Junction City officials questioned about spending

January 09, 2004|LIZ MAPLES

JUNCTION CITY - Jesse Girdler, a resident, tried to get to the bottom of the city's financial problems Thursday night by questioning everything from a $15 chocolate cake to $10,000 spent on an environmental lawyer.

Also, Police Chief Jimmy Gipson and Boyle County Sheriff LeeRoy Hardin had a brief, tense discussion about 24-hour police protection for the city.

Councilwoman Connie Vernon said the city's financial troubles started when former Mayor Dale Walls cashed in a certificate of deposit for $24,401 and if it hadn't been cashed, the city would have had $4,000 in the general fund to start 2003, the year that current Mayor G.G. Harmon started.

"I commend you. I commend you all for forming a clique," Girdler said, accusing Vernon and Councilwoman Roberta Zeller of forming a voting bloc.


Vernon said that she and Zeller go head-to-head on a number of issues, and that the two of them are resigning in December and that Girdler is free to run for their seats.

"I don't appreciate you showing up after 30 years without helping," Vernon said to Girdler.

Girdler asked why residents were told the city had a $500-an-hour attorney to fight legal action by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on lead-contaminated soil. The price was actually $286 an hour. The city has spent $10,000 in two years on the attorney.

No one on the council explained why the contract fee was different than the amount residents were originally told they paid the attorney.

Girdler then moved to Mayor Harmon's radio.

That "takes the cake," Girdler said.

The city bought Harmon a radio earlier this year so he could communicate with city employees.

The city paid $8 a month for a pager and $50 a month for a cell phone for Walls. Harmon asked the city to instead pay a one-time expense of a $360 for a radio.

Harmon told Girdler that he thought his comments were personal and politically motivated. He said that he believed Girdler had meetings with the former mayor and Douglas.

"You need to keep your cool," Douglas said to the mayor, and then said that Girdler had fussed at him about the same purchases that he had fussed at the mayor.

Girdler had reviewed 96 receipts from Wal-Mart for $4,000 of purchases. He asked about a $15 cake and $108 in chicken tenders and potato wedges for one year.

The city spent money for city expenses, like cement, electrical tape, lawnmowers, weed trimmers, cleaning supplies and oil.

Harmon said that in the past the city had fed employees on special occasions, but now that has stopped.

Douglas said that he had voted to approve bills in the past that he felt he shouldn't. Later, he said that he wanted the city to make cuts because it promised residents it would. Asked what he wanted to cut, Douglas said overtime hours. He pointed to the police department.

Gipson said that over the holidays there had been overtime because one police officer had taken some vacation time and someone had to cover his shifts.

Girdler also questioned photo processing. Gipson said that the pictures were of crime and wreck scenes and had to be taken and developed.

He said that he had planned to buy four digital cameras with a state grant but had to use the money instead to hire back one of the officers that had been laid off.

Earlier, Boyle County Sheriff LeeRoy Hardin said that his deputies would answer calls in the city, but they had to be notified that no one would be on duty first.

He said sometimes Gipson calls, but sometimes not.

Gipson said that during the day when there isn't an officer on duty, he carries his radio and responds to calls, even if it is his day off. He said if he plans to be out of town, he calls or tells one of the deputies.

"That's not true," Hardin said.

He said deputies have been told a few times.

"I'm not here to argue," Hardin said.

Several council members thanked Hardin for his offer to help. Gipson said that he had worked out the schedules to have protection.

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