Mansfield residents push for answers on financial matters

MANSFIELD — As the town of Mansfield works to complete an overdue 2014 budget, residents are raising questions about other issues.

A number of questions about the city’s financial management were raised during the public comment portion of the Feb. 10 council meeting.

Tony Sandberg asked the council about an upcoming assessment the city will owe due to its participation in the expansion of the Vogtle electric generating plant. Mansfield is a participant based on its membership in the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia. Residents have said they fear the town’s assessment will be as much as $50,000.

“I understand that we owe the power company for Plant Vogtle, an assessment,” said Sandberg. “I’d just like to know when it’s due, how much, what are the city’s plans for paying and where will the city get the funds to pay it?”

Councilman Jeff Riley, who was elected in November and began serving on the council in January, promised Sandburg a full update on that issue at the next council meeting, which is set for 7 p.m., Monday, March 10.

Resident Whitney Denmark accused Mayor Estona Middlebrooks of mishandling the city’s financial business and called on the council for more accountability and oversight.

Denmark said she wanted to review the fact that the mayor had used the town’s credit card to pay her husband’s cell phone bill last summer.

“You’ve admitted to that, right Mayor?” Denmark asked.

“With reference to what?” said Middlebrooks.

“With reference to paying your husband’s cell phone bill with the city credit card?” Denmark replied.

“Yes, and I’ve also said it was a mistake and it’s been repaid,” the mayor said.

Denmark also criticized the financial management of the town, noting that under Middlebrooks’ administration the town is in need of hiring an accountant and bookkeeper.

“We’re talking about having to pay somebody to come in and fix what you’ve messed up and you can’t even pay your own bills at home,” said Denmark. “This is all coming back on us.”

Denmark called on the council to “step up” and address the financial issues.

“I want something done about this,” she said. “Seriously, (Middlebrooks) has been here two years and we are in such financial trouble we can’t even get a budget put together.”