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Prospect funds $25k investigation into mayor

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By Samantha Parker

 The Prospect City Council has approved a $25,000 investigation into Mayor John Evans. 

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In a special meeting July 9, the council passed a budget which would allow for the city’s reserves to be allocated toward this investigation at a vote of 3-2. 

Council members Luke Schmidt, Susan Nicholson and Stuart Miles voted in favor while Councilwoman Sandra Leonard and Councilman Frank Fulcher voted against. 

Councilman Jeff Stovall abstained from the vote. “Due to the fact that I will not be here next year, I will abstain from voting,” Stovall said. 

Moments before the vote was taken, citizens yelled out, “this is not what we want” and “we don’t need this.”

Initially, a $50,000 investigation was proposed after Miles, Schmidt and Nicholson held a meeting with Mayor Evans to discuss allegations made against him. The three also asked for his resignation during the meeting. 

The list of allegations, which were distributed at the May 21 meeting, included problems with the mayor’s memory, a misuse of Prospect funds to build a fence on private property and anti semitism, among other things. 

Since the May 21 meeting, the amount for this investigation has decreased from $50,000 to $25,000 and Mayor Evans has denied most of the allegations.

Residents filled every seat and several stood in the back during the special called meeting. 

Councilwoman Susan Nicholson was the first council member to speak about the investigation, saying that she supported it but did not believe that $25,000 would be necessary to fund it. 

“My sense is that a project of this size would be in the five to ten thousand area, much less than the $25,000 allotted in the ordinance,” Nicholson said. 

Nicholson said that she would still be voting for the budget that included the $25,000 investigation.

“I don’t believe asking the audit to take this on would be too expensive-- I do believe that’s the appropriate ordinance to pass and that’s what I’ll be voting on tonight,” Nicholson said.

Over 10 residents spoke in opposition of the investigation, with only one speaking in favor of the investigation. 

Prospect resident John Simpson spoke in disapproval of the council. 

“You’ve taken underground one of the most important issues the city council has ever had, and that is the removal of the mayor, and you’ve done so in a way that I believe is contrary to state law and I’m quite sure is contrary to the desires of the community,” Simpson said. “I believe that the four of you (Stovall, Schmidt, Nicholson and Miles) need to step back, you need to take a timeout in city politics and you need to take some time to regain the trust of your community.”

Simpson also told the council he sent a letter to the state government alleging that four members of the council had violated the open meetings act. 

Another resident, Chris Dorman, also spoke against the investigation. 

“You know in this instance what your constituents want, they want you to drop it (the investigation,)” Dorman said. “I think we live in a democracy. I hope we live in a democracy, please do what your constituents want and don’t waste this money.” 

According to Councilman Stovall, the mayor showed him medical records addressing the allegations against his memory. 

“I had the opportunity to meet with the mayor and he was quite candid and shared some of his medical records with me,” Stovall said. “He didn’t have to do that, and I didn’t want to have to ask him to do that.”

Councilwoman Nicholson also spoke to the allegation that there was a hostile work environment and said that she no longer considered it an issue. 

“Most of the employees have sent emails to members of the council and stated that while some of the allegations were indeed true, the workplace was fine, we do not need to be concerned, and to move on,” Nicholson said. “I still believe that policy changes are needed, but I think those changes can be without a formal investigation.”

According to Nicholson, the now passed investigation could be performed by the city’s audit firm, Stephen and Lawson. 

“I believe it could be done by asking our audit firm,” Nicholson said. “I think it would be very beneficial to have that done in the next month, so if Stephen and Lawson could take this on as a project, I think we should ask them to.”