Doraville City Councilman Bob Roche resigned on Nov. 14, stating in a letter to City Clerk Melissa McCain that he could not in “good conscience” be a part of a city government that refused to hold its employees accountable.
In his resignation letter, Roche alleged that Mayor Donna Pittman and city council members refused to produce a financial statement for fiscal year 2010-11 showing budget and actual spending on all accounts.
“The motive appears to be protecting city employees who may have overspent budgets or diverted funds to unapproved uses,” Roche said.
Roche recently ran as an incumbent for District 2 against candidates Chris Avers and Trudy Jones Dean Nov. 8, beating Avers but not receiving enough votes to avoid a runoff against Dean.
In his resignation letter, Roche said that by vacating his council seat several weeks before the end of the term remaining council members have time to call a special election to fill the seat.
“This has no effect on my candidacy for the Doraville City Council term beginning Jan. 1, 2012, except I will not be running as an incumbent,” Roche said in the letter.
Pittman’s assistant Luke Howe said that the city and the interim finance director have been working diligently to review the city’s finances and prepare reports, including financial statements to be used by the council as part of its upcoming mid-year budget review.
“Mr. Roche has had access to all reports and information which exist,” Howe said.
The Champion was provided with both a financial audit and a full financial report through June 2010 and Howe said that staff was working diligently to complete the rest of the reports.
“The caveat is, we can give an accurate report through June but anything after June is incomplete and won’t project an accurate picture of where we are. We recently got a new finance director and there has been a lot of catching up to do,” Howe said.
Roche said that he had requested financial statements from the past year broken down for each department and had yet to receive them.
“The reason why that’s important is because the city council is responsible for passing a budget…as long as we don’t have a full financial statement we don’t know for sure whether a department has broken the law or not,” Roche said.
Roche also claimed that both Pittman and the city council knew there was a problem with the previous finance director but refused to do anything about it for more than a year.
“If the mayor wanted it to happen it would happen, she clearly does not,” Roche said.
Howe wouldn’t comment on Roche’s accusation of trying to cover up the misuse of funds by city employees but said the city was undergoing a careful review of its accounting records.
“We will be addressing the handling of the vacancies in both Mr. Roche’s seat and the District 1 seat in our next meeting,” Howe said. The next council meeting is Nov. 24, 6:30 to 9 p.m.
A recent resolution gives the option of appointment of council members to only one seat. Since Pittman left District 1 to run for mayor, the city now has two empty seats and will be forced to hold a special election. Howe said the cost to hold the election could range from $4,000 to $7,000.
However, Roche said that to appoint a seat the council needs a majority of four votes and he didn’t think that would have happened, which would have left Pittman’s old seat vacant for the next two years.
“The whole point was to get a full council instead of having two more years with just five people. I believe if I hadn’t resigned that seat would have remained vacant for another two years and frankly I believe the citizens have the right to elect their members,” Roche said.
Roche added that he doubted it would be a substantial cost to add the election to the ballot in May, when residents will go back to the polls to vote for the presidential primary.
“Even so, $6,000 or $7,000 is a small price to pay to make sure that everybody in Doraville is evenly represented,” Roche said.