Former Jonesboro Fire Chief Threatens Suit

Former Fire Chief Back Pay

David Roberts, the former fire chief for the Town of Jonesboro has threatened a lawsuit over unused comp and vacation time pay he says is owed and has not been paid.

Roberts was replaced as the town’s fire chief last month.

Just prior to last night’s meeting of the board of aldermen, Robert’s attorney Jeffrey Robinson faxed a demand letter to city hall alleging the town owed Roberts over $20 thousand.

The board and mayor met in executive session to discuss the issue, but no action was taken.

Former Administrative Assistant Hired as Consultant

Former town administrative assistant Earlean Knox has been hired as a contract “consultant” to work on federal and state grants for projects, according to the town’s controversial mayor, Leslie Thompson.

Grant money is on hold until an audit of the town’s finances is completed.

“The state put us in non-compliance, when means we cannot receive the money right now,” Knox said. “However, my conversations with the state and the federal says that we do have the money already approved.”

It is unclear why the board of aldermen was not consulted prior to her hiring, nor why money was not budgeted prior to her hiring or from what budget category her pay will come.

Knox is listed as secretary/treasurer and a director of the the mysterious MVP, Inc., a non-profit corporation of which Thompson is president.

Former Mayor Don Essmeier

Also on hand for the meeting was former mayor Don Essmeier. In his comments, he noted that for the four years of his administration, the town received unqualified audits and that the present administration has yet to get an opinion on the town’s finances.

“Tuesday night, I heard Mrs. Knox say that when they entered office, things were in terrible disarray. Can you explain to me if things were in total disarray, how they could have gotten an unqualified audit?” Essmeier asked.

“The mayor also said Tuesday night the prior administrations over the last twenty-five or so years operated with deficit spending. How could you operate with those kind of deficits… and when I left office forty nine months ago, we had close to $900 thousand in CDs?” he noted.

Essmeir is a plaintiff in the lawsuit that was filed against the mayor and aldermen yesterday.

Vendor Payments

Unpaid vendors were at the meeting last night, seeking payment for work done last fall on a water project. It also was revealed last night that several of the contractors on the ongoing airport project had not been paid for their work.

Since these projects were funded with grant money that is now on hold, the board voted to cash in a certificate deposit (about $169 thousand) and use the money to pay the vendors.

When asked, Thompson pledged to replace the money when/if the grant money becomes available.

Comments

As is usual during the public comments section of the meeting, several citizens spoke about the need to work together, to get past racial division, and to move the town forward.

However, save one notable exception, no one spoke about the issue that is causing almost all the problems for the town – failure of the administration to follow the law and proper bookkeeping procedure.

District B’s Renee Stringer said, “When I come to this table, I come with the law, I come with a code of ethics and I come with revised statutes.” She added, “I don’t care what you think, or what you say, or what you do to me – I’m going to be about the law. And if that’s offensive, I’m sorry.”

An audio recording of last night’s meeting can be found here.

Past Meetings

2 Responses to “Former Jonesboro Fire Chief Threatens Suit”

  1. Karen Says:

    I feel like mentioning the law falls on deaf ears and just elicits more grandstanding like last night. I mean, was there a meeting? It looked to me like a one man mayor show. He completely skipped over the resolutions on the land deal to GNLCDC and just kept going. I didn’t think that was legal? It wasn’t tabled or voted on.

    As far as the Knox woman, I have been to enough meetings to know he cannot enter into a contract without council approval. Since she is a “consultant” I assume she is a contract worker.

    I do have to say blaming the previous clerk is a novel idea or would be were he not the CEO. He has the authority to recommend she be removed. The council doesn’t have the power to fire a clerk. They can only act upon what the Mayor recommends. I never heard him recommend it in any meeting. So, really, how were his hands tied?

  2. Albymyself Says:

    Karen let me see if I have this right.
    He hired a woman to get us federal and state grants that we already knew we weren’t going to get because of the audit problems his last term. He hired her illegally and we have no idea what her actual job discription is because he did that without a vote from the board. So we could be paying her insurance,retirement and so forth because we have no contract with her and she could be listed as regular employee. Right.
    We have an airport that is being repaired before we got the grant money? A town that is now paying bills with money from our cd’s, no accounting in place,being sued,and ignoring every law known to be on the books.
    Somebody wake me from this nightmare.

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