Riverdale officials installed after mayor's vetoes overridden

By Billy Corriher

After the Riverdale city council overrode Mayor Phaedra Graham's vetoes at a Monday night meeting, the council's appointments for city judge, attorney and solicitor started work on Tuesday.

City Manager Billy Beckett said the appointees were sworn in Monday night immediately after the council meeting.

"We're ready to move forward," he said. "We're glad to have that behind us."

Since Graham's vetoes last week, the city has been without an attorney or solicitor, causing problems in city court.

"We still have some pent-up issues that we have to deal with," Beckett said. The city held court on Tuesday to get started on the backlogged cases.

Some council members had chastised Graham for vetoing the appointments, along with two other decisions from the council's first meeting.

After the council rejected Graham's appointments, she vetoed the council's choices, saying its members failed to provide the nominees' qualifications and their hourly rates.

But councilwoman Wanda Wallace said that, if Graham had any questions, council members were willing to provide answers.

"All the qualifications were given to her," she said, adding that Graham's vetoes were detrimental to the city.

"You put the people's lives at a standpoint," Wallace said. "That was really wrong."

After claiming that Graham was unwilling to communicate with council members, Wallace said she welcomed Graham's invitation to meet with the council members one on one.

"We have a city to run," she said. "If we can start tonight, I have no problem."

Graham said her phone calls were missed by council members and said a lack of communication is "unacceptable."

"I don't think the people elected us to not to talk to each other on the issues," Graham said. "This government can't be an effective and efficient government until we all can communicate."

Graham also encouraged the council to communicate so it does not have a bad reputation as representatives of the city and the city's first majority-black council.

"We are here to do the work of the people," she said. "Riverdale will not be prostituted for anybody's political or personal agenda."

Citizens in attendance applauded Graham's speech and Wallace's response. But some city residents still expressed disappointment with the governing body.

Riverdale resident Tom Donnelly has lived in the city for 67 years.

"This is the biggest mess I've seen in a while," he said.

Helen Atkinson, who has lived in Riverdale for 48 years, said she was disappointed when the mayor's vetoes put the city "at a standstill."

"I've never been so upset with the city of Riverdale as I've been this past month," she said.

Atkinson said Graham's call for more communication was needed and she hopes the mayor follows through with her promise.

Councilwoman Michelle Bruce said Graham had not yet contacted her by Tuesday afternoon.

"I'm very skeptical about what she said," Bruce said, but added that she would welcome dialogue. "I'm going for what's best for the city and what's best for the city's employees."