12 Oct Jonanthan Cartu Reports City clerk’s resignation deserves response – Mississippi’s …
Headline news for The Natchez Democrat on Sept. 20, was “Natchez City Clerk Resigns.”
As an Alderwoman who has been involved in municipal government over 23 years, I don’t usually give remarks to the news media concerning personnel. However, in this instance I believe that the board of aldermen needs a voice. Charles Crump was one of two applicants recommended by the search committee. However, the city didn’t get a chance to interview either of the applicants. Crump was presented to the board of aldermen during the finance meeting in February as the recommended city clerk.
Since he was presented in open meeting without any members having a chance to interview him, we did a short interview at that time. We discovered that Crump had no previous background as a city clerk in Mississippi. His related background came from being the chief financial officer in the Madison Parish School District, Tallulah, Louisiana. Because the city wanted a full time city clerk and with the recommendation of the search committee, the Board of Aldermen hired Crump with the understanding that he would seek training through the Mississippi Municipal League City Clerk’s division and become a certified municipal city clerk.
The city previously hired the firm of Collins, Barr & Hembree LTD., certified public accountants, Madison (Mississippi), to perform a forensic audit at the beginning of this administration. The city also hired the firm to provide oversight of the city’s financials, and serve as part of the search committee who recommended Crump.
We thought that Crump would continue to work with Collins, Barr & Hembree LTD during the transition. In April we discovered that no transition process had taken place with Crump and Collins, Barr & Hembree LTD. Once the Board of Aldermen attempted to correct this situation, we discovered that Crump did not want the city clerk staff interacting with Collins, Barr & Hembree. Crump had hired several new staff in the clerk’s office without a training component.
According to the Stennis Institute and the Secretary of State’s Office, the budgeting process for municipalities is supposed to start in May. Traditionally, department heads are asked to submit a budget. The department heads then meet with the board of aldermen to discuss requested staff changes, equipment purchases, proposed needed improvements to the departments and the rest of information needed to form a complete tentative budget. When asked about this procedure in May, Crump replied that this was being set up. However, none of this was brought back to the board for meeting dates. By then we were in June and July with no budget workshops. Wallace Collins of Collins, Barr & Hembree LTD. had been brought back to work with the clerk’s department and subsequently supervised the budget process so that the City of Natchez would indeed adopt a completed budget prior to Sept. 30. Collins oversaw the millage process, publication deadlines, hearings and the organization of the budget.
It should also be noted that Crump made no suggestions to the board on financial matters during his tenure in office. At this point, Crump decided to submit his resignation effective September 30. The Board of Aldermen accepted the resignation.
Crump is quoted as saying he did get one audit closed out. The audit quoted was handled by Wallace Collins, Megan Edmonds and a local accounting firm. We are currently awaiting the results of the firm Crump recommended to handle the reconciliation of accounts in preparation for the 2018 audit. It is very important that audits are completed by the deadline set by the State of Mississippi. The board of aldermen is concerned with late audits because that could affect grants and state and federal funding of projects. We have been diligent in hiring accountants to reconcile accounts and get the city finances where we are meeting reporting deadlines in a timely manner.
Every member of the Board of Aldermen has spent many hours working on the budget, attempting to insure that our finances are in correct order and that we are being good fiduciary managers of city taxpayers’ money. The board has hired outside accounting firms to assist the clerk’s office in reconciliation of accounts in order to have the financials ready for audits. Since the Board of Aldermen is ultimately responsible for all financial transactions of the city, adopts the budget and the audit, we have to be totally involved in the process. I am unsure of the policies of budgeting utilized in Tallulah/Madison Parish School District. However, I do believe that the accountants we have used to assist the clerk’s office and Collins, Barr & Hembree LTD. understand the requirements of the accepted accounting principles and legal requirements for municipalities in the state of Mississippi.
Joyce Arceneaux-Mathis is mayor pro-tempore alderwoman for the City of Natchez.