PELAHATCHIE, Miss.(WJTV) – With nearly 24 city employees not getting paid, leaving the City of Pelahatchie at a standstill.
12 News Lanaya Lewis reported about how some workers have yet to receive a paycheck the entire month of August.
On Saturday, 12 News spoke with Pelahatchie Alderman-at-Large Eddie Jones who said, “These city workers need their money… I wish I was rich, and I’d give it to them out of my own pocket.”
He explained there are only two people authorized to sign checks; the Mayor Pro Tem and the city clerk. Unfortunately, the city does not have a clerk, which he says falls back on Mayor Ryshonda Beechem.
He said just a few weeks prior to city workers not receiving checks, he was asked by Mayor Beechem to try and sign a “check writing card” at the bank. “I went to the bank on my lunch hour and the lady to me paperwork wouldn’t be ready for another 2-3 weeks.”
After that attempt, Jones said that’s when Beechem started to refuse check signing.
At the discretion of their attorney’s, Jones said he and the other aldermen were instructed not to sign any paychecks.
“We’re kind of curious in accounts and balances in the checking system also. It has not been done… it’s supposed to been audited last year on the 2018 stuff… It never was done.”
Jones claims the board has tried to reach out to several accounting firms, but all have refused to “touch it with a 10 foot pole because of all the stuff going on with the state auditor.”
12 News also spoke with former Pelahatchie Mayor Knox Ross.
He said he’s watched documents and statements float around on social media, and he’s heartbroken. Ross served as Pelahatchie’s mayor for 16 years.
“If the checks are not being signed, the bills are not being paid… that’s responsibility of the mayor… any mayor.”
He said during his term he never experienced the magnitude of problems the city is facing now, but he knows the board is concerned about the financial condition of the town.
“The board approves the payments. Mayors don’t have the authority to spend money. But they have superintendent control of the city so they are responsible for the day-to-day operations.”
According to Ross, he’s heard about the city owing companies like Southern Pine and the retirement agency the city goes through.
“I can understand it if you had a situation where you thought an expenditure was not proper or you didn’t agree with it, and you say I’m not going to sign that particular one… but why would you not sign people’s paychecks that have actually worked for the time.”
Ross said even with all that’s going on, the citizens have showed their love for Pelahatchie and support for one another.
“We have a town that people work together, and I believe that was demonstrated by the citizens coming together and getting the money.”