Riverdale councilwomen call for investigation

By Ed Brock

At least two members of the Riverdale City Council are calling for an investigation of the city's finances, in part due to the use of city funds in support of its recent Fall Festival.

Councilwomen Wanda Wallace and Michelle Bruce have called for the investigation and their concerns are expected to come up during tonight's city council meeting at the Riverdale Municipal Complex.

Wallace listed her concerns in a Nov. 15 memorandum to Riverdale City Attorney Veronica Jones in which she asks Jones to begin an internal investigation into possible "ethical and legal infractions" related to the Fall Festival.

"These infractions included the possibility of favoritism, improper authorization concerning the use of city funds, improper authorization concerning the use of city resources, lack of committee guidelines and development, lack of committee minutes, lack of disclosure concerning monies spent and the improper use of a government credit card," Wallace wrote.

Also, Bruce's mother, Barbara Williams, began her own investigation involving requests for information from the city after she overheard volunteers at the Fall Fest complaining loudly to Wallace and other council members.

The volunteers said a city councilman had taken other volunteers shopping for gifts, but not them.

Among Williams' concerns are the use of $1,500 from the city's recycling fund, which she said were authorized by City Manager Iris Jessie without a vote by the council, and the use of a city-issued credit card by City Councilman Kenny Ruffin.

The charges on the credit card were made to vendors such as Target in Morrow, Play It Again Sports, Michaels and Wal-Mart in Fayetteville and Riverdale and others. Ruffin acknowledged that all of the charges in question stemmed from the Fall Festival, the idea for which he presented to the council. He said the charges were proper and he would explain more during tonight's meeting. He declined to comment further.

In a response to written questions from Williams, Jessie wrote that the city provided a $1,500 line item allocation from the recycling fund and that she had authorized that the money be used. Williams said the city's charter only authorizes Jessie to spend funds up to $1,000 without a vote by the council.

According to minutes of the council's meetings, Ruffin was initially scheduled to talk about the Fall Festival at the Aug. 23 meeting but he withdrew his comments at that time. At a Sept. 13 meeting in which Wallace served as mayor pro temp, Ruffin made his proposal that the event be held on Oct. 31 at Sparkles Skating Rink on Ga. Highway 85.

At that time he requested that the city use $1,500 from its approved $15,000 recreation budget.

Wallace questioned Ruffin on his desire to hold the event at Sparkles, saying she wanted to see it held at a more neutral location because holding it at the skating rink showed favoritism. Wallace also called for the creation of an "activity committee" comprised of citizens, and she repeated these concerns and others at several other meetings leading up to the event.

There is no record in the minutes provided by Williams of a vote by the council to hold the event.

Tonight's meeting will begin at 7 p.m.