Appointment of Porterdale clerk delayed

PORTERDALE - A motion to postpone the reappointment of Porterdale City Clerk Shari Stevenson sparked a heated discussion among members of the City Council on Monday night.

Councilman Robert Foxworth, who made the motion, said he wanted the council to review an audit of the city's finances, as well as the 2008 budget, prior to reappointing Stevenson.

According to Foxworth, there were some discrepancies in previous audits, which showed the city may have been missing as much as $40,000 at one point.

"It's just that we need some answers. Nobody is pointing the finger at anyone, and it's just some stuff we need to get straight," Foxworth said in an interview Tuesday.

At the meeting, Mayor Bobby Hamby told the council there was no money missing and attributed the discrepancies to an accounting software glitch.

"Let me make it clear, there is no money missing!" he declared.

Foxworth, however, insisted on getting the issue straightened out before proceeding with the reappointment of Stevenson.

"There's some things fallen through the cracks I want to see on paper," he told Hamby.

Councilwoman Kay Piper said she felt the city was "fortunate" to have a clerk with the qualifications of Stevenson, indicating she was one of the few city clerks in the state to be state certified.

Piper also said she felt the motion was part of a "personal vendetta" of Foxworth's to strike back at those who played a part in his censure by the council nearly three years ago.

"Robert, I'm very disappointed," she said.

Foxworth was censured by the council in April 2005 after he reportedly made inappropriate comments to a city employee. Stevenson was interviewed as part of an investigation into the allegations.

"I could care less about your allegation," Foxworth responded. "I reject it totally. I think it's uncalled for."

Hamby also criticized Foxworth for using the open session of the council meeting for the second month in a row to commit what he characterized as a "personal attack" against a city employee.

"It doesn't need to be blasted out here at an open council meeting," he said. "I think it's a shame you've taken this opportunity to do this."

Despite the objections of Piper and Hamby to the motion, the council voted to postpone the appointment of a city clerk until the audit and budget could be reviewed.

"We have to run the city more like a business," Foxworth said Tuesday. "We're accountable for our actions, for the finances of the city, and we have to stay on top of it more. Everybody has to step up to the plate and do a better job."

According to City Manager Tom Fox, Stevenson will continue to perform her duties as city clerk until she is either reappointed or replaced.

Hamby said the council would probably take the issue up again at the February meeting.

In other Porterdale news, the topic of Better Hometown Manager Patti Battle and her expenditures for certain events again came under scrutiny by members of the council.

Piper praised the job Battle had done and recommended the council proceed with her as the city's Better Hometown manager.

"The programs she has put together have brought people and revenue into Porterdale," she said. "If we don't get outside here ... we'll never succeed."

Newly elected Post 2 Councilwoman Linda Finger, who took her oath of office Monday night, questioned some of Battle's expenditures, which she said included two $1,200 sound systems for the city's Christmas festivities.

"I think everyone needs to be held accountable for their actions," Finger said. "Hindsight being 20/20 is expensive."

Hamby said Battle's contributions to the city can't be measured in dollars and cents and indicated that when she was brought in last summer, she wasn't told how much money she could spend without prior approval from the council.

"We know some mistakes have been made," he said.

The council agreed, however, that Battle should be given a budget with which to work and that she should keep council members informed about upcoming events she's helping put together in the city.

Joel Griffin can be reached at joel.griffin@newtoncitizen.com.