Sunday, August 14, 2011

14 AUG 11: I Is for Impeach

Property tours opened Saturday for a big piece of land that's about to go up for auction in western Russell County. The Enon and Savoy plantations with more than 25,000 acres is listed as being in Hurtsboro - but from what I've been told, none of the land is inside the city limits. If it was, the constant complaining about Hurtsboro probably would have led to a sale years ago.

SUNDAY SOAPBOX: After first being tipped off to it weeks ago, your blog now can confirm an effort is underway to impeach the mayor of Hurtsboro. If you're a regular reader, you probably can guess who's behind it. It's the man who prefers to improve city government by lobbing bombs from outside than stepping inside -- which I guess makes him a lobb-ist.

We've heard from the former Hurtsboro Constable twice in recent weeks, since our mix-up over his Russell County court appearance [2 Aug]. This reached us first....

"Sir" Richard:

Thank you for posting the retraction. But in your commentary you posed a question that deserves a reply

"Gas" Taxes are to be used for the maintenance and construction of roads and bridges exclusively. Mayor Tapley used them on a sidewalk project. That's against the law.

The town of "Hurt'sboro was given $100,000.00 in Stimulous Funds for the sidewalk (Streetscape) project. Their only obligation - set up a revolving credit account to cover the costs during construction. Instead of playing by the rules - Mayor Tapley, and Mayor Tapley alone, decided to finance the sidewalk project with "Gas" Tax money.

When the deal was struck, the "Gas" Tax fund contained almost $34,000.00 and hadn't been touched for years. And now, it only has $24,000.00 for a balance. These are cold, hard facts. I obtained the bank records and had them audited.

Mayor Tapley's scheme worked like this. (a) The Contractor sent the Town a bill as work progressed. (b) The Town reimbursed the Contactor with money from the "Gas" Tax account. (c) The Contractor gave the Town a receipt; which then was forwarded by the Town to the Alabama Department of Transportation. (d) The Alabama Department of Transportation, then reimbursed the Town from the Stimulus fund.

The routine was repeated over and over again; until $94,000.00 had been received by the Town of "Hurt'sboro.

First of all, the "Gas" Tax money shouldn't have been used at all. Secondly, It's illegal (Kiting) to roll over funds of an account time after time and then return them as if nothing had happened. And last but not least, Mayor Tapley's book-keeping failed him. There's an unexplained shortage in the "Gas" Tax Fund. Where did that money go?

Being the cautious individual that you are - I'm sure you will want to check the accuracy of my claims. Try Jim Baxley.

R.J. Schweiger

Based on all this, Robert Schweiger has filed a civil suit in Russell County to impeach Mayor Rayford Tapley. At least his suit is civil -- which is more than we can say for what some people in England have done lately.

But yes, I did want to check the accuracy of Robert Schweiger's claims. I don't want any civil suits filed against me. In fact, the only "suits" I want to see at my doorstep are on people with Publisher's Clearinghouse checks.

So Saturday night I talked by phone with Hurtsboro Town Magistrate Jim Baxley. He confirmed Robert Schweiger has filed suit -- but he suggested the suit is against the city, while naming the mayor in particular. When a city has fewer than 600 residents, it's not that big a stretch.

But Jim Baxley takes issue with how the Hurtsboro gas tax fund can be used. He says city rules allow money to be used for "streets and sidewalks." This is a potentially dangerous approach, of course. If gas prices remain high, the fund might suffer a walkout -- as in everyone in town walking everywhere.

The federal government's "Recovery" website is still in operation - and indeed, Hurtsboro received a $100,000 grant. But to be more precise, the Alabama Department of Transportation received the "highway infrastructure investment grant." So the city might argue Robert Schweiger ought to sue the state -- if he doesn't mind getting in line behind the Obama administration.

By the way, the Streetscape work in Hurtsboro was projected to save or create 0.08 jobs. How extensive was the work here? Was there a college student with a shovel and one bag of powdered concrete?

Jim Baxley told me the Streetscape project actually had benefits for Hurtsboro. Improvements to the sidewalks prevent rainwater from flooding local businesses. Now if there was only a way to stop a flood of civil suits....

A busy schedule prevented me from contacting Jim Baxley in recent days. That opened the door for Robert Schweiger to prepare some other messages - including what he called a "Sunday Sermom" (misspelled), submitted to us Thursday:

"Sir" Richard:

I've never been one to be left at the starting gate. My credo is; " It's better to be an hour early - rather than one (1) minute late!' So, I'm mounting this Sunday's pulpit a good bit in advance.

First of all, I've learned that there's still a string or two dangling from the "Dissmissal" of my Civil Case. More about that later.

More importantly, is the song and dance act that's being performed each month between the "Hurt'sboro Town Council and Mr Bojangles Tapley. He tells them what he wants them to hear, and without any questions, they take his word as gospel.

In an earlier Post (which you haven't published) I explained some of the tactics that have been employed to misuse (in my opinion) public funds Now in an effort to alert the Town Council of the Perilous circumstances they could find themselves in: I sent the letter (enclosed as a file) to be read at the last Council meeting. It received very little attention.

I guess, someone would have to drop a bomb in their midst - before they take any action to protect themselves.

Oh well. They can't I didn't try!

R.J. Schweiger

That "last council meeting" occurred this past Tuesday - and the letter notes several ways in which Mayor Rayford Tapley can be impeached. Perhaps it's not surprising that the council is telling Schweiger to go fly a kiting.

I pressed Robert Schweiger for more details on his impeachment effort this weekend. He admitted Saturday he's NOT passing petitions around town, claiming "everyone [is] scared to death" Hurtsboro officials will take signers to court in response. Schweiger should remind people here's no official town attorney right now to sue them.

In fact, Robert Schweiger claims the Hurtsboro Town Council went seven months without a meeting between last October and May of this year. No one seems to mind when the state legislature is out of session that long....

Jim Baxley responded to that claim by explaining the Hurtsboro Town Council operated for months with only three members, instead of the maximum five. When one of the three couldn't make a meeting due to other commitments, there wasn't a quorum. Two's company, but three's a real city government.

I don't know if Robert Schweiger has resorted to other options on his impeachment list. If Russell County District Attorney Kenneth Davis is as close as a phone call for the Phenix City Mayor, you'd think.... oh wait. Schweiger's not in office, and he's had his own troubles with the law.

(He also could contact Alabama's Attorney General. A man named Luther Strange ought to recognize a strange tip when he hears one.)

I gave Jim Baxley an opportunity to tell me what else is going on in Hurtsboro. He had nothing to offer, except that the town is "going from day to day." Not for long, if Robert Schweiger has anything to say about it....

SCHEDULED MONDAY: Which part of Columbus government is under the microscope now?....

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