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Richwood aldermen could face criminal charges over budget

Published: Nov. 24, 2021 at 5:39 PM CST
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Richwood, La. (KNOE) -The Town of Richwood is one step closer to declaring a State of Emergency to keep essential services like water and sewer.

This comes after the Board of Aldermen voted to table a vote on passing a budget for the fiscal year, which began in July, at a meeting on November 23rd.

“Usually, that’s because of a natural disaster, some kind of financial problem or burden,” explained Richwood Mayor Gerald Brown. “This is Homeland Security kind of stuff.”

Brown told KNOE he was frustrated following the board’s decision to table the budget.

“To say that we are in an emergency situation because we can’t agree on something that we are supposed to agree on, it’s disappointing,” said Brown. “Disheartening.”

Alderman Wilbert Reed Jr. was one of three board members who voted to table the budget for this fiscal year.

“We don’t want the town to shut down, but it seems like we have been pushed to this point by all this contentiousness and discrepancies and discrepancies in the financial reports,” explained Reed.

Both the Louisiana Municipal Association and Louisiana Legislative Auditor’s Office are putting pressure on the town to finally adopt a budget for the 2021-22 fiscal year. LMA even went as far as to threaten criminal charges against aldermen who continually refuse to pass a budget.

“I pray to God that it doesn’t get to that point, but it that ends up being a situation that the powers that be feel that it’s necessary and want to look into. We have got to get this taken care of,” Mayor Brown told KNOE.

State law says, “intentionally refusing or failing to perform any duty lawfully required of him” could result in a maximum of five years in prison.

When KNOE asked Alderman Reed if he was concerned about being criminally charged, this is how he responded.

“Yes and no,” said Reed. “My reaction to it, until we can get everything lined out. As I have said in the meetings, there are some issues that we still haven’t worked out.”

Although Mayor Brown doesn’t personally support criminal charges, he does hope the threat will bring alderman back to the table.

“Maybe that will spur folks to come, and maybe we can get something done,” explained Brown. “That is my hope and my prayer, but certainly the human side of me. I don’t have a great deal of confidence based on what has happened in the last five months.”

Alderman Reed told KNOE he would meet with Mayor Brown on November 24th to try and reach an agreement. Mayor Brown says he has heard that promise many times before and isn’t optimistic.

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