By Jeff Vanderbeck
There is something inherently wrong in Martin and unless there is an audit, change or investigation, the community may never know what is happening and funds will continue to go missing.
I went to a meeting the other night hosted by concerned citizens of the City of Martin. It was held at Fatboys restaurant. There were about 25 citizens, a few council members and city employees. Guest speakers from the Army Corps of Engineers explained about phase II of the redevelopment efforts that are being done now or are in place to start this year.
The corps explained how the next phase would cost $80 million that has already been secured, and will attempt to raise part of the city to eliminate it from the current flood plane. This is desperately needed because every time it rains the town gets flooded.
There were many concerns about the project, like who is in charge, who will be paying for the work, who will do the work, will the hospital be affected negatively, will the community be without water, power and sewer while the construction is being done and since one part of the city will be raised what happens to the water in the other areas?
The corps did a good job of answering the questions, but I’m sure they felt like they were ambushed. The community has no information, they have seen millions of dollars go by the wayside without accountability and there is no one to provide information.
We cover a lot of municipalities, we see a lot of corruption and we do what we can to bring the truth to the people. I was amazed that this very public issue was explained at a restaurant and not at city hall during a regularly scheduled meeting. I was told that the corps may be stifled because they city doesn’t want the public to know what is happening or how much is being spent. The lack of transparency raises red flags all over.
The city is running like they are immune to the authorities, and so far they have been untouchable. I don’t know whether they feel no one is paying attention to the small town or if they feel they have to many political connections at the county and state level where they won’t be looked at. Either way it’s a house of cards.
There is a water project underway now that is apparently being paid for but allegedly, to date, the contractor has not submitted invoices. The mayor is allegedly writing reimbursement checks without council approval, according to one council member.
There was talk last night about former employees using the city’s gas cards, having their insurance premiums paid and benefits being handed out to people who don’t even work in the city.
All this can be easily proven with the handing over of documents under the Open Records Act, which we have filed. The city has yet to turn over documents that we requested back in August 2019. Andy Beshear, as attorney general, ruled in our favor and still the city has yet to turn over the documents, this tells me that someone has connections with the city and there is a massive cover up.
The city does not have a current budget; the one on file is two years old. They don’t have any idea how much money they are taking in or how much is going out — publicly. It is general belief that someone knows what is happening and where the money is being hidden and funneled.
The city employees I spoke with are scared to say a word in fear of losing their job. I heard that the police are after people who go against the mayor and that people who are outspoken are not being treated fairly. Fortunately for the outspoken, they don’t care and they know that the truth will eventually prevail.
The city can’t handle what they have now, but they attempted a major annexation, which was met with major resistance because of the lack of transparency in the city government. The city should not have the ability to make any decisions until they get their house in order and become transparent.
The city is required by law to inform the people of changes by running legal ads in this newspaper. They ran some legal ads last year and refused to pay for them, I sued them in small claims court and, miraculously, they sent a check over the day after I received judgment in our favor. Having a judgment against them for lack of payment will not bode well in Frankfort and may raise some eyebrows, which it should.
Something needs to be done. There needs to be an audit from an outside agency, not from cronies of the system. The league of cities needs to step in; the funding for all projects needs to come to a halt until the mess is cleared up. The water and sewer needs to be run transparently instead of by people who can’t or will not submit invoices for legitimate work. The entire city government needs to be investigated.
The concerned citizens of Martin deserve more than what they are getting which is lies and diversions. Maybe the concerned citizens should sue the city; it seemed to work for this newspaper.