‘You’ve already spent the money’: Ferriday meeting to discuss COVID relief fund spending canceled for lack of quorum

Published 4:30 pm Monday, January 16, 2023

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FERRIDAY, La. — A Ferriday alderperson has accused Mayor Rydell Turner of breaking the law by frivolously spending federal COVID-19 relief funds without board approval. However, when the mayor called a special meeting Friday to discuss use of the remaining American Rescue Plan Act funds, only two board members showed up to the meeting.

The special meeting was scheduled for 5 p.m. Friday at Ferriday Town Hall. Alderman Gail Pryor and Elijah “Stepper” Banks were the only two to show up apart from Turner. Gloria Lloyd, Andre Keys, and Brandi Bacon were absent.

The meeting was canceled for lack of a quorum.

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“Why would I go to the meeting when you’ve already spent the money?” said Lloyd, who told the town council Tuesday that Turner had broken the law. “Common sense would tell you he’s already spent it, so why call the meeting?”

Turner has not responded to phone calls and messages requesting additional comments for this story. Last week, he said the top priority for the remaining funds is to update sewer lines and to clean up Ferriday streets.

“We have maybe $300,000 left to be used to clean up the town and repair our outdated sewer pumps,” he said.

Turner stated during Tuesday’s meeting that spent COVID relief funds were approved by the board when they approved the town’s budget, but Lloyd disagreed.

“They weren’t included in the budget,” she said. “The board voted Nov. 8 to take the money and put it into an account. We approved the budget in August and we got the money in October. We have not come back and amended the budget.”

The board received a second ARPA check for $592,503.50 in October 2022. The first check for $592,503.50 was received in 2021. Turner said last week that approximately $200,000 of the first check was used to pay employees COVID-19 hazard pay and the rest was used to clean up streets and catch the town up on bills.

Approximately $300,000 remains of the second check after $125,000 was paid to employees and another $100,000 was used for Ferriday’s clean-up effort, he said.

Lloyd said some part-time employees called her wondering why only full-time employees were paid hazard pay when the part-time employees also worked during the pandemic.

She said none of the money should have been spent at all.

“It’s not that I disagree with it (how the money was spent). It’s that he broke the law,” she said. “The board is the legislative body of the town. … The mayor does not respect the board. He told us before that he is the mayor and he can do whatever he wants to do. … The mayor does nothing the board votes for. … He brings nothing to the board.”

Lloyd said the town should have also advertised for bids on the work that was done, which the board did not approve.

“All I want him to do is to do right by the town of Ferriday,” she said. “Not one penny of that money should’ve been spent. You spent part of the money and now you want us to come back and correct your wrong? No, I’m not going to do that.”