Teater claims lack of accountability in funds

By PAT BROWN,

If  Mendenhall gets its expected visit from the State Department of Audit, Mayor Todd Booth said the city would welcome that visit to make sure the city is following proper protocol in their city court system.  

This comes on the heels of the resignation of former City of Mendenhall employee Kathy Teater last Tuesday afternoon.  Teater stated that she had been counseled about her job performance, that it was unwarranted, and that she is the target of workplace bullying. 

Teater said she was hired to work part time for the city since Municipal Court Clerk Lori King was unsuccessful in her bid for justice court judge in last November’s election.  According to Teater, the plan was that she would work with King during the election period and then she would be given the municipal court clerk’s position full time and work in their city court program.

However, King did not get elected, and this created an issue for Teater, who was reduced to part-time helping to correct problems in the administration of the city’s court system. 

Teater claims she has been the target of bullying, which included furniture as well as court documents being thrown.   Teater says the bullying is a result of her efforts to correct problems that hamper accountability in the department. 

Teator says the issue runs much deeper than an employee grudge.  She said Mendenhall’s leadership is aware of the problems and has done nothing to correct them. 

Mayor Booth vehemently denied the accusation and said it was his understanding that the issue with Teater was resolved following the performance counseling session where, he said, Teater accepted the fact that she was in the wrong and he said okay with moving forward. 

Teater said that most of the court problems come from improperly handling funds that come through the city judicial process as well as a lack of accountability.  She previously served as the court clerk for the city and says she was familiar with the process and would occasionally make suggestions for improvement.

One example of a potential problem that Teater cited can occur, she said, when someone from out of town gets a ticket in Mendenhall. Bond is set and the person is allowed to leave.

The case is then called in court, and if the person is not there, a guilty plea is ruled on and the bond fee is surrendered as a fine.   

Teater also cited a situation with a local citizen, John Jensen, producing  paper work that showed that Jensen had posted a $3,000 cash bond.  A year after the fact  Jensen returned to get a refund on his funds and was told his request had to be in writing and approved before it could be re-issued.  Within a few days the $3,000 was returned to Jensen in cash, not a check.  Teater said that the funds had been held unsecured in the jacket of the bond. 

King, who was present during the interview, said that the Jensen case had been referred to a different court.  It was later determined that because the case did not go through the city the bond would be refunded.  According to Teater no record of the funds in question was found at city hall. 

Teater said there is a back log of work and citations that are over five years old and that the city judge will no longer issue warrants on cases over two years old. 

Teater said she has made the judge, the mayor and other city officials aware of the problems but that they have no interest in correcting those problems.   

Teater said she had chosen to make this information public now because on Tuesday, January 28, King wrote her up because she incorrectly entered a date of the 4th on a form when it  should have been the 1st.  She said she asked King why she was being written up and that King said she “demanded perfection” when it came to dealing with records. 

Teater said she regularly corrects mistakes others make, including King, and no one else is reprimanded. 

King said that the issue is much more than a single instance. She cited incorrectly listed names which were corrected by the warrants officer.  King said while a single number may not appear to be a big issue, it would become one  someone else’s number appeared for wrong doing because a single number change actually represents a different person. 

King added that several issues had occurred over the course of a week, which prompted the work counseling session with Teater. 

Teater said that Mayor Todd Booth, City Clerk Tiffany Wallace and King were present for the counseling.  Teater said she has talked with the mayor and Wallace about the problems and that one response was that King had been through three mayors and four clerks and nothing ever changed. 

Teater said, “This is not about spite; this is about doing the right thing and correcting a  larger potential problem.”

 Wallace said there is a specific accounting system in place to track funds on the city financial records.   

Teater said the funds in question should be accounted for but that the court system does not balance to the city’s accounting system and there is no oversight or accountability.