Dixon resigns, Smith takes seat on P’ville commission

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By Jeff Moore

Prestonville Commissioner Robert Dixon resigned prior to taking office for his fourth term in January, citing health concerns and controversy.

At the commission’s Jan. 14 meeting, Dixon’s resignation letter was accepted and the commission, amid some debate about its selection process, elected Charles E. Smith to fill the seat.

Dixon, who was re-elected in November, resigned as of Dec. 31, 2012.

“It saddens me that I had to come to the decision for resignation,” Dixon wrote in the letter. “My health has become an issue to further perform my duties … There have also been allegations against members of the board. I no longer want to be a part of the situation.”

The city has seen debate about the construction of a new city recreation center and city hall that is now involved in litigation with the contractor. The state building inspector has issued a stop work order on the project due to the failure to submit plans, as well as citing concerns about the quality of construction. State police, at the request of county attorney Nick Marsh, also are investigating how the contractor was selected after owners of Can Do Construction alleged they were asked to backdate documents because they were not in the original bidding process, a charge the mayor denies.

State law allows the city commission up to 30 days after a resignation to fill the position.

Mayor Vickie Burgin asked the commission to move forward with electing a replacement for Dixon at the meeting.

Burgin said several people have expressed an interest in serving on the commission, bringing forth Smith’s name.

The commission quickly approved Smith on a 3-1 vote, with Commissioner Linda Clark voting against his appointment.She said she believed it would be a conflict because she thought he worked for Burgin’s Flooring, which is owned by Commissioner Rae Stevens.

But Mayor Burgin said Smith has not worked there for several years and is employed by North American Stainless.

The selection process then was questioned when it became clear that others would not be considered — including former Mayor Chris Moore and former Commissioner Louis Spencer.

“I think Louis and Chris would have been good ones,” Clark said.

Burgin said that, since she became mayor, the commission has used the process of bringing forward names in the order they were received with votes to fill vacancies.

Clark said she thought they would have a chance to consider the others interested in serving.

Stevens added that she thought having someone with the experience of Spencer would have been good.

City Attorney Alecia Gamm Hubbard asked Smith to step forward and she administered the oath of office. Smith then took his seat on the commission.

Moore, during comments from citizens later in the meeting, also criticized the commission on its selection process. “You all did it wrong. I’ll tell you that,” he said as he left the city building, appearing angry.


New meeting day

Prestonville City Commission approved an ordinance on first reading to move its monthly meeting to 6 p.m. on the third Monday of each month. The commission currently meets on the second Monday.

Mayor Vickie Burgin said the change will allow City Attorney Alecia Gamm Hubbard to stay for the entire meeting. Hubbard currently has to leave each meeting because she also serves as city attorney for of Sparta’s commission, which meets that same night.

The commission will vote on the change on second reading in February, and the change would then be effective in March.


Refunds sought

Prestonville City Commission voted to ask the city attorney to send letters to commissioners and other city officials who were overpaid for meetings dating back to 2007.

According to the list presented at the meeting, letters will go to former city clerk/treasurer Christina McArter, $425; former Commissioner Robert Barnes, $200; former Commissioner Robert Dixon, $150; former Mayor Chris Moore, $125; and former Commissioner William Martin, $75.

Mayor Vickie Burgin said the city was incorrectly paying by the meeting instead of by the month, which led to the excess payments.

As part of the process, the city discovered former Mayor Tommy Couch was owed $525 and former commissioner Wilk Hoskins was owed $150. Commissioners voted to pay these amounts to the former officials.


McArter assists with finding records

Mayor Vickie Burgin thanked former city clerk/treasurer Christina McArter for her assistance in locating financial reports for the city from 2008 through 2010.

McArter came to city hall and showed Burgin where files and spreadsheets were for these years, which city officials had thought were missing.

“Thank you, Christina,” City Attorney Alecia Gamm Hubbard said. “It benefits the city so much to have a transition like that.”

There had been sharp words between current city officials and those from the past in recent meetings over the records that were believed to be missing. This included a missing computer that former Commissioner Robert Barnes had in his garage; he returned the machine to the city hall in December.

The city is still looking for reports from 2007, Burgin said.

City clerk/treasurer Debbie Wright said even with these reports, the city still doesn’t have the receipts, bills and other documents from many of the past years.


Controversy ends over cell phone

At its December meeting, Prestonville City Commission voted to send former Mayor Chris Moore a letter asking him to return a cell phone he had while he was in office.

Moore came to the January meeting to tell commissioners that he turned in that phone and that the last time he saw it, it was with other junk equipment in a cabinet drawer in the city building.

Moore said the phone was paid for by the city commission during construction of the city park. However, the commission voted to discontinue the service after that project was completed.

Moore said he decided to keep the telephone number and has paid the bill on it since that vote several years ago. “It’s always been my personal name on the account,” he said.

City clerk/treasuer Debbie Wright asked why it gave her the message that the number was the city of Prestonville.

“I don’t know why it said what it did,” Moore responded.

Sergeant-at-arms questioned

Prestonville resident James McArter questioned City Attorney Alecia Gamm Hubbard on the commission’s appointment of city clerk/treasurer Debbie Wright as sergeant-at-arms.

The sergeant-at-arms is assigned the duty of maintaining order during the city commission meetings. Under the commission’s rules, anyone called out of order twice in a meeting will be asked to leave the meeting.

McArter, who indicated that he has asked the attorney general to rule on its legality, said the position is only meant to be for funerals.

Hubbard said state law also allows the position to be used in meetings.

“No it’s not,” McArter said.

He said Hubbard always stays “in the gray areas” of the law.