White Castle Mayor Gerald Williams recently sent out a letter to the Town of White Castle in an effort to re-instill hope in the residents and address the recent negative light on the Town’s “mistakes”.
Mayor Williams is currently serving his second term as the Mayor of White Castle and he says the friction started soon after he was re-elected.
“At the beginning of this term, I made a lot of changes,” Williams said. “And everyone wasn’t happy about those changes. A lot happened during election season that caused the actual ‘friction’ and it hasn’t stopped.”
The letter reads: “I acknowledge and deeply regret the negative issues that have plagued our Town in recent months. As human beings, we are destined to make mistakes at some times in our personal as well professional lives. However, be assured that the mistakes which have been made by Town officials and reported in the media were not in any way deliberate acts.”
Some of these “mistakes” were highlighted in a recent audit report of the town. Some of the problems the auditor the town hired found, according to the official report, include: “three hotel charged totaling $4,122 noted with no documentation of business purpose”, “a purchase at a Wal-Mart retail store for $195 with no supporting documentation”, “Employees who were not authorized to use the credit cards signed for certain purchases”, and “the Town credit card was used to pay for an employee’s co-pay of $100.00 for medical charges.”
The recent report also states that “as of September 30, 2016, the Town had deposited into the employees’ share accounts $10,485 in excess of what was withheld from their respective paychecks. Of this amount, $7,826 was attributable to the ex-husband of the Town Clerk.”
According to a recent WBRZ report, Williams said the travel expenses were for multiple town employees and not just him. He also said the $10,000 that went to town employees who weren’t entitled to receive it said that remains under investigation.
According to the Mayor, an October 2016 audit report of the town found 15 discrepancies, eight of which have been rectified, Williams said. He expects the remaining issues to be rectified soon in hopes of having a clean audit report for 2017. Williams also added that a lot of these issues have been occurring since before he took office.
“These things had been happening, but for some reason it’s just now being caught,” Williams said. “I’m glad because I am correcting it. This has been happening before my term, the way the system had been ran in here. Finally, things caught up and I’m just trying to make sure that everything is corrected.”
In his letter to the town, Mayor Williams mentions “certain corrective measures to be implemented immediately in the human resource area”. The corrective measure, Williams said, is the hiring of a Baton Rouge-based HR firm called Chief of Minds. Mayor Williams intends to outsource the handling of the town’s financials, including payroll, to the Baton Rouge firm.
“We hired an HR firm and we’ve changed our policies and procedures,” Williams added.
According to 1st Assistant District Attorney Scott Stassi, Stassi will meet Monday, July 10 with a representative from the CPA firm that did the recent town audit and a representative from the Legislative Auditor’s office.
“We’re going to be reviewing their findings and trying to determine if these are ethical or criminal violations.”
Once Stassi receives more clarity on this matter currently under investigation, the Post South will request an interview.
Mayor Williams addressed his letter to the Town of White Castle to also shed a positive light on the town’s recent successes.
“Since there have been court cases and we have been on the news for negativity as far as the town goes, on the flip side of that, we’ve had a lot of victories that haven’t been told,” Williams said. “We’ve still been able to manage and maintain, implement things that we thought couldn’t happen even through the toughest of times.”
The town built a new water park, renovated the Community Center and was recently approved to receive a grant to begin building sidewalks in December. Williams also has plans to begin construction on a levee top trail in November. The Town is also currently upgrading the multipurpose grounds to host festivals and a weekly Farmers Market. “Those things are actually happening despite what we’ve gone through.”
Williams hopes his letter will help soothe the “black eye” given to the town by the media. He believes reports have been one-sided and have not been telling the whole story.
“The media’s going to put out their one side of the story to make sure they get the ratings,” Williams said. He believes once the town can get past the remaining discrepancies, White Castle will continue to move forward.
“From that letter to my belief, my faith is telling me we are going to prosper and move forward,” Williams said. “Despite everything we’ve been through. We have a very strong council. We have a great staff and my faith just tells me that we’re going to move forward.
“You’re still able to see the rainbow through all those dark clouds. And that’s the thing that gives me hope. I just pray that White Castle can trust the leadership. Things will get better and we are going to overcome.”
This is a developing story and the Post South will request to interview with Scott Stassi once the meeting is held. A full copy of Mayor Williams’ letter can be found in this week’s Opinions section.