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Mayoral candidate dispute intensifies

A war of words between incumbent Mayor Bill Godbold andRepublican mayoral candidate John Roberts escalated late last weekafter the city auditor was asked to look into city electedofficials’ mileage and other expenses.

In a statement issued Thursday, Godbold responded to questionsraised by Roberts and Alderman at large Henry Newman, a formerDemocratic mayoral candidate, regarding the mayor’s mileagereimbursement expenses and use of a city credit card. As he didTuesday, the mayor questioned the timing of the allegations aspolitically motivated.

“If these reports were improper, why weren’t they brought to myattention earlier? If the reports were incomplete, why wasn’t thisbrought to my attention earlier,” Godbold said. “I can only assumethat this was a last ditch effort to discredit me in hopes ofswaying the voters against me.”

In a response statement Saturday, Roberts countered that themayor has taken advantage of every citizen of Brookhaven.

“I cannot begin to surmise the reasoning behind Mr. Godbold’sstatement. However, I do know that after six days his statementdoes not begin to address, explain or justify alleged misuse of taxdollars. His gas bills and excessive credit card charges cannot allbe substantiated as city business,” said Roberts, who cited over$8,659 in charges to the Beau Rivage Casino, Grand Casino and LaFont Inn.

Maintaining the charges in question had board approval, Godboldsaid he had directed City Auditor Verbalee Watts to review thedocuments in question and, furthermore, examine expense reports ofevery elected official for the last four years. He also was goingto request a board of aldermen review of city policy on expensereports.

Watts said Friday that she had reviewed the mayor’s, aldermen’s,city clerk’s and police department’s records for all but the firstthree months of the current four-year term.

“I have found nothing wrong in anybody’s travel report,” Wattssaid.

Watts said she checked with the State Auditor’s Department tosee if there was any changes in state laws on city expense andreimbursements procedures.

According to her discussion, she said there hasn’t been anychanges and there were no problems if the board had approvedexpenditures. Also, a credit card charge is treated like any otherinvoice other than no interest can be charged.

“At this point in time, it looks proper,” Watts said.

Roberts said he welcomed the audit, not just from the currentfour years but for his entire time on the board. The three-termalderman went on to question the mayor’s authority to order theaudit review.

“Any expenditure for services provided by the city auditor mustbe approved by the board of aldermen. If the board has not approvedthe audit, who is paying for the audit?,” Roberts said.

Godbold indicated his Thursday statement would be the last onthe allegations from Newman and Roberts.

“I will not comment further on the conduct of my former andpresent opponent in the method and tone of their personal attack onme,” the mayor said. “I will not throw mud at them. I preferinstead to let the voters of Brookhaven decide if their attack wasfair and proper.”

Both Godbold and Roberts concluded their statements by toutingtheir service to the city. The mayor cited efforts toward newindustry, construction and Whitworth College while Roberts alludedto his attention to ward needs, a positive city direction andBrookhaven Trust efforts for Lampton Auditorium and WhitworthCollege.