New board must clear leftover election cloud

Published 5:00 am Monday, June 11, 2001

Tuesday’s voting closed the municipal election process foranother four years, and Brookhaven’s new board will take office thefirst week in July.

Serving city residents during the next four years will be MayorBill Godbold; Alderman Ward 1, Dorsey Cameron; Alderman Ward 2,Terry Bates; Alderman Ward 3, the Rev. Jerry Wilson; Alderman Ward4, Bob Massengill; Alderman Ward 5, Tom Smith; Alderman Ward 6,Buddy Allen; Alderman-at-large, Les Bumgarner.

While most city races went smoothly, the mayor’s race wasclouded with controversy in the final weeks.

First, there was the mysterious revelation that one candidatewas a convicted felon, which made him ineligible to seek publicoffice. Secondly, questions were raised about the amount ofmileage, hotel lodging and meal reimbursements paid to MayorGodbold. Then, three days before the election, questions wereraised with the city election commission over voting-relatedprocedures that included a suggestion of voter fraud on absenteeballots.

While the controversy generated a lot of discussion, it’sanyone’s guess if the mudslinging swayed any votes.

We stressed the importance of this election throughout thecampaign, but we’ll say it again: The next four years are veryimportant to Brookhaven and to Lincoln County. But, as important asthese next four years are to the future of our city, a cloud hasbeen left from the election controversy.

Questions raised by Aldermen John Roberts and Henry Newman overthey mayor’s mileage and travel allowance seem to be seriousquestions. Documentation we have seen shows excessive travel andlots of trips to the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

The only way to clear the air is for the new board to make itits first priority to review the city’s expense reimbursementpolicy. They should go one step further and ask the State AuditDepartment to audit the previous board’s expenditures.

There are many issues the upcoming administration will face,including the opening of the Mississippi School of the Arts,annexation, the airport, the mayor’s proposed intermodaltransportation system and the possibility of a new city hall.Dealing with each of these issues will be a challenge in what couldbe some lean budget years. The task will be even harder if thecloud left by the campaign has not been cleared.

We challenge the new board to be open with the public as theytake on these important challenges. The people’s business should beconducted in the open and not behind closed doors, as was the casein the past. Mayor Godbold agreed to do just that when he agreed tothe openness pledge by the Mississippi Center for Freedom ofInformation just days before the election.

We challenge the new board to be good fiscal stewards for thecity. While some programs come with lots of “bells and whistles,”officials should remember that it’s the taxpayers who’ll be pickingup the tab.

Congratulations to all the winners, and good luck to you as youtake on these important responsibilities.