The Star began asking the city for financial information after City Council members voted in March to discontinue a bus service for disabled citizens. It took weeks for city officials to comply. Tuesday night, council members voted to continue the bus service, though at a reduced level of funding.
The documents the mayor provided Tuesday, weeks after a reporter asked for them, partially satisfied The Star’s request. Attempts to obtain more information Wednesday were unsuccessful.
In a nearly 60-page packet provided at a council meeting, Bearden provided a record of expenditures and revenue, which were among the documents The Star requested from the city weeks ago. He also provided several budget documents and a record of the city’s water department losses and profits, which had not been sought.
Bearden wrote in an email on Wednesday that he would pass the request for more records along to an attorney.
Bearden also said Tuesday night that the city is not facing financial difficulties, and challenged the notion he’d ever said so. But all five members of the City Council have said they understood from the mayor that Weaver needed more revenue to pay for its expenditures.
“I was under the impression that we were in trouble financially because of the things the mayor said,” said Councilman Jeff Clendenning.
Bearden told council members this spring at public meetings that the city needed to raise revenue.
Councilwoman Shelia Field echoed Clendnning’s comments.
“He said we was in bad shape, so I assumed we were,” Field said. (Field said Wednesday she is resigning from the council for reasons unrelated to city finances.)
Councilwoman Ellen Cole also said the mayor repeatedly stated that the city was struggling financially.
“He told us that we were in really bad financial shape,” Cole said.
She and other council members said the mayor asked them to form a revenue committee to develop ways to increase the city’s income.
“He said we’ve got to have more revenue in here,” Cole said.
Cole said just two council members, she and Jeff Clendenning, showed up at a revenue committee meetings this spring. The ideas they developed at the meeting were shot down by the mayor, she said.
“Jeff made motions and he knocked them down,” Cole said. “I don’t guess we’re in that bad of shape after all.”
Clendenning, Field, and Cole’s statements were restated by council member Odis Pippin.
“What he has led me to believe is that we are in dire straits,” Pippin said.
Bearden, who has told The Star he will only speak in emailed statements, did not reply to an email Wednesday in which a reporter asked why he told other city officials the city needed to raise revenue.
Attempts to reach Councilman Mike Warren were not successful Tuesday. Warren has said he understood from the mayor that the city was in tough financial circumstances.
Pippin and Field said they took the mayor at his word concerning the financial matters. Clendenning said he reviewed the financial statements for himself but couldn’t find any significant indication of financial hardship.
“When he told us those things he always encouraged us to get with the city clerk and look at the finances,” Clendenning said. “I saw that we weren’t in as bad a shape as we thought.”
Star staff writer Laura Johnson: 256-235-3544. On Twitter@LJohnson_Star.