Ridgecrest argues finances, tables personnel matter

Published 12:16 am Friday, July 13, 2012

RIDGECREST — Personal feelings and bickering overshadowed any business the Ridgecrest Board of Aldermen needed to attend to at its Thursday meeting.

The town’s new police car was the main topic of discussion, when Mayor Dwayne Sikes brought up issues with the certificates of deposit the town voted to use to purchase the car.

The board voted at its last meeting to spend $21,000 to buy a 2009 Ford Crown Victoria for Police Chief Larry Lawrence. The car has since been purchased and is in use.

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Sikes said he originally thought two of the town’s CDs were non-restrictive and could be used to purchase the car, because, he said, that is what the state auditor told him.

As it turns out, the CDs are restrictive and can only be used for road funding and meter funding.

Town Clerk Cyndie Dillon informed the board of a discrepancy in the amount of one of the CDs they voted to take out of the bank.

Dillon said the board’s minutes reflect that they voted to take out a total of $27,500 from the CDs. But Sikes jumped in quickly Thursday night to say the minutes were wrong, that the actual amount was $37,500.

“Now then, let’s get our info straight,” Sikes said.

Ruby Andrus, who works part-time for the town in accounting, told Sikes per the minutes of last month’s meeting the board voted to take out a $10,000 CD and a $17,500, totaling the number Dillon quoted.

Sikes again disagreed on the amounts.

Dillon explained that Andrus was trying to say that the board voted on the wrong amount and that the board voted to take out the CDs under the impression that they were non-restrictive.

Since the board can’t use the CDs to pay for the car, Dillon said in order to put them back in the bank, the town needed a resolution signed by all the aldermen and Sikes.

“Well we’ll sign off on it, and we’ll vote on it,” Sikes said. “And you can take it down right this time.”

Dillon said she had it right the first time.

“Don’t interrupt me when I’m talking,” Sikes told Dillon.

Sikes went on to say that he thought at last month’s meeting that one of the CDs was $17,500, but when he got to the bank he found out it was $27,500.

Sikes also said Dillon had never mentioned, before the meeting, the need for a resolution.

“I told you that this morning, and you told me I was incorrect, so I called the bank,” Dillon said.

Sikes once again told Dillon not to interrupt him.

“I’m not going to tell you again,” Sikes said. “You’re the town clerk, you forget them things.”

Sikes said he made a mistake on the CDs and said he talked to the town’s auditor, Myles Hopkins of Silas Simmons, who he said told Sikes the town could take out a long-term loan to pay for the new police car.

Andrus said that she talked to the town’s certified public accountant, Jeri Sue Tosspon, who she said made the recommendation the board vote and adopt a payment plan for the cars, so it did not end up in a similar position as the previous administration, which is battling allegations of financial corruption.

Sikes said Andrus was not saying anything that he had not already planned to do. Andrus said the reason Sikes did not know that the CD was for $27,500 was because it was obtained prior to the audit, so that is why Tosspon was recommending a payment plan be on the record in the minutes.

After a couple of minutes of back-and-forth, Lawrence recommended the board ask Tosspon to come back at the next meeting to give her recommendations before the board.

Alderman Robert Maples made a motion the board table the matter until next meeting.

Maples made a motion the board go into executive session, which Dillon said was illegal.

Resident Mitzi Boyler said the board could do what it wanted as long as it made a motion and it was seconded.

After some arguing about what was illegal about the executive session, an audience member pointed out that executive session was not on the board’s agenda, so she agreed with Dillon that is was illegal.

The aldermen decided to call a special meeting at 7:20 p.m. today to take up the personnel matter they were going to talk about in executive session.

A discrepancy between whether Sikes told Dillon and other employees that the town did not hire convicted felons spurred an argument among Dillon, Sikes, Dillon’s husband, Paul, the town’s water plant manager, and several audience members.

Accusations of insubordination and disrespect were thrown around by both sides, and near the end of the meeting, one resident said it was a shame to see the division among the town’s employees and elected officials.

The resident said he has seen the same arguing in town hall since 1968.

Alderwoman Jamie Harrison said she agreed and hoped the board could work toward unity.

Sikes said an employee not doing something he told them to do would not be tolerated.

“I am the immediate boss of this town, the board governs this town … I make mistakes, yes I do, but are they honest mistakes, yes,” he said.