GOULD — Four Gould city employees — including Mayor Earnest Nash Jr., — are without paychecks this week because Nash is refusing to accept the City Council's appointment of a new recorder-treasurer and council members are refusing to sign any checks.
GOULD — Four Gould city employees — including Mayor Earnest Nash Jr., — are without paychecks this week because Nash is refusing to accept the City Council’s appointment of a new recorder-treasurer and council members are refusing to sign any checks.
Former recorder-treasurer Mary Prewett, who was appointed to fill the position last February, abruptly resigned on Dec. 9, saying she was “afraid” of Nash.
The City Council met Dec. 13 and voted to appoint Pam Barley Gibson to the recorder-treasurer’s position. Nash, however, is apparently refusing to accept Gibson’s appointment and had the locks changed on the recorder-treasurer’s office. Nash also reportedly threatened to have Gibson arrested during the council meeting if she tried to show up for work.
Nash, in a recent interview, complained that he and three other employees, including Police Chief Talvin Collins, police officer Tim Peterson and court clerk Linda Howell are not being paid because council members authorized to sign checks are refusing to do so.
Nash said the council voted “months ago” to put council members Sonja Farley, Harry Hall and Prewett on the list of those authorized to sign checks.
“Miss Farley never, ever went and signed the signature card,” said Nash. “So Mr. Hall and Miss Prewett took it upon themselves to go back to the bank and put their names on the checking account. I do have that paperwork. They did this without anybody’s authorization. So when Miss Prewett left, it left everything up in the air.”
Nash said Prewett paid council members “early” just before she resigned, and also paid herself her last paycheck. Nash said Prewett mailed the council their paper checks on Dec. 7. On Dec. 9, the day Prewett resigned, she electronically transmitted her own paycheck, Nash said.
“All the employees were left out there in the wind,” said the mayor. “When people work they should be paid for what they do.”
Nash said he was thwarted in an attempt to have Prewett’s name removed from the checking account and replace it with his own so he could keep the payroll going. Nash, a former Gould recorder-treasurer himself, said no one else in Gould city government knows how to complete a city payroll.
Nash said he opposed Gibson’s appointment as recorder-treasurer, in part, because she no longer lives in Gould.
Gibson’s former house at 709 W. Star St., in Gould burned to the ground on July 1, 2010. Gibson, a vocal critic of Nash, lost everything she owned in the blaze. She said the Gould Fire Department never responded when her house was burning.
“To be honest with you, I wasn’t going to let them appoint Pam Barley (Gibson),” said Nash. “You talk about creating an impasse in the city.”
Nash also said that Prewett and Hall were supposed to meet him last Tuesday at city hall so they could do the payroll, but Prewett and Hall never showed up.
“I really don’t care how they feel about me, but you don’t do employees like that,” said Nash. “That’s not the proper way of taking care of city business.”
Nash said the unpaid employees are seeking legal counsel and plan to complain to the labor board.
Prewett said on Friday that she doesn’t know why Nash and the council didn’t vote to have new signatures on the checking account when they met Dec. 13.
“They could easily have done that,” said Prewett.
Prewett also said she would have volunteered to help with the payroll but Nash usually does not accept volunteer help at city hall and disagreed with the City Council about a policy for volunteers.
“It looks to me like it’s his fault,” said Prewett. “They tried to work with him but he refuses to work with them.”
Gibson said she was at the council meeting on Dec. 13 when Hall brought up her name for a vote to fill the vacant recorder-treasurer’s position. She said Nash objected and said he didn’t want a vote on Gibson’s nomination.
After some debate between Nash and the council, Gibson’s nomination came to a vote. Council members Essie Cableton and Ermer Preston, who are considered Nash’s only two allies on the council, left the meeting before the vote. Harry Hall, Sonya Farley, Rosie-Lee Smith and Veronica Tensley then voted unanimously to appoint Gibson to Prewett’s unexpired term.
Nash then reportedly told Gibson that he would have her arrested if she showed up for work the next day. Gibson said she would be there. According to Gibson, Nash twice told her she needed to leave the meeting but Gibson refused. Gibson said she told Nash that she was not afraid of him or intimidated by him. Nash then left the meeting.
However, Nash changed the locks on the recorder-treasurer’s office the next day and the council members who supported Gibson also advised her not to try and go to work until they were sure what they were doing was correct.
“I have not started yet,” said Gibson on Thursday. “I am looking forward to starting.”
Gibson said no paychecks would be signed or issued until a recorder-treasurer takes office.
“No one can write a check or do payroll other than the recorder-treasurer,” said Gibson. “Mr. Hall can co-sign checks with her but it has to be a recorder-treasurer to write the check. There has not been any checks signed nor will there be any checks signed until there is a recorder-treasurer.”
However, Municipal League President Don Zimmerman said on Friday that city officials can issue checks as long as the two signers are authorized by the City Council.
“The City Council can authorize disbursing agents and they don’t necessarily have to be the recorder-treasurer,” said Zimmerman. “Normally, the recorder-treasurer and the mayor (sign). But they can designate others, such as council members.”
Zimmerman said two council members would be adequate to sign as long as they are appointed.
“They wouldn’t necessarily have to wait until they get a recorder-treasurer appointed,” said Zimmerman.
Zimmerman also said that if four council members voted to appoint Gibson, she can legally take office. Nash would have had five days to veto the appointment, which the council could have overridden at the next regularly scheduled meeting.