Turrell City Council keeping mayor in check with slow check signatures
Cooper: ‘ Because it’s me, the budget has been on lockdown for four years’
Residents of Turrell had to wait an extra day to have their garbage picked up because the check to put fuel in the truck had not been signed.
Mayor Dorothy Cooper said the city clerk was told last week that they would need to put fuel in the truck to make the garbage run this week, but the check was not written and a second check for petty cash had also not been signed by the city council.
“So because I didn’t have a check to put diesel in the in the truck, and because I didn’t have petty cash ready, we were unable to make a garbage run,” Cooper said.
Cooper said getting the City Council to sign checks has been a constant struggle since she became mayor four years ago.
City checks need two counter-signatures in addition to the mayor’s signature before they can be cashed.
Cooper had asked the city for a check for $264 for fuel. When she found out the check hadn’t been written, she decided to put off trash pick up because she didn’t want the truck running out of fuel mid-route.
The gas gauge on the garbage truck does not work.
“I wasn’t going to allow them to drive the truck and run out because then you have other issues trying to get it started,” Cooper said. “So I chose not to allow them to do so because we didn’t have the check. They told the clerk last week they needed gas. A check should have been written, but it wasn’t.”
Cooper said in the past she has always asked the city clerk to have two checks ready – one for fuel and one for petty cash just in case the other check hasn’t been signed on time.
“When we don’t have a check, we can fall back on petty cash so we can put fuel in the truck,” Cooper said. “I give them $50 to hold out until we get the check so they can still run the route.”
The petty cash check has been at City Hall waiting to be signed since August 17, Cooper said.
Cooper said the City Council has been deliberately waiting to sign checks until the council meetings and continually questions every check.
“Something is always coming up,” Cooper said.
“They will hold up the budget because they want to talk about it. I’ve done what they have asked me.
I’ve written down what they want me to write down. Then they always come back right then with something else. One council member will make a decision right there and right then to hold up the budget by not signing the check.”
And it’s not just fuel and petty cash. Cooper and the council have been at odds over her travel reimbursement and other expenses that she submits. She said she has gotten the city over $1.4 million in grants which has required he to travel extensively to lobby on the city’s behalf and she should not have to beg the city to get reimbursed for legitimate expenses.
“If I do anything additional, its been coming out of my pocket,” Cooper said. “And that’s not fair.”
The council recently refused to cut a check to reimburse Cooper for the cost of signs used to advertise the city’s July 5th celebration.
Cooper said she had to solicit a donation and sell some of her shoes to pay the bill.
“I put signs all around the county,” Cooper said. “So I put the invoice in for the signs to be paid since it was a city event. They never signed the check. So I had to pay the bill. I had to sell my shoes. I got a $100 donation and I got $30 for my shoes. So I ended up having to pay.”
Cooper said she feels as though the City Council has been holding the budget hostage for four years just because she is the mayor and that it is hampering her ability to run the city. “They’re supposed to be signing all of the checks,” Cooper said. “Only the ones pertaining to me aren’t getting done. They say I’m the problem. I’m not doing anything wrong. I told the council the way we have been doing it is working fine. If the petty cash check had been signed, we could have used that, which is what we have been doing.
But because it’s me, the budget has been on lockdown for four years.
There’s always a conversation about it and it’s always my fault. I’m trying to do the day-to-day operation of the city. I know how I need it run, but I can’t run it the way I want to run it because
everything is always suspicious to them.”
By Mark Randall