Open Letter to Stacey Pickering: Time to Audit Lumberton

Yesterday, someone suggested that I write the State Auditor's Office and request an investigation into the City of Lumberton. I know I've blogged about it and the blog has reached a lot of people but it's time to take it to the next level. This was one of the ideas I wanted to implement as Mayor but I have no problem writing as a concerned citizen. The content of the letter pictured above is listed below and I hope others will take the time to write a letter too. I don't know if it will help but I plan on writing them at least twice a week about the condition of this city and once I have enough letters stacked without any response, I can then take them to the media and ask why are they ignoring the pleas to investigate Lumberton.

January 13, 2016

Stacey Pickering, State Auditor

Mississippi Office of the State Auditor

Hattiesburg Office

P.O. Box 16088

Hattiesburg, MS 39404-0688

Fax: 601-582-4170

Mr. Pickering,

For years, the finances of the City of Lumberton have been plagued with inaccuracies and it is my belief that money is being misappropriated. The current administration is entering their third year in office and they have not completed an audit of the finances of our city. Throughout your campaign, you promised more accountability and transparency. Unfortunately, your campaign promises have not reached the City of Lumberton but somehow, the City of Madison was selected for an audit. As a concerned citizen of Lumberton, I am writing this letter to find out why your office has failed to investigate the City of Lumberton?

For almost three years, the elected and appointed officials of the City of Lumberton have failed to in the area of fiscal responsibility. At the close of the FY 2015, the city clerk failed to amend the budget to address a $16,352 settlement payout to the State Labor Board. The failure to amend the budget caused the City of Lumberton to commit the egregious act of spending money that was never included in the budget but for some reason, this malfeasance was never addressed by your office.

The news outlets across the state are speaking of the controversial remarks made by Councilman Stokes of Jackson, saying his remarks endangered the lives of police officers. Well, over a year ago, the Lumberton Mayor and Board of Alderperson endangered the lives of the police officers serving in the City of Lumberton when they slashed the department to one officer per shift but there’s no report of savings from this budget cut. Another reason why an audit from your office is needed.

The current administration has made vast cuts to the budget but they continue to spend recklessly without any budget amendments. Things are so horrible in the City of Lumberton that the current city clerk does not know how to prepare a budget or budget amendments. Somehow, she managed to spend $72,000 from a restricted account, closed essential accounts and she’s currently using money from WSOM to sustain the general fund. Years ago, members from your office came to Lumberton to investigate misprint regarding a grant because it was believed that grant funds were improperly dispensed. But for months, former mayor, Ben Winston, was featured in several news stories, making claims that Tracey Giles, bureau manager of the Mississippi Development Authority, had given him permission to use the $450,000 sewer improvement grant as part of the matching funds for the $2.5 million dollar Army Corp of Engineer grant. While we’re on the subject of the $450,000 sewer improvement grant, what happened to those funds? During the regular scheduled meeting on January 5, 2015, the board and public works director claimed the City of Lumberton didn’t have enough money to pay $32,000 to repair a well at our sewer lagoon but we recently secured a $450,000 sewer improvement grant. Again, what happened to the money and if they can’t make essential repairs to the sewer system then why are they handing out raises?

What will it take to get your state office to investigate the City of Lumberton? Are we required to become completely insolvent before our fiscal woes get the attention of those working in your office? The current administration has failed to complete an audit in since taking office over two years ago, the current city clerk does not know how to prepare a budget or budget amendment, funds from a sewer improvement grant are missing, monies from a restricted account was spent and money is being borrowed from WSOM and it’s not being spread across the minutes. In my opinion, these violations are more than enough to warrant an investigation from your office. Hopefully, this letter will garner your attention. I appreciate your time and I will continue to write until I get a response.

Respectfully submitted,

Jonathan F. Griffith

Cc: Mississippi Office of the State Auditor

501 North West Street

Suite 801, Woolfolk Building

Jackson, MS 39201

Charles Herrington, WDAM-TV7

Carmen Farrish, WHLT-TV22

Hattiesburg American

Clarion Ledger

Lamar Times


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