INVESTIGATIVE UNIT: Mysterious check, sloppy record keeping among White Castle's recent problems
WHITE CASTLE- Mayor Jermarr Williams is defending a number of issues raised by a town resident and the town's auditor who found a number of problems with the way business was being conducted.
At issue is a $1,735 check that a resident received in the mail. Velta Nicholas thought it was her lucky day.
"I picked up the phone and called town hall," Nicholas said. "I asked for Monica Hamilton who is our clerk. I said Monica I got a check for $1,735, what is that for? She said I don't know Ms. Nick."
That's when she recalls the town clerk asking to bring the check back. Nicholas said the check that was sent to her was addressed to her non-profit that has not been in operation for almost ten years. Instead of bringing the check back, she took it to the FBI.
"They were very concerned about it," Nicholas said. "They took pictures of it, and they added it to the other issues that I had for the town."
Weeks ago, more alarming issues were raised. The auditor the town hired found a host of problems including "hotel charges totaling $4,122 noted with no documentation of a business purpose" and "purchases at Walmart with no supporting documentation, Apple itunes, and an employee's co-pay of $100 for medical charges."
Auditors also found the "town deposited into employees' share accounts $10,485 in excess of what was withheld from their paychecks" and "$7,826 went to the ex-husband of the town clerk."
Mayor Jermarr Williams finally agreed to do an interview with the Investigative Unit. He says the issues involving the check were nothing more than a misunderstanding. The issues raised by the auditor have all been rectified.
"It was a simple mistake made with the check... nothing major," Williams said.
Williams said when it was brought to the town's attention they issued a stop payment order. He said the check was sent to Nicholas by mistake and blamed it on the computers at town hall. So The Investigative Unit asked whether invoices were compared and cross referenced before checks were sent out.
"Yes sir, we do," Williams said. "That was a simple mistake because we have so many bills. When we try to get the bills out, it was a simple mistake made."
In reference to the travel, Williams said that was for multiple town employees and not just him. He said the $10,000 that went to town employees who weren't entitled to receive it said that remains under investigation.
"I'm not going to say it's theft," Williams said. "We are trying to get records in regards to getting everything straight."
When asked if it wasn't theft, then what was it, Williams answered, "Something happened with our bank. We have to get the records straight."
Residents like Nicholas are demanding better by their local officials to clean up what's going on. She says she's speaking up because she's tired of what's going on, and the lack of any effort to punish those doing what is consistently found to be in violation.
"Some people when they realize they can get away with something, it empowers them," Nicholas said. "They begin to feel omnipotent. The more they get away with, the more they get away with, the more they try. My local governmental agency is a cancer. My mother used to say the word an eating cancer. It's a cancer. Only way to get a cancer out... is to get a cancer out."
Mayor Williams says changes have already been put into place to prevent the issues with the check and the other problems from occurring again. He offered few explanations as to what those changes were.
Scott Stassi at the District Attorney's Office said they are reviewing the matter.