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Piper resigns over concerns with council
Health concerns also cited; special election in 2009 will fill post

PORTERDALE - Councilwoman Kay Piper resigned her post on the City Council at a work session Thursday night, citing her health and misgivings about the direction the council is heading.

"I have a lot of concerns about some of the decisions that have been made," Piper said in her address to Mayor Bobby Hamby and other council members. She noted that she has had calls from residents both inside and outside Porterdale questioning some of the City Council's recent actions.

Piper said the city's budget crisis and lack of financial oversight brought her concerns to the forefront.

"This council has not received monthly financial statements on a regular basis since I have been on the council, and we have not received any financial statements this entire year until the month of September," she said. "We only received them then because this council was told by our city manager that we were in a financial crisis and would be out of money soon."

Piper recounted Thursday night that after a deadline was set for financial statements to be produced, she spent a weekend reviewing the documents and discovered some problems that were "shocking."

In a prepared statement, Piper said she discovered that the city was "alarmingly low on cash" and that "approximately $126,000 had been borrowed from the designated funds in the Recreation Fund, transferred to the General Fund, and spent for purposes other than what was intended. These funds were designated for the restoration of our beloved Porter Memorial Gymnasium. A request to use these funds was never brought before the council, and I was shocked when I discovered this had been done."

Piper said she was also distressed by a council decision to reinstate a police officer who had been furloughed as part of cost-cutting measures to make up the city's budget shortfall. Piper opposed that decision.

"I value my good reputation and the respect that people have for my business judgment, and I do not want to be associated with a council that makes decisions like this," said Piper, who works as a corporate accountant/controller.

Councilwoman Arline Chapman, who voted along with council members Linda Finger and Robert Foxworth to reinstate the officer, said Thursday that she regrets that vote.

Chapman said she was swayed by information presented at the Oct. 6 meeting regarding the rate and types of crime in the city. However, Chapman said after witnessing another council member "monopolizing an officer's time for a solid hour in a parking lot" on Saturday, she felt differently.

Foxworth, who admitted he had spent time talking to the officer, said he did so to show that he is interested in and supportive of the police department.

"Why would you monopolize their time when they could be out patrolling?" Chapman asked.

"Because I wanted to talk to her," Foxworth replied.

Piper was elected to the council in 2005 to fill the Post 5 seat vacated by Hamby, who was elected mayor that same year. Both she and Hamby took office early, in November of that year, to fill unexpired terms.

Piper said Thursday night that she had been optimistic about the way the council had worked together for the first two years of her term, but this year had brought a different dynamic.

"This year has been a year of adversity and turmoil," Piper told the council. "I've heard comments that our council has reverted back to the good old boys system."

Piper said she regretted the need to resign, but that she suffers from a heart condition that is exacerbated by stress.

City Manager Tom Fox said a special election will be held early next year to fill Piper's unexpired term.

Alice Queen can be reached at alice.queen@newtoncitizen.com.