A growing number of people believe a disturbing trend of taking shortcuts, hasty and irresponsible decision making by media entities for the sake of ‘scooping the story’ and the failure to take the time to fully investigate Grambling’s political issues have caused unnecessary and unfortunate casualties to innocent Grambling citizens who remember their city’s rich heritage and love their city dearly no matter what.
One such citizen is a Black female business owner who for the past 5 months has endured political in-fighting, resistance to modernize and interference of day-to-day operations by unauthorized parties who seek to disrupt her efforts to make the City of Grambling compliant to federal law with the set-up of a municipal website.
According to Sheree Rabon, certain individuals who used to be close-knit to her family have crossed the line of reason and ethics to stain her family and business name by distributing misleading information to the public. One such document inaccurately linked her business to a sex chat room, and in Ms. Rabon’s opinion jeopardized her personal safety.
During an interview with The Fount the owner of eCommerce Canyon, Sheree Rabon said that the pastor who baptized her as a child and officiated at her grandmother’s funeral (Darline W. Davis), Grambling Council Member Roosevelt Bryant not only failed to perform due diligence, he made erroneous and misleading statements to the public and media in this matter, and recklessly put her at risk by disclosing her physical address in the process.
Within 2 business days after the Grambling Council Meeting on August 5th, 2010, due to a phone call she received from a citizen about the toll free number to Rabon’s business being incorrect, Grambling Mayor Martha Andrus requested an updated version of an invoice with eCommerce Canyon’s correct phone number on it.
Andrus says the City of Grambling received an updated invoice with the correct phone number to eCommerce Canyon at least 7 days before the Grambling Council’s Special Called Meeting was held August 17, 2010. It was at this meeting where Bryant handed out multiple copies of the old invoice with the incorrect phone number to the public.
In separate interviews, both Andrus and Rabon expressed mutual belief that the Grambling Council’s release of eCommerce Canyon’s old invoice with the incorrect phone number to the public and to the media was most likely an intentional political ploy.
At the very least, Mayor Andrus points out that Council Members Jones and Bryant repeatedly violate the Grambing City Handbook policy which only authorizes the Mayor to address the media.
Rabon contends that once Channel 10 News in Monroe, LA reached a sex chat room instead of her company and realized an obvious mistake was made, she believes they exploited the situation and in the process left her vulnerable by exposing her to sexual deviants in the Ark-La-Miss viewing area. “Who knows how many registered and unregistered sex offenders we have in our area? They definitely put me in harm’s way”
In addition to questionable allegations that the Mayor is not authorized to write a municipal check without the Council’s approval (a function the Mayor believes she is authorized to perform according to the Lawrason Act), Council Members Bryant and Jones expressed their belief that the $7,760 Grambling Mayor Andrus paid Rabon to set up Grambling’s website is way too high and unreasonable, especially considering the job was not even complete.
“You can get a website done freely. The university has a communications department, all we have to do is ask them for their help. You can get somebody to do a website for $300 or less” said Bryant.
From outer appearances to those who are unfamiliar with the internet technology profession, the monies paid by Andrus to set up a website do seem unreasonably high.
What is less known and not discussed at the Grambling Council’s Special Called Meeting that night is that setting up a website for a municipality is not a simple and cheap overnight project; especially when serious security breaches need to be corrected and federal security standards are being adhered to. The project is underway in stages, and
customary partial payments are being paid until completion.
Website Developer’s Statement
Sheree Rabon, who has 15 years of experience as an Information Technology Specialist analyzed Grambling’s current system, proposed specific measures to dramatically improve it at a reasonable cost, and Grambling Mayor Martha Andrus approved. Ms. Rabon provided The Fount with the following statement:
“The Mayor was impressed with the security measures that I proposed and made an executive decision to execute and implement the plans for a safer computing method for Grambling. For security reasons and to protect the integrity of this development, all of the details of this project cannot be shared.
The Grambling Council Members had no right to bring such attention to these security matters in their fashion of choice unless, of course, they truly don’t understand information technology and security or they have something to gain by interrupting the process” said Sheree Rabon.
SECURITY BREACH CITY
Rabon continued: “At the August 5 meeting, I approached the Council’s table to explain that these were the matters I proposed to speak to in a formal presentation. Since the City no longer owns the equipment necessary to present professionally, I began making calls to establishments to rent or purchase so that I could present.
That’s when Mr. Bryant protested stating that everything we do here is public. I also stated while at the table that I was told by the Mayor and at least two other Council Members that the public did not need to know that. I was even asked to work at the City Hall to help correct the security breach, but only to patch it instead of fixing it. I declined because the outcome would not be favorable to my company and certainly not the City of Grambling.
Either way, the security risks are there already and have to be addressed: Software and security configuration are not cheap but surely the process cost less than all of the breaches that have taken place at the city’s expense.”
According to Rabon, the Grambling Council requested her to make a public presentation of the services she was proposing, but she believed that only a closed private presentation was appropriate due to sensitive security matters that should never be divulged to the public.
Rabon said “As I learned how the City of Grambling had been compromised during the course of working on the project, I offered my services and then yet another serious breach happened before the Mayor could make a decision to move forward with the project. The last security breach was her determining factor. The other firms had not provided the services sequestered by the Council and Mabry (Grambling’s Accountant) had not complied with the security standards needed to keep the city’s information safe.”
Contract Or No Contract?
The Fount inquired to an IT firm on the West Coast to compare Ms. Rabon’s business fees to other companies which perform similar website development services for municipalities and discovered that even though the Grambling Council touts eCommerce Canyon’s fees to be exorbitant and wishes to sensationalize that notion by accusing Andrus of misappropriation of funds, the Grambling Mayor chose a company whose fees are quite comparable and in some cases much lower than other IT companies.
At completion of the project, it is our belief that eCommerce Canyon’s bottom line will be cost-efficient for the City of Grambling. Rabon explained that her current website development services for the City of Grambling are not under contract, and that the Grambling Mayor has been falsely accused in this regard as well.
Rabon explained: “There are times like these when a contract is needed. Right now, even since these issues have somewhat been resolved, I am reluctant to continue. The only reason that I have continued to work even past the first of three phases for this project is due to company standards. No one can work for free and nor should they, especially when the projects are to technologically enrich the city.”
While Rabon did propose certain other services relating to intellectual property and capital that would need to be under contract to protect both her company and the City of Grambling at a later date; Rabon and Andrus informed The Fount that those services have not begun and there is no contract between the City of Grambling and eCommerce Canyon.
Rabon says that Grambling has a contract with two other firms related to technology and the Grambling Mayor thought it fair that at least one minority company should have the opportunity to provide a similar service that enhances the city. “Neither of the other companies have been attacked, put under scope and shot down by the Council” says Rabon.
Closing Editorial Comments:
There’s no doubt that the City of Grambling has received a bad rap in the media over the past few years. A simple word-search on Google or any other major internet search engine reveals a plethora of negative news articles on the world wide web concerning the current Grambling Mayor Martha Andrus and the Grambling City Council consisting of
Council Members Edward Jones, Alvin Bradley, Toby Bryan, Roy Jackson, and Rev. Roosevelt Bryant.
The Grambling Mayor Andrus seeks to be re-elected in the upcoming October 2nd election, Council Members Jones and Bradley seek to replace Andrus as Mayor in the same election while Bryan, Jackson and Bryant seek re-election as Grambling Council Members. For the Grambling Council to challenge the Mayor’s ability to sign a check without their permission at this point in time so close to the election is highly suspect.
Grambling Mayor Pro Temp Edward Jones said that it was illegal for the Grambling Mayor to pay Rabon, but consider this statement from a 20+ year old article regarding the settlement of this issue: On May 11, 1989 The Mansfield Enterprise wrote: “BATON ROUGE, The Mayor of a town has the sole responsibility for paying it’s bills without having to consult the community’s aldermen for approval, the state attorney general has said.”
There’s also no doubt in some people’s minds that the current attacks on the Grambling Mayor and the website developer Sheree Rabon are nothing but a well-orchestrated political ploy to not only embarrass and discredit the Mayor, but also to disrupt the development of a secure website that could stop city monies from disappearing into thin air, seal off remote access to the computer system, and expose certain questionable and fraudulent activities.
If both the Mayor and Council know that the City of Grambling’s computer system has “holes” and the ability to correct the situation is right at the door, why are two prominent and professional Black females (Andrus and Rabon) under such heavy fire from the Council at this critical time? In our opinion, that’s the REAL story.
While there certainly have been many newsworthy issues to cover in Grambling, it is paramount for both public and media to dig way past the spin, sway, smokescreen and sensationalism of predatory political ploys to reveal hidden truths; facts which speak for themselves and can easily be verified in public record documents that are available to both the public and media.
Since accusations about receiving funds for services not provided for have flown full force recently, let’s examine that issue a little closer in our next segment…
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