Turrell mayor challenges council for proof of malfeasance
City officials clash over mileage reimbursement
If it’s a fight they want, then it’s a fight they shall get.
Turrell Mayor Dorothy Cooper has issued a challenge to the City Council to show evidence of any wrongdoing on her part — or else resign.
Cooper posted her challenge on Facebook after the latest angry confrontation with councilmembers over mileage reimbursement and the purchase of a city vehicle for her to drive.
“I’ve worked very hard for Turrell, but I have met with nothing but conflict from the city council,” Cooper said.
Councilman Jeff Thomas said he hasn’t seen what Cooper posted — he’s blocked from her Facebook page — but added that it is Cooper who is the source of the constant controversy and not the city council.
“My job is to do what is best for the city of Turrell,” Thomas said. “There are going to be times where we don’t agree. But it isn’t anything personal. When you try and ask her questions she gets mad and says ‘don’t question me.’ She feels like just because she is the mayor, she wants you to believe whatever she says.”
Cooper said she attends a lot of meetings on the city’s behalf to try and make things better in Turrell, but has had mileage expenses withheld by the council.
According to Cooper, auditors found in the minutes where the city set the mileage reimbursement at 57.5 cents per mile. She offered to lower that to 51 cents per mile, only to have the council come back at 42 cents per mile.
“I told them that (57.5 cents) was took too high and that I will just go with 51 cents,” Cooper said.
“We never did change it.
But now they want to change it down to 42 cents.
I asked them what their reasoning was.”
Thomas said the 51 cents per mile is the federal rate for mileage reimbursement. The state rate is 42 cents per mile.
“It passed the council 5 to zero,” Thomas said. “And then she vetoed it and made a whole big stink about nine cents a mile. But she wants us to believe she is in there for the city?”
Thomas said the city has paid Cooper $4,500 from January 1 to May 5 in mileage reimbursement.
The problem, said Thomas, is that most of the time Cooper doesn’t present the city council with any proof that the mileage was for city business.
“All she does is write down the mileage and thinks we are just supposed to sign it,” Thomas said.
Thomas said Cooper presented them with $400 in travel expenses this past weekend, claiming she went to the Rose Law Firm in Little Rock on city business.
However, Cooper also was in Pine Bluff for a book signing that weekend, Thomas said.
“So for me, I asked her how do we know you went to the Rose Law Firm in Little Rock to deal with city business?” Thomas said. “She showed a picture she took with some lady — nothing in the background.
No proof. I asked her what the meeting was for and she said it was a bond signing. I said, well, you didn’t get any paperwork for a bond signing? But you went to Pine Bluff for your own personal signing. She said she coincides her personal business with city business. But she doesn’t have any proof of it though. To me it looks like she used the city to pay for her Pine Bluff trip.”
Cooper also expressed concerns over the council’s decision to purchase a 1999 car for her to drive within a 60 mile radius instead of paying mileage.
While she has repeatedly asked the council to purchase a car, Cooper questioned the logic of buying such an old vehicle.
“Our last council meeting I was speaking up for myself about putting me in a 1999 vehicle,” Cooper said. “What is the valid reason?
A 1999 vehicle can not be safe. Why would you want to put me in an unsafe vehicle?”
Cooper said the city council has been passing laws directed at her more out of anger instead of backing her efforts improve the city. “They are coming in and they are angry and passing votes under me,” Cooper said. “A councilman got very angry at me and was pointing his pen at me while I was talking. Then he brought up my personal vehicle which I had issues with. That has nothing to do with council business.
Why are you bringing that up?”
Cooper said she is entitled to be reimbursed for her mileage expenses and is only following the law.
According to Cooper, from Jan. 1 through the end of March she has attended about 27 meetings.
“If you look at my Facebook page I always take pictures wherever I go,” Cooper said. “Why are they mad that I am driving my vehicle? I’m not asking them to put tires on it or change the oil. I do all that myself. And they should be thanking me because I put money back in my vehicle and go back and work hard for Turrell.”
Thomas said the issue of mileage reimbursement didn’t come up until Cooper bought her own personal vehicle. He believes she is using the city to pay for her car.
“There is not a day that goes by where she doesn’t go somewhere for mileage,” Thomas said.
Cooper said she is working hard on the city’s behalf. Before she became mayor Turrell was riddled with trash and overgrown grass; there was misappropriation of funds; and broken
Now, roadside trash is now being picked up. Lots are being mowed. The city has a new water tank and backup generator. And she has already secured some grant funding to help fix the city’s long neglected sewer pond.
Cooper said she is being prevented from doing her job by the “unfair tactics” of a quorum of councilmembers who are holding her back.
She has offered to resign if the council can find any wrongdoing on her part or demonstrate where she is not going “above and beyond the call of duty” for the good of Turrell.
If not, then Cooper said they should be the ones to resign.
“This is too much craziness,” Cooper said. “I’m working hard for Turrell and they are all mad at me.
God has taught me patience and understanding. But still, it is discrimination and I don’t know why. It’s hard to keep doing things for the community when you have so much opposition. Let’s work at this reasonably regardless of how we feel about each other. We have got to come together for the good of the community. My motto is Turrell matters.
And I am going to be here to turn things around.”
Thomas said he used to get calls all the time from citizens complaining that the council is picking on the mayor. However, once they attend a meeting and see what is really going on, Thomas said they quickly see that Cooper isn’t telling the whole story and is the
real source of the city’s problems.
He has no plans to resign just because she isn’t getting
her way. “I get more people now telling me that we need to stand up to her,” Thomas said. “I’ve been on the city council for ten years. If the citizens thought I was doing anything wrong, somebody would have run against me and taken my seat. I haven’t seen what she wrote on Facebook. But Turrell is in need of help.
And with her posting everything on Facebook, who would want to come and put a business in Turrell when they see the division between the mayor and the council?”
Councilman Charles Webster declined to respond to Cooper’s allegations, but said that the council is not picking on Cooper.
“Absolutely not,” Webster said.
Webster urged residents to attend the monthly city council meetings so they can see for themselves what is going on.
“Come to our monthly meeting and come out and visit with us,” Webster said. “All of these things are discussed at our monthly meetings.”
By Mark Randall