Leader Blues

Friday, August 18, 2006

TOP STORY >>Aldermen wonder why bills piling up

IN SHORT: Council members Waymack and Polantz seek audit of yard mowing and other practices that may have caused a $400,000 shortfall.

Leader staff writer

Cabot Aldermen Odis Waymack and David Polantz are not often on the same side of an issue, but Waymack is supporting Polantz’s efforts to have an accounting firm look at the city books.

Polantz is the sponsor of a resolution that will go before the council Monday night to advertise for an accounting firm. Polantz, chairman of the council’s budget committee, is concerned about some confusion in the 2006 budget that made it appear the city had more than $400,000 than it actually had at the beginning of the year.

“I have no faith in the validity of the numbers,” Polantz explained about wanting to hire an outside accounting firm.
Waymack says he is concerned about that, too, but he also wants someone to look into peculiarities at public works, where city workers authorized mowing the same residential yard three times in one week.

Waymack told Mayor Stubby Stumbaugh in a letter dated Friday that he happened upon the paperwork about the excessive mowing while he was looking for other information. Waymack sent copies of the letter to City Attorney Clint McGue and to local newspapers.

Waymack told Stumbaugh he was investigating a complaint two weeks ago from Harold Smith, who lives at 13 Saint John, that the city had towed away his boat and car. Smith works out of state and is seldom home.

On Aug. 7, Waymack filed a Freedom of Information request with the city for all the paperwork pertaining to 13 Saint John. There was nothing about the boat and car, but included in the documentation he received from the city were invoices that showed Smith’s yard was mowed June 8, June 9 and June 16 at a cost to the city of $130.

Waymack went on to tell the mayor that he learned that J. Pepper, who picks up appliances and other items, had removed the boat and car at the request of Jack McNally, who works in code enforcement. McNally also authorized Rodney Kilgore to mow Smith’s yard on June 9 and June 16.

The first mowing on June 8 was authorized by Richard Burt, another code enforcement officer. The work was done by Carl Pickard.

At the same time Kilgore was paid for mowing Smith’s yard, he also was paid for mowing yards at 90 Pond Street, 69 Sycamore, 72 Barnwell and 38 Oak Meadows on June 9 and June 16.

After his discovery that the city is paying to have yards mowed at weekly intervals, Waymack re-quested all the documentation on activity in code enforcement from Jan. 1, 2005 to the present.

“What I happened upon accidentally was just for one month this year. I want to know how much more there is out there,” Waymack said.

“I want to find out if there is corruption in public works,” he said.
Jim Towe, director of public works, said Friday he wasn’t sure why the same yard received so much attention and wouldn’t have an answer until McNally is back from vacation on Tuesday.

“I know there was some problem with both code officers responding to complaints about the same place,” he said.
But he added that he believes it was an isolated incident.

The code officers make every effort to contact property owners about tall grass and cluttered yards.
The city stepping in and cleaning and mowing is a measure of last resort, Towe said.