A combined editorial and report of Grambling’s April 2010 Council Meeting by Rev. David J. Dill
Shut Up & Sit Down!
During an attempt to blow the whistle on what I believe to be questionable, unethical and possibly illegal actions of Grambling officials, this reporter was asked to sit down and be quiet during the April City of Grambling Council Meeting April 1, 2010. I was on the agenda to provide pertinent information to the Council, and the Mayor and public at large – information I feel could save Grambling from liability.
Most certainly it is the Council’s prerogative to shut down meaningless rhetoric and misinformation in such a public setting. Why would the Grambling Council be so adamant about blocking the dispensation of certain information before that information could be brought out? The Grambling Town Council consists of Mayor Pro Temp Edward R. Jones, and Council Members Alvin Bradley, Toby B. Bryan, Roy Jackson & Roosevelt Bryant Jr.
There was no specific item listed on the agenda for me to discuss therefore, I started my presentation off by introducing the upcoming Grambling Health Seminar April 24th, 2010. I then expressed my concerns for fair reporting in the media. I referred to a nearly 3 year old video in which the Grambling Town Council and Mayor were accompanied by a NAACP representative who stated his concerns that Grambling was being misrepresented in the media by the Ruston Daily Leader.
I briefly expressed why I got involved in publishing, as the Bienville Democrat in Arcadia did not even cover the election of Barack Obama after the election and many Blacks in our area felt the need to be represented fairly in the media. I then attempted to publicly report to the Council and citizens present why Mayor Martha Andrus felt she was not being represented fairly in the media, and that she asked me to be a witness to what she believed were adversarial actions against her by Grambling Attorney Jim Colvin Jr.
At the Mayor’s request, I agreed to attend a meeting the Mayor had with Attorney Colvin on March 15, 2010 because I had questions of my own and I wanted his side of the story on an issue. In light of the article I published “Grambling’s Attorney Strong Arms Mayor?” (online at: http://www.thefountonline.com/2010/03/12/gramblings-attorney-strong-arms-mayor/ ) —all I wanted to know from Attorney Colvin was why did he insist that the Mayor made two recommendations for auditor when the January 2010 Meeting Minutes and a public voice recording of that meeting did not reflect that.
I believed this was the very crux of the matter as to why it appeared Attorney Colvin was siding with the Council; why was he resisting so adamantly against what appears to be hard evidence? Mr. Colvin explained his side of the story that day and it was my intention to inform the Council and general public both sides of the story from my perspective and the events which took place during that meeting as it was Grambling business being discussed, it was a Grambling issue important to all Grambling officials and the public, and it was my intention to play a copy of a voice recording for everybody to clearly hear that the Mayor never made two recommendations for 2009 auditor and only one recommendation.
But the Council shut my public disclosure efforts ALL THE WAY DOWN – which of course brings up even more questions. What is really at stake here? What is there to hide? Could it be they already knew the subject matter that I was about to disclose?
When I attempted to inform everybody detailed results of that meeting between Attorney Colvin and Mayor Andrus that day, I was erroneously accused of attacking Attorney Colvin, and in defense of Colvin, Grambling Councilmember Roosevelt Bryant said, “That is OUR attorney!”
OH, but I hear you Sir loud and clear! However, the Grambling Attorney or any municipal attorney for that matter is not just the Council’s attorney; he/she is not to side with anybody but to play it straight down the middle according to the law for the sake of the citizens they represent without bias or bloodthirsty greed, and it is NOT unreasonable to see if all sides are being represented fairly.
It was the Mayor who asked me to sit in on that meeting as a witness to what she believed were adversarial acts against her by the Grambling Attorney. Mayor Andrus believed Colvin was siding with the Council against her, and at the close of that meeting between Andrus and Colvin, he expressed the need to “rebuild trust” between them. When I heard him say that, I wondered why there would be such a need and began to understand Mayor Andrus’ beliefs.
And during this meeting April 1, 2010 after learning that I was invited to sit in on that March 15th 2010 meeting between the Grambling Mayor and Grambling Attorney, the Grambling Council stated that no 3rd party including media should be present while city officials discuss city affairs. Even though they did not enact policy on those verbal statements, why would such isolation be necessary if there is nothing to hide? If one official feels she is being bullied by others, should not the victim involve support?
And if that same official is not allowed to involve a neutral third party as a witness, is this not the same isolation tactic employed by wife beaters and bullies? When we met it was the Grambling Attorney himself who said it was alright for me to sit in on that meeting if the Mayor so desired, so why is the Council insisting on secrecy? Again, what is there to hide?
The OPEN Meeting
During that March 15th meeting, I let Mr. Colvin know why I believed he had sided with the Council. I expressed my belief that he complicated and caused undue delay to the audit selection situation by rendering an opinion which opposed what was written in the January 2010 Meeting Minutes and other hard evidence. He even opposed his own original statements about NO auditor being selected by Grambling officials, and was making statements that in my opinion did not line up with a certain voice recording of that January 2010 Grambling Council Meeting.
I also asked him why he constantly allowed for the Grambling Clerk Pam Stringfellow to forward the Council Meeting Minutes LATE after every single meeting because Mayor Andrus informed The Fount that Clerk Stringfellow only provides Meeting Minutes on the day before or the day of the next Regular Meeting – some 20 days late according to State law, even though she has been warned verbally and by letter.
Colvin responded by saying, “I didn’t know that was going on Mayor, now that’s not a gray area, that’s black and white, the Clerk is supposed to have those Minutes published 10 days after the Meeting.” I then told Mr. Colvin “This is not the only problem the Mayor is having Mr. Colvin, but if every single town official is working against the Mayor, I have to make sure that you’re not. If anybody plays this straight down the middle, it has to be you.” Mr. Colvin responded by saying “I assure you (Dill) and you Mayor, I am not siding with the Council.”
I said to Mr. Colvin “The local media has shown extreme bias towards the Council and against the Mayor for quite some time, and I am watching what’s going on, things just aren’t right.” Then, I asked Mr. Colvin what could be done about the Clerk not handing those Meeting Minutes in on time because this had been a constant ongoing problem month after month for the past few years, and that the Mayor doesn’t even have time to properly review them and check them for accuracy before the next Meeting.
He offered to ask the Clerk for the Minutes himself at the 10 day mark- 10 days after the last meeting so that he himself would have ample time to review the Minutes before the next Meeting. He said “That way Mayor, it’ll help take the pressure off you, I’ll ask for them and then forward you a copy.”
The Mayor then presented a copy of the January 2010 Grambling Council Meeting Minutes and a letter from Allen, Green & Williamson (AGW) auditing firm as evidence to indicate she never made two recommendations to the Council. She stated “I didn’t recommend two auditors, and this letter should clear that up for you.” The letter from AGW stated that they understood they had not been hired as of yet. Mr. Colvin said “I didn’t know that letter existed, that sheds new light on the issue.” Mayor Andrus then referred to the voice record she had which would also verify her stance.
Mayor Andrus didn’t have the voice recording in her office, so Mr. Colvin and the Mayor began to discuss how they could arrange for him to hear it. The meeting in the Mayor’s office ended shortly afterward. I specifically recall Colvin making statements about being glad to have sat down to the table with Mayor Andrus for a change and acknowledging his need to rebuild the trust between them. Again, when I first heard that, I began to wonder why there would be a lack of trust in the first place, but I was glad he at least admitted there was a breach in need of repair.
Attorney General: Needed Or Not?
Mayor Andrus informed The Fount that Mr. Colvin indeed heard the voice record shortly after that meeting and the tapes indicate she only recommended one auditor. A witness was present when Mr. Colvin heard the recording, so with all the hard evidence seeming to indicate Mayor Andrus only made ONE recommendation why would the Attorney General even need to get involved? Mr. Colvin wrote a letter to the Attorney General regarding the matter, acknowledged the existence of the Mayor’s tape, but he did not disclose what he heard on the tape. Why not? Why all the extra hourly billing by Attorney Colvin and the delay?
In that letter, after presenting a case for both the Mayor & the Council, Colvin concluded his letter requesting an Attorney General opinion as follows: “Therefore, unless the Mayor’s action at the January meeting can be deemed a recommendation, or the City Council changes its mind, the City is at a stalemate.”
With that statement, does it not sound like Grambling Attorney Colvin is discounting and undermining the Mayor and her hard evidence? Some have stated their belief this statement does just that. Whether Colvin’s statement is prejudicial or not, it is this writer’s opinion that documented history can’t be altered to accommodate the Council with legal manipulation: if the City is at a stalemate, then the City is at a stalemate and they need to work it out themselves – PERIOD!
The initial actions to involve the Attorney General in this Grambling auditor selection process by Grambling Attorney Colvin was scrutinized by the Council during this April 2010 Council Meeting, and then suddenly dropped by the Council. WHY?
The Mystery Man
Councilmember Bryant asked Colvin twice in a row point blank as to who requested him to initiate that action, and Colvin said “When I gave my report last month, and there was uh, the Mayor disagreed with it, and there’s one thing you can do with that type of situation, and you can always go to the Attorney General. And it was requested at that time that I..” Bryant interrupted: “Who requested it?” Colvin held his hands up: “Uh,” then Jones interrupted: “I know that the Council requested that a letter be sent to the Legislative Auditors letting them know that we had not selected an auditor.”
All of a sudden Bryant interrupts Jones: “Well, I think this discussion is moot because if we’re waiting for an Attorney General’s opinion, we need to wait for the Attorney General’s opinion.” Councilmember Bradley then said: “Let’s move on.” Bryant continues: “You gave us an opinion. You were hired to give us an opinion as City Attorney, and then somebody’s requested an Attorney General’s opinion, so we’re already in trouble with the legislative auditor so let’s wait for the Attorney General to respond to your request.” Bradley again says: “Let’s move on.”
Who was that “somebody” that Bryant referred to: who actually requested Colvin to forward this matter to the Attorney General? According to the Lawrason Act, Mayor Andrus says she would have to be the one to make that request and she never did. And when Councilmember Bryant asked Grambling Attorney Colvin about it, why didn’t he make sure Colvin answered his question as to who requested him to forward the matter to the Attorney General? Why didn’t ANYONE from the Council demand an answer from Colvin for that matter?
While members on the Grambling Council are trying to make it look like the Mayor is holding the auditor selection process up, the Grambling Attorney seems to be at the heart of this issue. How did this matter end up being forwarded to the Attorney General instead of the Legislative Auditor’s Office when neither the Council nor Mayor requested it?
The video tape reveals Councilmember Bryant asking Attorney Colvin the same question point blank three times as to who requested him to forward the matter to the Attorney General, and Colvin never gave a straight answer. So what’s really going on? Did Attorney Colvin take actions into his own hands and then bill Grambling for it? And where is the letter from Colvin to the Legislative Auditor’s Office that the Grambling Council requested over a month ago?
Is it not the Grambling Attorney’s own FLIP-FLOP which created or at least contributed to this stalemate and delay in Grambling’s selection of an auditor?
Five Council Members already acknowledged in the public meeting according to approved Meeting Minutes that no auditor had been selected two months ago. The Grambling Attorney heard the voice record indicating only one auditor had been recommended by the Mayor. He saw the two month old letter indicating the Council’s choice for auditor (AGW) recognized that they were not yet hired one month ago, and neither the Council nor the Mayor requested Grambling Attorney Colvin to forward the matter to the Attorney General.
Yet, like Councilmember Bryant said “somebody’s requested an Attorney General’s Opinion” – so who is at fault for this undue delay? And in light of previously aired comments from the Council, where is the loud cry of concern and accusations by the Grambling Council for misappropriation of funds and unauthorized billing of expenditures?
One other issue discussed in the meeting between the Mayor and Attorney Colvin on March 15 was concerning the lack of tax base in Grambling, the highest property taxes in this area of Louisiana being in Grambling where a high percentage of its citizens are retired and on fixed incomes – and why Grambling was being billed for legal services by the hour rather than by retainer. Mr. Colvin made it very clear that he must treat municipalities like corporations and bill them by the hour, and he said he would not consider working for Grambling by retainer.
Since this is the case and Grambling officials agreed to this hourly billing arrangement, is it appropriate for the Grambling Attorney to create work for himself at any time at the taxpayer’s expense? Has Colvin ever done this, is there a pattern of this, and if there is a pattern of this can it be proven through documentation? Is the Grambling Attorney being paid in comparable fashion to other local municipalities? Hmmmmm….
Fairness In The Eyes Of The Beholder
There are many issues that have occurred before this investigator became involved, and I am only prepared to comment on that which I have observed for myself. While some believe my efforts to be prejudicial simply because I speak/write from a different perspective than what has previously been published by the Ruston Daily Leader and the Morning Paper, all I can say to that is: it’s a matter of one’s own glass half-empty or half-full perspective.
Where were all the cries of injustice, bias and unfairness when only the Council’s side of the story was being told and the Mayor’s side for the most part was not told? Mayor Andrus said there have been many out-right lies and half-truths printed and aired against her in the media, many of those in the media never bothered to get her side of the story and on the few occasions which they did, they did not report the things she said in the same manner which she said them.
If the cries for fairness in reporting are truly sincere, then these who have cried foul about The Fount’s recent articles “Grambling Council Strikes It Rich” and “Grambling Attorney Strong-Arms Mayor?” should not have a problem with a different perspective if the content is factual and can be verified by scrutinizing public records! Why haven’t the Ruston Daily Leader or the Morning Paper reporters ever dug up and reported on this widely available information that pertains to Grambling?
During this April Grambling 2010 Council Meeting, Council Members loudly complained about these articles by The Fount which did nothing but expose public record FACTS that anybody could check out for themselves if they really cared to know.
The Council Members who read my online articles had a chance to respond, rebut, disagree, complain etc. right there on the spot in the Comment Section, but chose not to. They didn’t complain until they decided to derail my presentations during the April 2010 Council Meeting, and in the midst of those complaints NONE of the facts I presented in my articles were contested by the Council, just the publication of them – which again begs the question – what is there to hide?
When the Council has press conferences and does not include The Fount in the notification of those press conferences, why should the Grambling Council even care what is published by The Fount? If the Grambling Council doesn’t want to include us when they hold a press conference, and if they only contact media entities they know will put things out there their own way, again that is their prerogative but it again begs the question: What is there to hide?
And we’re all big boys and girls out here. Just like Councilmember Jones told the Mayor during the meeting, “I’m grown and I can speak” surely reasonable people recognize that just because somebody doesn’t agree with your point of view, this does not mean they are not entitled to speak or that they are not being FAIR. Since when did this stop being America where people have a right to the freedom of speech? Since when should ALL sides of an issue not be considered? What is there to hide?
When I first began publishing articles regarding the conflict between the Grambling Council and Grambling Mayor, Mayor Pro Temp Edward Jones and his brother Eddie Jones had lengthy conversations with me and expressed their concerns and beliefs as to why they believed Mayor Andrus was corrupt and incompetent. After hearing their side of the story, I did something that Mayor Andrus said no other media entity did, and that was to sit down with her face to face, had lengthy conversations with her as well and got her side of the story.
I reviewed many hard copy and online news articles and public record documents regarding various issues, and I also spoke with Attorney Colvin, and these are the reasons why I believe my perspective to be completely valid if not altogether unique. Over and over again, with an accusatory tone I have been asked the question “Dill: Are you reporting the news or are you making the news?” This is my response:
I have over 15 years of security, private investigation and research reporting experience. In regards to the controversy between the Grambling Mayor & Grambling Council, I am ONE of very few people who have gotten more than one side to this story and there is a reason why this investigator is FOCUSED on certain things.
Truth be told, when things for the most part are one-sided for so long — in this case anybody who seeks to bring things back to the middle of the road as fairly as they can for the sake of unity and for the sake of Grambling’s citizens; that individual is viewed as the trouble-making rebel.
President Obama knows exactly what that feels like, and like Obama says, “It goes with the territory” – so be it! And to those who keep whining about me not being a citizen of Grambling as if I have no right to investigate and report on events there– as a media entity, it is irrelevant whether I am a Grambling citizen or not. In so many words like Martin Luther King Jr. said, injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
The Grambling Attorney is not a citizen of Grambling, the other media covering issues in Grambling are not citizens of Grambling, where are the objections to their involvement, what is there to hide? Why is their such resistance to another side of the story coming out? And if it takes an ‘outsider’ to expose injustices within the City of Grambling, then so be it, let the chips fall where they may: If the Mayor is corrupt it will be exposed and if the Attorney, Clerk, the Council – if any official is corrupt or handling Grambling’s affairs in a shady manner it will all be exposed because everything that PUBLIC SERVANTS do is a matter of PUBLIC RECORD for PUBLIC SCRUTINY.
The Fount is on a fact finding mission and whatever is hidden in this case; like an onion it will be uncovered stinky layer by stinky layer: “He revealeth the deep and secret things: he knoweth what is in the darkness, and the light dwelleth with Him. Daniel 2:22”
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