Midway fires city manager

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By Alice Du Pont

In a letter to Midway Mayor Jerrod Holton dated Aug. 26, Auburn Ford Jr. tendered his resignation effective Aug. 31. But the Midway City Council did not accept Ford’s resignation and instead fired him during a Special Meeting/

Budget Workshop on Aug. 26.

“He presented a letter of resignation, and I believe we should accept it,” said Holton.

Council members Delores Madison, Eria Ceasar, Charles Willis and Allean Robinson voted to fire Ford immediately. Holton and council members David Knight and Charlie Smith appealed to the others to allow Ford to resign so that it would not adversely affect his future employment.

“I make a motion that we terminate Ford and have him return all city property,” said Willis about 30 minutes into discussing the issue.

Ford’s letter included a request that the city pay him $21,833.32 — the amount he said he is owed after he was fired in January. The council agreed to pay Ford after he was rehired in May.

“We all agree it’s time to move forward. He is asking money that is due him, but you can’t get blood from a turnip,” quipped Holton.

The city has no money to pay Ford because the financial coffers are nearly bare. Unless there is a financial windfall in the next few weeks, they could have trouble meeting payroll. On Aug. 23 the city had less than $25,000 in the bank. The payroll for the two weeks prior came to approximately $19,000.

City council members, in an effort to stave off a total financial calamity, cut three temporary positions in the public works department, cut the fire chief to two hours per day and relieved him of the interim fire chief’s position temporarily, cut the only employee in the parks and recreation department, cut captains in the police department and ordered all city-owned vehicles — except police cars — parked and employees who had been driving vehicles home were told to stop that practice.

City Attorney Henry Hunter said he had not been paid in three months and the financial consultant has not been paid in three months. Other vendors that were not listed were 60 to 90 days overdue.

Council members agreed they were all at fault for not keeping a more watchful eye on the finances. 

“This is all of our fault; we knew the city was going down and we sat here,” said Council Member Robinson during the Aug. 20 special meeting, convened a few days after Ford was arrested for violation of probation by being in possession of a firearm while on probation.

“It’s not about pointing fingers; it’s about where do we go from here,” said Holton.

All of the financial problems seem to stem from the Department of Economic Opportunity not reimbursing more than $300,000 for the construction of the second fire station in Midway. But DOE, according to the mayor, said some but not all of the funds will be released when the grant monitoring reports are completed.

Hunter said $40,000 has been paid to Summit for monitoring the grant and $42,000 has been paid to Atkins, an engineering firm hired to monitor the construction phase. The city has received $49,000. 

Hunter said anyone can look at the completed fire station and tell more than $49,000 has been spent.

Holton suggested council members lead by example and voluntarily give their salaries back to the city. All of the council agreed that it would help the city except Madison and Willis.