Henderson explains reasoning for resignation from city council

Published 6:15 pm Friday, June 7, 2013

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Jim Henderson said he resigned from the Jemison City Council because he wasn’t provided enough information about the city’s finances.

Mayor Eddie Reed and other council members said a computer crash was to blame for a lack of information at council meetings and work is underway to correct the problem.

Henderson explained on Wednesday the main catalyst for submitting his resignation from his District 2 council seat on Monday was he did not want to continue voting to pay city bills without knowing how much money was being spent or what the money was being spent on.

“I wasn’t brought up that way,” Henderson said. “ I am not accusing anyone of any wrongdoings but it goes against my conviction to vote to pay for bills that I have never seen before.”

According to Henderson, since being sworn in as a councilman on Nov. 5, 2012, he developed frustrations that council members would vote to pay the city bills prior to adjourning the council meetings and never review the bills before voting on them.

“When I was sworn in as a councilman, I was told part of my role as a councilman was to oversee the financial expenditures of the city,” Henderson said. “How can I be a responsible councilman for the citizens of this city when I vote to pay for things and I never see what I am paying for?”

Henderson said he requested to see a list of the bills being paid by the city and was provided a check registry spanning from Nov. 9, 2012, to March 21, 2013, but he did not receive the registry until the end of April.

Henderson said his desire was to have a list of the bills given to each councilman prior to the council meetings and be able to review the expenditures during the “pay the bills” portion of the meeting before voting to pay them.

Reed said the computer crashing earlier this year did result in some of the financial information not always being readily available prior to council meetings.

However, during a May 16 work session, Reed said city clerk Sheila Hogge informed the council there would be a delay with some of the financial records due to the computer crash and the city was working on a new database that would store all of the financial information.

Henderson did not attend the May 16 work session.

Councilman Rex Bittle said the new database was discussed during the work session on May 16 and everything is on track to have a new way to receive financial updates for the city on the new database.

“I regret Henderson resigned before the new database got up and running because we will have a new way of getting financial updates, that I think it will make things a lot easier,” Bittle said.

Reed said the council is responsible for the finances of the city and any councilman has the ability to request city financial records at any time.

“We wouldn’t keep Henderson from seeing any of the records,” Reed said. “There might have been a delay in getting the check registry together but we would never keep a councilman from seeing the records.”

Bittle said the city is working to get all of the records lost during the crash restored and hopes to have a new computer database unveiled no later than July.

Councilman George Brasher, who is serving in his fifth term as a councilman, said the council has a system set up where they usually have a check registry given at the second meeting of each month.

Brasher explained that at the first meeting of every month some of the city’s monthly bills have not arrived so it has been the standard procedure for the council to have a list of the regular monthly bills at the second meeting of the month.

Brasher said for any specific bill the city has paid, the council can go to Hogge and request a copy of the bill and she will provide the copy to them.

“We did discuss at our last work session a new computer program that will be installed that is going to make things a whole lot easier,” Brasher said. “I think this new program is going to allow everything to be itemized.”

Henderson said resigning from the council position was not an easy decision for him and one that he thought about for a long time before officially deciding to resign “I want to apologize to the people who voted for me because I feel like I let them down in some ways,” Henderson said. “When I decided to run for a position on the council I thought I could make a difference in this city, but it turns out I was just very naive.”

Henderson said he has no vendetta against the city and thinks there are things going on in Jemison that are “fantastic.”

In August 2012 Henderson defeated incumbent Donnie Lane for the District 2 position in the municipal elections with 62 percent of the votes compared to Lane’s 38 percent.

“I appreciate all of the people who voted for me, but things have to be done right and I could not continue serving on the council,” Henderson said. “If you are an elected official it is your responsibility to see the city expenditures before voting on them.”