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Tensions Escalate at Crockett City Council Meeting

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Part One: CEIDC Check Practices Questioned

By Will Johnson

Messenger Reporter

CROCKETT – A special meeting of the Crockett City Council was held on Monday, March 28 to address the Crockett Economic and Industrial Development Corporation’s (CEIDC) 2020 and 2021 financial audit findings.

The meeting was requested following a council session on March 21 where the city’s annual financial audit – prepared by the accounting firm of Axley and Rode, LLP – revealed signed blank checks were received in advance of check processing.   

As the meeting got underway, Mayor Pro Tem Mike Marsh said, “In 2022 a letter was sent. We got busted last year for this and we got busted again. On April 23, 2021 in a meeting of the CEIDC Board of Directors, concerning the 2020 audit, they approved a policy that stated ‘It is the policy of the CEIDC that no checks will be signed blank,’ and then they found some again this year. We had grants that went cold last year and there is no correction. There was supposed to be a correction and there is not.”

Marsh clarified that he did not believe anything was missing or not in order “… but this is what we got busted on and it is going to hold up grants again. Especially this year, when we were supposed to have corrected it and we haven’t. I would like to do a correction and have the city take over the (CEIDC) checkbook. We have to do something. We have to show the state we are trying to do something so we can get our grant money.”

Councilman Darrell Jones spoke next. He said he had several issues with the current meeting.

“First of all, (CEIDC Executive Director) Mr. (James) Gentry was never notified of such a thing (pre-signed checks), nor was he given any documents. Our city administrator (John Angerstein) got this and held on to it for two weeks before Mr. Gentry knew anything about it. Y’all haven’t even given the (CEIDC) board time to look at it. This was the city’s audit not the CEIDC audit except for little tidbits in there. Why didn’t y’all give them time to look at what’s what so they can address it. That’s being blind-sided and I don’t like it,” Jones said.

Marsh replied, “They had a year.”

“I’m talking about what we did up here. Y’all got this. It ain’t going to happen today. Not with me. Forgive me, but I’m pissed.”

Next, Jones questioned Angerstein about when he received the audit. Angerstein replied he received it the day it was presented to the council on March 21.

“We got the audit the day of. I was pushing her (CPA Molly Abele) because by law, we are required to have this done, submitted and approved by council within six months of the end of our fiscal year. I was following up with her and asking to get this audit so we would continue to be in compliance. As she was getting the audit posted, I sent her an e-mail. She was asking me some questions a week or two prior to our meeting. She confirmed the audit would be ready. I saw the audit the day of (March 21). She e-mailed it to me. In fact, the complete audit was not sent to us until after we approved it,” Angerstein said.

“You just said you got it,” Jones remarked. “Did you forward it to him (Gentry)? He didn’t know nothing about it.”

Angerstein replied, “I got it the day of.”

“But,” Jones said, “Did you forward it to him? You said you got it. Why didn’t you forward it to him? He’s economic development. Why he didn’t get it?”

“It was our audit,” Angerstein said. “I didn’t send it to any department heads. I didn’t send it to the police department – “

“I didn’t ask anything about that. He is the director of economic development. Why did he not get it? That’s all I’m asking,” Jones stated.

“I guess at this point,” Mayor Fisher said, “what the question is, was it shared prior to the night, in terms of what was in the audit? Is that what the question is?”

Jones replied, “I want to know why they gave it to him. He had it but no communication went on. So, tell me why y’all have it, but he don’t know nothing about it? If that ain’t blindsiding, tell me why not? Everybody tell me if I’m wrong?”

“The why is the council did get it …” the mayor started to say.

“That ain’t what I said. I said Mr. Gentry,” Jones interrupted.

Several more minutes of bickering followed before Gentry spoke to the council.

For further information on the March 28 meeting, please see the Sunday, April 3 edition of The Messenger.

Will Johnson may be contacted via e-mail at wjohnson@messenger-news.com.