Til You Do Right By Me...

Last week, I posted a copy of the letter from the Army Corp of Engineers where former mayor Ben Winston presented paperwork attesting that the monies needed to secure the $2.5 million dollar grant was available in the general fund. I’ve attended every meeting and there was no public discussion giving the mayor permission to enter into contract on behalf of the City of Lumberton. If you look at the signatures, you will see that the letter was attested by the city clerk, Merlene Wall. Where are the minutes approving this measure? Was this another matter that was discussed privately during executive session? If it was discussed during executive session, I doubt the board members can recall the discussion since they have lapses in memory whenever they go behind closed doors, per the response from the investigation of the Mississippi Ethics Commission.

Well, I know Winston’s action was a violation because I’ve attended meetings for such a long time and know that any action taken by the mayor or board should be spread across the minutes. Here in Lumberton, the people elected to serve as our representatives, our voices never attended a board meeting before they were elected. How dreadful! I was looking through Attorney General Opinions to see what specific law was violated and I found one. It seems that at one point, Kent Crider actually went through the process of getting an actual opinion. Now he just make claims that he called the Attorney General but we all know that’s not official because it’s not in writing. On August 20, 2010, Crider was looking for an opinion because he felt the mayor paid a claim without board approval and the response seems to apply to the recent violations that took place here in Lumberton. Interesting!!

In Opinion No. 2010-00463 pursuant to Section 21-39-9 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). Every board member is aware that Ben Winston signed a contract without board approval and the documents he presented to the Army Corp of Engineers was attested by Merlene Wall, City Clerk. As a matter of fact, Alderman Hugh James “Jay” McGraw and Alderwoman at Large, Cora Rogers traveled to Vicksburg, Mississippi to witness the signing of a contract that was never approved by the board. The board members had enough time to travel back and forth to court to support Merlene Wall but they were neglecting to do their jobs and now the City of Lumberton is scrambling to come up with matching funds to fulfill a fraudulent contractual obligation. I wonder if potential mayoral candidate Kent Crider is going to write to the Attorney General regarding this matter? I doubt it but I will draft a letter and see if we can get the ball rolling because an investigation into this matter is long overdue. As I stated yesterday, the jail Merlene P. Wall planned for me is the one she’s going to rot in.


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