Godbold, aldermen feud over mayoral expenses

Published 5:00 am Thursday, May 17, 2001

Alderman at large Henry Newman and Ward 4 Alderman John Roberts,both mayoral candidates in this year’s elections, questioned MayorBill Godbold’s monthly mileage reimbursements, coast casino hotelreservations and other charges during a heated exchange atTuesday’s board meeting.

The aldermen expressed concerns over claims docket totals andreceipts showing the mayor had averaged over 2,000 miles andbetween $600 and $800 in monthly reimbursements in the last 18months. Also brought up were Beau Rivage reservations and othercharges on a city credit card used by the mayor.

Godbold said the mileage and charges were for “city business,”and he questioned the aldermen’s political motivations.

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“I want to know why you’re bringing it up now right before theelection,” Godbold said after Newman broached the subject during anormally routine approval of agenda items.

Newman said he did not bring up the questioned expendituresearlier because he did not want people accusing him ofmud-slinging.

“Right now, they can’t, because I’m out,” said Newman, who lostto Godbold in the May 1 Democratic primary.

Roberts, a Republican, faces Godbold and independent candidatePercy Rauls in the June 5 general election.

After the meeting, Roberts did not deny political reasons behindthe questions. With copies of city expenditure reports andreceipts, he said the city had spent $25,000 in the last 18 monthson mayoral-related expenses.

“I want the people to know what he’s spending and can’tsubstantiate,” Roberts said.

Roberts said he learned about the mayor’s use of a city creditcard about six weeks ago. In the meeting, he questioned when theboard had approved use of the card.

“It blew my mind,” Roberts said about the charges.

Godbold countered that Roberts had benefited from the card.

“You didn’t mind when we went to Washington D.C. and ate offthat credit card,” the mayor said, referring to lobbying trips toseek federal funding assistance on various city projects.

Godbold said all the expenditures except for the one on lastnight’s agenda had been authorized earlier. He said he wasunprepared to back up his spending records last night.

“You didn’t give me any warning,” Godbold told the aldermen.

Regarding the mileage charges, he said it was for cost of hisautomobile, oil, gas and other related expenses. Newman and Robertssaid the city was not responsible for furnishing the mayor acar.

However, Godbold said he can be reimbursed for use of hispersonal vehicle, which has a $675 a month note. Newman chargedthat the mayor was using the mileage reimbursement to pay his carnote.

Newman and Roberts also questioned on whose authority sanitationdepartment employees were let off work early on May 1, the date ofthe first primary. Godbold said he was continuing a long-standingpolicy that has been in place since before he took office.

“Their pay ought to come from you,” Newman told Godbold aboutemployee compensation for the time.

Other aldermen appeared uncomfortable during the exchangebetween the mayor, Newman and Roberts. Ward 1 Alderman DorseyCameron said he did not want to act on the charges that were raisedlast night.

“I don’t think it’s right,” said Cameron, who after the meetinglabeled some of the charges as “hogwash.”

At the end of the meeting, City Clerk Iris Rudman responded toan offhand comment from Godbold regarding her alleged involvementin providing the city records to Newman and Roberts. She said thedocuments were public records and she had to provide them whenrequested.

“I’m sorry you have to lay that at my feet,” Rudman said to themayor.

Later, Newman pointed out that Rudman was not in the officeduring one of his record searches. He and Roberts presentedreceipts totaling over $100 where they had paid to have recordscopied.

In other business during an otherwise routine meeting, aldermensaid Bill Loving needed to follow proper procedures in requesting amobile home be located on his Main Street property. The board saidLoving would need to go to the Board of Adjustment or PlanningCommission before they could act on his request.

Ward 3 Alderman the Rev. Jerry L. Wilson said he had receivedsome complaints about children being allowed to play games at thebingo hall. Assistant Police Chief Arlustra “Pap” Henderson saidthe police department is looking in to some fights that were notreported.

“It’s being taken care of,” Henderson said.

In employee matters, Godbold suggested the sanitation departmentlook into hiring women for garbage pick up duties. He said the cityis having trouble hiring men for the work.

Wilson added that the fire department should consider women forthat line of work. Brookhaven Fire Chief Paul Cartwright indicatedthe day is coming when women would join the department.

“I think it’s a good idea,” Wilson said.