Italy City Council addresses employee spending

In a called meeting Tuesday night, the Italy City Council addressed issues of employee spending. Mayor Pro Tem, Rodney Guthrie led the meeting in the absence of the Mayor.

During citizen comments, Karen Mathiowetz told the council there was city spending she was unhappy with. She said that several months ago she had addressed the council regarding the city spending money on cake and ice cream for employees and offered to make any cake the city needed. She noted that no one had asked her to do that and the city was still spending money on those items.

She said that in all the offices she had worked in, the employees had always taken up a collection for cake, flowers, and items for bosses. She noted that the city had paid $187 for flowers for boss’s day and the mayor. She told the council they were not being good stewards with the citizens money and she wanted this to stop.

Jimmy Hyles also addressed the council regarding spending.

“I have concerns about consent agenda with y’all just approving the bills. Yall are not looking.”

He told them that no tax dollars can be spent for an employee. “That is the rule,” Hyles said. “That has to stop tonight, period.”

Steven Farmer said that at the last meeting, he ran across things that caused him to pull the bills from 2011 to 2015. He wanted to see what the council could do to stop this. He mentioned the following:

From 2011 to 2015, the Water Department spent $1,400 on employee lunches, $1,470 on drinks like coffee, gatorade, etc. and $370.23 on miscellaneous. He said that $697.86 was spent with no receipts furnished and no descriptions on what was purchased.

“In our policies, it states we have to have documentation for reimbursement.”

From 2014 to 2015, they spent $809 on Gatorade, lunches, coffee, etc.

In contrast the Police Department spent $240.44 on food from 2011 to 2015. From 2014 to 2015 they spent $24.98.

Out of the General Fund from 2011 to 2015, $6,585 was spent. Employee Development was $492.52, C.V. Johns’ Retirement Party $645, gift cards $1,472.00 and $3,974.00 on flowers, cakes, meals etc. He mentioned flowers that were sent to the Jackson family.

“I think this has to stop,” said Farmer. “Everyone has a boss only once a month when we meet. No one has accountability.”

The City Attorney, Ed Voss was asked if spending city funds on these items was against the law. He said he had not been furnished any information on this so he could not comment. When asked again, he said, “If these are not spent on city business, then it is a problem.”

Paul Cockerham said that this was why they voted not to approve spending in the last meeting. He said the financial paperwork they were being furnished now is new to them. They were never furnished a breakdown like they were now.

“I appreciate the citizens that speak. It is the citizens money.”

“My family will be happy to pay the money back,” said Frank Jackson. “I lost 4 people in my family in one year. We can pay the money back.”

Farmer said he did not mind doing things for the employees, but they must follow the law. Cockerham stated that the Penal Code addresses this issue and has penalties and the council can be held accountable. He said they need to stop it and move forward. Voss said that this type of spending could be illegal.

Farmer and Cockerham voted to pay all bills except the personal ones for Gatorade, lunches, coffee, etc. Guthrie, Richards and Jackson voted against it. Another motion was made to pay all bills. Guthrie, Richards and Jackson approved the motion. Farmer and Cockerham voted against. Motion passed.

Two quotes were presented for the lettering for the Cargill-Gallman Pavilion. The first one was for plastic letters and installation for $686.00. The second was for aluminum letters with installation for $1,500. The council had previously approved a maximum of $500. Farmer suggested they wait until more money was available and purchase the metal letters. Jackson said he would approve that if the council promised it would do this in a timely manner.

“I would prefer you wait and get the metal letters,” Charles Hyles said. “I don’t want to see plastic letters on the $75,000 pavilion.”

The council voted to take no action now.

Charles Hyles addressed the council concerning a controlled burn by the Italy Fire Department of the house that Central Baptist Church owns on South Ward Street where the Royal Ambassadors used to meet. He said that it would save the church a lot of money if the council would approve the request. This would only be done if all the appropriate permits would be approved. The council approved the request.

The council discussed the warrant officer position. The city has $2.4 million in outstanding warrants so this position is very important. Guthrie said it would depend if the position paid for itself if they would approve funding it for another year. Right now the salary comes out of court security. The council voted to allow current officers to work on days off in this position and pay them time and a half.

The council went into executive session from 6:50 to 7:40 to discuss the appointment, employment, evaluation, reassignment, duties, discipline or dismissal of Dean Carrell.

After reconvening into open session, the council voted to take no action.

Farmer said that after looking at everything, they have addressed what is wrong. He said they would not terminate or write up any employee if they did not know or had not been told they could not purchase these items. He told the department heads from this point forward, if they are caught spending money on personal items, he would bring them up for termination.