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Mayor Day reported to DA over fire funds

By Greg Gelpi

Efforts to recall Jonesboro's mayor have moved to the Clayton County District Attorney's Office.

Jonesboro Pride, an activist group of Jonesboro residents, dropped off information to District Attorney Jewel Scott's office Thursday morning in hopes of launching an investigation into Jonesboro Mayor Joy Day.

Jon Crane, the co-chairman of Jonesboro Pride, said that Day circumvented banking laws, lied and tried to lay claim to a Jonesboro Volunteer Fire Department bank account.

Day denied the charges and said that she has acted in good faith in attempting to access the roughly $40,000 in the account, since the Jonesboro Fire Department has been disbanded, the department was a part of the city and the account was established under a city tax identification number.

Gail McDonald, the president of Tara Credit Union, where the account is held, wouldn't comment on the dispute. A letter obtained by the News Daily, however, confirmed that Day may have attempted to access the account without the proper authorized signatures.

"As our Member Service Representative told your office on the phone yesterday, we must have all three signature, Joy Day, Jimmy Wiggins and Willis Swint before anything can be done on the account, but also changing the signatures on the account, as you were trying to do this morning," McDonald wrote to Day on Jan. 14. "Our head teller said that you told her that you talked to me yesterday and I knew this was going on and it was okay with me to change the signature card. I'm sure she must have misunderstood since I haven't spoken with you about the account before."

Day said that city's finance director actually spoke with McDonald and that it was her understanding that everything was set up to access the account.

A letter from City Attorney David Winkle to McDonald in response explained that the account belongs to the city.

"The bank account in question is and has always been the sole property of the City of Jonesboro," Winkle's letter stated.

The bank account was setup specifically requiring three signatures, McDonald said in her letter, responding to Winkle.

"They wanted 'Requires three signatures for withdrawal' on the account and that's the way the account is set up," McDonald wrote Feb. 28.

Swint, who joined the volunteer fire department in 1952, wouldn't comment on the account, but did say "at the present time, I'm not for releasing it."

Wiggins, who served as the fire department's chief for about 25 years, is the chairman of Tara Credit Union. Although he wouldn't comment on the situation either, he did say the matter should be resolved in the courts.

When the credit union denied her access to the account, Day said she turned the issue over to the city's attorneys.

"I just think this is something the law should sort out," she said. "Whatever the law says we will abide by certainly."

If the money is turned over to the city, Day said the money could be used to build a park to honor the city's volunteer firefighters, although nothing is certain.

"We will do that if we get awarded the money or not," Day said of the park.

Crane, however, said that the money was donated specifically to the fire department during fund-raisers and that it should be used to benefit burn victims, smaller financially strapped fire departments and other firefighter causes.

The firefighters' bank account is only one instance in a "litany" of issues that Jonesboro Pride is using in its efforts to remove Day as mayor, Crane said.

Crane and Jonesboro City Councilman Rick Yonce said they plan to speak about the bank account at Monday's city council meeting, and both intend to call for City Manager Jon Walker's resignation since he accompanied the mayor when she attempted to access the money.

Yonce called the actions of the mayor "very shady," since he asked her directly about the account during February's meeting, only days before she attempted to access the funds. According to him, she said that nothing had been done with the funds since that would require three signatures then tried to get the money with only her signature.

"I'm not an attorney, but I think what was done was very deceitful," Yonce said, adding that along with his statements Monday, he may also propose action be taken regarding the matter.

Walker also denied any wrongdoing and said that Jonesboro Pride called for his resignation last month as well and the new charges don't bother him.

"I can tell you that they are city funds and they are under a city tax ID number," Walker said. "No other organization can claim them. We have to protect the city's assets. They're audited on our books."

Day said that it has become "common" for groups, such as Jonesboro Pride, to pop up.

"I'm still committed to doing the work of the city," Day said. "I'm going to continue to do what the people of Jonesboro elected me to do."

Scott confirmed that information was dropped off at her office Thursday morning, but said she hadn't had an opportunity to review it as of yet.

"We will review it and make a determination based on the information provided," Scott said, adding that she will probably begin reviewing it today.

In a 4-3 vote with Day casting the deciding vote, the volunteer department was disbanded and fire protection was turned over to the county fire department. Some city officials said it was an economic reason, but firefighters said they were kept in the dark and were not shown any respect during the process. The volunteer department had operated for 56 years.