Financial fiascoes fuel city drama

The town of Grambling made news once again as the current infighting has led to another special-called meeting on Tuesday night. The Council made a decision to reinstate Chief Thomas Clark as a working state official. Various media outlets reported that Clark had been fired, but Mayor Pro Tem Edward Jones said that Clark had been placed on suspension without pay.According to Jones, Clark received a letter stating he was suspended on Friday, Feb. 13.

“I suspended him because of some things he had done that was out of line,” said Mayor Martha Andrus in an interview Wednesday. Andrus was mum on the reasons for his suspension, saying, “I don’t know if I need to [go] into that right now.”

This left the Council highly displeased, evident in their reinstating of Clark.

“She left our city vulnerable to criminal activity,” said Jones. “According to the Lawrason Act, the chief of police is accountable to the mayor and council, and the mayor by herself cannot suspend the chief of police by herself without council approval.”

Under the mayoral duties found in the Lawrason Act at LMA.org, it states: “the board does not have authority to remove nonelected (sic) chief of police without mayor’s concurrence or recommendation. . Mayor’s authority to hire and fire includes the power to suspend.”

Andrus said that the reinstatement of Clark is another example of the Council crossing the line.

“Instead of doing what they’re supposed to do, they’re doing what I’m supposed to be doing,” she said.

Andrus also stated that the firing of a department head (i.e., chief of police) would have to be a joint decision, while all other city positions fall under her discretion, citing the Lawrason Act.

The state police served search warrants at several key locations as a part of their ongoing investigation into financial records. The raid targeted City Hall, the Greater Grambling Chamber of Commerce building, Andrus’ home and the home of former city clerk Elizabeth Jones. The Chamber of Commerce building is owned by Grambling.

The raid, according to Jones, is a direct effect from Andrus calling the state police in February of last year.

“She called them and told them that she thought the computers had been hacked,” he said. “The Council is watching this drama unveil just like the citizens. We don’t really know all of what’s going on. We didn’t even know that there was an investigation until about three months after this started.”

The Council and Andrus have been having repeated battles since the beginning of last year. After a low opinion audit, “one of the worst audits that we could ever have,” said Jones, the Council hired Willie Mabry, an accountant, to fix the problems of the audit.

On Dec. 31, Andrus fired Mabry, a move that the Council said was made because Mabry uncovered alleged embezzlement of $47,000 by former assistant clerk Jones. The Council reinstated Mabry, a move that Andrus said was illegal.

The Council was delivered a blow last week after a suit they filed against Andrus was declared illegal in court. The judge stated that the Council had to find the town charter, a document the Council has been unable to locate.

The news of these constant clashes have been news fodder for the local media, something that has irked Andrus.

“We are tarnishing our own image in the public,” she said. “We need to give the city a positive image because of where we are and who we are.