Aldermen rebuff new mayor’s plea on old bills|[02/05/08]

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 5, 2008

PORT GIBSON — Instead of answering questions or attempting to find solutions to unpaid bills newly elected Mayor Fred Reeves presented at a Monday meeting, town council members told him to consult with the city’s chief financial officer.

The six-member panel passed a motion that will require the mayor to meet with CFO Elvin Parker to determine what caused the delinquent bills. The two will, then, appoint a committee to investigate the unpaid bills and “questionable expenses,” they decided. Ward 6 Alderman Michael White told Parker to return to the board in two weeks to discuss his findings.

Reeves, in office a month, said last week he wanted answers from the council members, most of whom are serving new terms, as to why bills, one of which dates back to 2003, have gone unpaid. After he took office Jan. 7, Reeves was ambushed with visits, phone calls and letters demanding payment to past services. The first of the letters was a $1,800 bill owed to Claiborne County for housing city inmates in 2003. The other paper bill that Reeves mentioned dates to September and asks for $13,847 to be paid to a firm for “professional engineering services.”

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Reeves, who unseated two-term mayor Amelda Arnold by a 180-vote margin in November, has said he hopes to resolve financial issues at City Hall.

His efforts, ongoing despite unresolved legal actions Arnold is pursuing, were deflated by council members when he mentioned the unpaid bills and suggested the city look at hiring a different firm to perform a complete audit for 2007. Seemingly ignoring his suggestion to look at a cheaper option, the board voted to rehire the Myles CPA firm of Tupelo based on a motion that left only Ward 5 Alderman Leslie Case dissenting. She, too, suggested they consider a cheaper route.

Although Reeves didn’t receive the answers he wanted at Monday’s meeting, community support for him wasn’t lacking. More than 30 people filled City Hall, following a growing trend among Port Gibson residents since Reeves was elected and then contested by Arnold. After his name was ordered to be taken off the general election ballot, only to be ordered back on by Circuit Judge Lamar Pickard, Reeves won the $40,000 job and has been learning the ropes since. His supporters have been with him nearly every step of the way, a change that was demonstrated Monday. A court hearing, where Arnold will present her case — that Reeves wasn’t a resident of Port Gibson at the time he ran — hasn’t been rescheduled.