they tried to do something. But it's too little, too late. To understand the disconnect between the citizens and those elected to represent the citizens, you would need to go look at one of the old videos uploaded on the Lumberton Informer Facebook page. In the video, Tina Speights-Holder, explained to Mayor Winston that the citizens are not represented, that the board does not value our input or opinions. She also pointed out how the board make one bad decision after another but refuse to consider what the citizens have to say. At this meeting, the board accepted an insurance quote without having anything in writing. As this citizen pleaded for representation, Mayor Winston became agitated and barked that the board members know more than the citizens. Do you still stand by that statement Mayor Winston? I would ask him this question at the meeting, but now that the city is on the brink of shut down, Mayor Winston has opted to stay home and refused to attend the board meeting. He can run, he can hide, but he's going to be known as the mayor that led Lumberton to bankruptcy. During that same meeting, Rachael Jefferson also tried to encourage the board to seek citizen input and to read the insurance contract before taking a vote but her plea also fell on deaf ears. This failure to listen to citizens caused the city to pay two different insurance companies for the same coverage. Another waste of taxpayers money, but the board knows more than the citizens (sarcasm intended).

Will the Governer intervene? I seriously doubt it. What does this mean? I really don't know. I guess the board will cower, and go behind closed doors to let tne citizens and employees know that they have failed to be worthy of the votes they received. There's no way they can blame the previous board. They publically voted to pay expenditures without knowing what was in the budget, accept insurance without actual quotes and they've kept a clerk that obviously has no clue about her duties and responsibilities. It is my hope that they accept the parts they played in this fiscal diaster and stop hiding in executive session. You have failed this ciy, so man up/woman up and look into the eyes of those you failed. You need to see the families you've failed. You need to see the citizens you've failed. Stop throwing your rocks and hiding your hands. So, get Lindsey Carter on the phone and have him at the meeting with the Capter 9 paperwork. The situation is bad and hiding in executive session will add fuel to the fire.

There are those that say I only focus on the problem and never offer a solution. Well, that's not true. I'm always offering solutions in this blog and you're kidding yourself if you don't think the alderpersons are not reading this blog. If not, they wouldn't be in executive session worried about what I have to say. I don't know how we're going to get tnrough this but going forwatd, here's my suggestion (since you asked). Once the buget is established, in open session, not via a presentation by an embattled city commissioner, allow each department head to manage their budget. They are called department heads. Each department head in Lumberton has the same salary and one has a take home vehicle. Why should they rely on the city clerk to tell them how much money they have? Each department has a clerk, the police department, the public works department and the city clerk's office. For the record, I don't know if the young lady in public works is a clerk or not but she's in the office and not out digging ditches, so she can serve as the clerk. Once the budget is established, allow each department to manage their budget. I'm sure BBI can train more than one person on how to use the software. Let's take the police department. They have a clerk, and if the department head can show just cause for needed staff, then that department head makes the decision on staffing. As a matter of records, the Chief of Police did not cut her clerk hours in half, the board did. The chief did not cut the number of officers, the board did. The clerk in the police department has collected more than enough in past due fines to justify working 40/week but the board robbed the clerk of her hours to put money into another account. As a result, there's not enough hours to collect past due or current fines. Talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face. It amazes me that the board threw money into an account for the fire department and allow them to run the department as they see fit. As a matter of fact, the fire department does not answer to the board regarding personnel or spending; the fire chief does not attend board meetings and has failed to turn in receipts for purchases. But the fire department is given a budget that is completely funded by the City of Lumberton. Why are other departments prohibited from managing their budgets? Like I said, I don't have all the solutions but I have a few. I don't feel sorry for the board members or the city clerk. My heart aches for those that are affected by the poor decisions of this board. The countdown has begun and Wednesday night, they will either make the necessary tough decisions or try kicking this can further down the road.

Comments

  1. I'm sadden by all this but I'm also sadden that the police department didn't do more. Two of the biggest drug dealers ride around Lumberton, blasting their music in their Mercedes and Cadillac but never arrested. Those would be some good cars to confiscate. Plus, nothing has been done about the Sunday drug ring at Dollar General. The only thing I'm looking forward to is the Lamar County Sheriff Department taking over.

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  2. U should b sadden. When county does have to take over u will see more deals going down.Not because they won't b doing their job lord knows they r run ragged covering all of Lamar county. With that being said let's say closest deputy is in Oak Grove how many deals do u think will happen by the time the deputy makes it to lumberton?

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