Citing ‘corrupt political atmosphere,’ Alpena mayor says he’ll resign if council approves detachments

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

By Scott Loftis

Alpena Mayor Theron McCammond said last week that he will resign his position if the city council goes along with his request to detach two pieces of property — his own and the site of the Top Rock restaurant on U.S. Highway 62.

McCammond spoke to media members on Tuesday, July 21, on the edge of a pasture on his property off U.S. 412. He described what he called “a corrupt political atmosphere” in the town of roughly 400 people that straddles the Carroll/Boone county line.

McCammond, 50, was elected mayor in November 2018, defeating longtime incumbent Bobbie Bailey. He took office in January 2019 and has feuded with the city council for nearly his entire time in office.

A major point of contention has been mileage reimbursements issued from 2014 to 2019 to district court clerk Phyllis McNair, who also served as the water department clerk before McCammond fired her from that position.

An Arkansas Legislative Audit report said McNair was overpaid by $3,715 for 266 duplicate mileage reimbursements from Jan. 1, 2014, to March 31, 2019. McCammond said Tuesday that McNair billed both the water department and the district court for mileage. According to McCammond, McNair would frequently bill both department for 30-mile round trips to Harrison to make bank deposits when she actually made the deposits in Green Forest, an 18-mile round trip.

After the audit findings were revealed, prosecuting attorney David Ethredge announced that no criminal charges would be filed. Ethredge’s district includes Boone, Marion, Baxter and Newton counties. The Boone County Sheriff’s Office also looked into the matter and declined to pursue charges. McCammond said both Bailey and a Boone County district court judge told an investigator that McNair had requested reimbursement for mileage as they had instructed her.

McNair said Monday that she spoke willingly with investigators from the sheriff’s office who found no basis for charges. She said McCammond refused to accept that outcome.

“They dropped the case,” she said. “He wouldn’t drop it.”

McNair said she did nothing wrong.

“He’s made some serious accusations against me and other people,” she said. “There was nothing there. I itemized everything for everybody to see. I have nothing to hide.”

McNair said McCammond has refused to let the issue go.

“He still brings all that up and talks about corruption and everything else,” she said. “There was never any corruption. Never.”

City council member A.J. Womack, who said he joined the council about eight months after McCammond took office, defended McNair.

“The previous administration — the previous mayor and the judge — told her to file her paperwork that way,” Womack said. “It wasn’t even her decision to file the paperwork that way. She was filing her mileage the exact way that both of her bosses were telling her to do it.”

Womack, the great-grandson of the former mayor, said a petition was circulated seeking to recall McCammond as mayor. He said county clerks in both Carroll and Boone counties are working to verify the signatures.

“More than likely it will be on the ballot in November to remove him as mayor,” Womack said.

One of his major criticisms of McCammond, Womack said, was that he didn’t try to resolve the mileage issue directly with McNair or bring it to the city council’s attention.

“Instead of talking to Phyllis, instead of talking to council, the previous mayor or the judge to figure out why the paperwork was being done that way, he went directly to the prosecuting attorney and the sheriff’s department.”

McCammond said he felt obligated to report the situation to law enforcement. If the city council passes the detachment ordinances, he said, he will give up his position.

“Once those ordinances are passed and in effect, and both my property and Mary Jones’ property are detached from the town of Alpena, I will tender my resignation as mayor of Alpena effective upon that legislation,” McCammond said, referring to the owner of the Top Rock property. “It has become apparent that my faith, my family and my financial well-being are more important to me than fighting a corrupt syndication by myself. To the people of Alpena who voted for me, I want to apologize to you for my failures. I did not anticipate the blatant corruption and nepotism that the town government in Alpena holds.”

If the ordinances are not passed, McCammond said, he will not resign.

Womack said he will not vote in favor of the detachment ordinances, although he said he could not speak for other council members.

“It would have been one thing if he came and talked to the council about it and told us what he wants to do,” Womack said. “Instead he’s holding the council hostage. He doesn’t care about democracy.”

Jones could not be reached for comment.

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