Review of the December 1, 2015 Board Meeting: The It's Time for a Fresh Perspective Edition
The December board meeting should have been short based on the agenda but it took almost three hours plus there were several meetings after the meeting (I will post the videos later). Noticeable absent from the meeting were Merlene’s bodyguards. During the time of the trial, she wanted to give the appearance that she was frightened of me so her husband sat with folded arms and a permanent frown but now that she’s lost her frivolous case, I’m no longer threatening. Interesting. The first agenda item was to approve the J.W. Puckett Co. Contractors estimate Number 1 in the amount of $100,130.oo for the 2015 FAA-AIP Grant Project. The board also voted to approve O’Neal Bond Engineering Estimate Number 2 in the amount of $2,000.oo for the FAA-AIP Grant Project. The board voted to hold a workshop on January 4, 2016 to discuss the MDA Cap loan application. As I stated for months in the blog, the City of Lumberton does not have the money to pay the matching funds for the Army Corp of Engineer Grant and now they’re scrambling to secure money to get the grant because Ben Winston signed a contract without board approval.
The was an order to approve the attendance of Cora Rogers and Merlene Wall’s attendance at a mandatory Secretary of State’s Office Certification Training Session for Municipal Officials on Tuesday, December 8, 2015 at the MSOS Capital Towers office at 125 S. Congress Street, Jackson, MS and to pay hotel, per diem and mileage. Merlene tried to convince the board that she was “told” that she was required to attend because she never had the training. After Quincy Rogers questioned the fact that the training was mandatory, she provided a letter that stated that it was mandatory for the Election Commissioner to attend and Linda Martin is the Election Commissioner for Lumberton and she was not on the agenda to have the $263.77/per person paid for this training. The vote was tied regarding Cora Rogers and she decided not to break the tie and the board voted to allow Merlene to attend. The board voted to approve the purchase of a $932.35 heater for the Public Works Department per request of Danny Davis. The board refused to pay Chief Cowart for her 2015 vacation time but decided to amend the agenda to allow the two weeks to roll over to 2016.
The following measures were given a motion by Alderman Quincy Rogers but failed to get a second: Vote to approve to increase Deputy Court Clerk Betty Speights hours from 20 hours per week to 32 hours per week, order to discuss and vote to hire Ms. Tiffany McClure as a part-time, part-time certified officer, and order to discuss and vote to hire Mr. Delandoe Watts as a part-time, full-time certified officer. Apparently, adding money to the budget through collection of fines and public safety is not important to the board members. FYI: Officers McClure and Watts are working free of charge as auxillary officers because they want to help protect the citizens and businesses of Lumberton. There was an order to discuss and vote on the mandatory 2015 Municipal Questionnaire to be submitted to the Secretary of State’s Office. After Alderman Quincy Rogers found several mistakes, the board had Merlene to go over each question on the questionnaire. During this time, it was discovered that Merlene either closed restricted fund account or used the money in general fund to cover some shortfalls. It’s estimated that there was at least $73,000 in that account and if anyone that has a bond associated with that account come to city hall to cash in those bonds, City of Lumberton will be in some serious trouble. It’s interesting that Quincy Rogers was the only person on the board concerned that the restricted funds account was closed without board approval.
The Department heads gave their reports. The only thing that stuck out was when Danny Davis announced that one of the wells was lost and our water source can be in jeopardy because the estimate for repair of the other well is $32,000. Cora Rogers wanted to address the board. She wanted to start a Cemetery Club so residents can report problems with the cemetery to the board every month. The following unpaid claims for November 2015 were paid: $31,802.20 general fund and $49,721.35 WSOM. The following paid claims for November 2015 were paid: $53,437.17 general fund and $29,382.57 for WSOM. The following was approved for payroll for the month of November 2015: $26,787.39 general fund and $12,477.19 WSOM for a total of $39,264.58. There was an order approving minutes of Regular Call November 3, 2015, Special Call November 5, 2015, Special Call November 10, 2015 and Special Call November 23, 2015. The order to discuss and vote to renew the annual contract with BBI for software and hardware was tabled to allow the city clerk to find other options. It seems that after 2 years of flubbing through BBI, getting trained over and over again and according to Merlene Wall, making a 90 on all her test, it seems that she can’t use the BBI system. Now, they’re looking for another software program and I guess they’re looking to give her another 2 years of training so they can ascertain that it’s not the software program but the user. There was an order to refund water deposit refunds. Also, there was an order to transfer to the WSOM account water bills paid from closed accounts $648.00. The board voted to close the meeting to go into executive session to discuss litigation.
The board continues to violate the rules of Open Meeting Laws. I guess I have to file another complaint. They announced they were going to discuss litigation but Merlene came out to say they were also going to discuss personnel issues in the police department. They never amended the agenda to include the blanketed statement of personnel issues in the police department. When they returned, they said no action was taken. Next on the agenda was citizen comments. Mr. Shane High wanted to get the board to add a state flag to the flag pole in front of city hall. There was a question about when the city was going to convert to reflective signs per state requirement. Next, Mr. Henry Jefferson wanted to address a letter he received about the sewer connection for Howell Nails. (I will post the video later.). It seems that after a year in business, someone filed a complaint saying Howell Nails didn’t have a separate water meter; that the water was connected to the house next door. Mr. Jefferson explained that they came to city hall, asked what was required and followed the guideline set by former mayor Ben Winston. Mr. Jefferson also noted that Ben Winston paid the connection fees and used his equipment to dig the water and sewer lines. Now, one year later, Cora Rogers had Merlene Wall to send them a letter, telling them their water will be disconnected unless they pay a $450 tap fee for the sewer line. The young lady that owns Howell Nails said she contacted city hall and talked with Merlene and asked what she needed to make sure her business was in compliance and Merlene gave her a list but never said her business needed a separate water meter and I believe the young lady. She’s been in business for over a year and someone allegedly made a complaint that there wasn’t two water meters on the property. So Cora Rogers goes over onto the property and inspect it, instructs Merlene to send out a letter and refused to tell the young lady who filed the complaint. I don’t think that’s right. I believe everyone has a right to face their accusers. I also think it’s time for more professionalism at city hall. I believe Merlene messed up….AGAIN…but instead of admitting that she made a mistake, she rely on her old habit of calling everyone else a liar. Typical and Kent Crider’s solution was to turn off the water that was connected to her home despite the fact that the young lady’s water bill was current.
Mr. Jefferson did not understand why it was an issue a year later when the former mayor and public works director never said anything about the water/sewer line that was installed and inspected. Cora Rogers said she understood his frustration and advised Mr. Jefferson that she cannot break the law. Well, after the meeting was adjourned, Cora Rogers broke the law. She instructed Merlene Wall to write a work order to have the water turned on at her brother’s house and she will come in later this week to pay the deposit. (I also have this on tape.) It seems that my speculations were correct; they will bend the laws for the ones they value but will abuse everyone else. How can Cora Rogers instruct the city clerk to turn on her brother’s water? According to the ordinance, he need to show the deeds that he’s the owner of the house because owners and renters have different deposits. Cora Rogers also told Melissa to check the records and make sure her brother didn’t have any delinquent bills. I guess when your sister is serving as the Mayor Pro-Tempore, you don’t have to worry about delinquent bills or show your identification or deed to get water services. The meeting was adjourned long before these matters took place but they stayed behind to handle business off the books. Something they’re used to doing. Apparently.