HAMLET — Former mayor Abbie Covington asked city leaders for an update on the State Bureau of Investigation’s police department probe Tuesday night after council members struck her from the speakers’ agenda.
Councilman Johnathan Buie made a motion to remove Covington from the meeting agenda, and after Jesse McQueen’s second and a unanimous vote, the council quickly moved on. Covington took advantage of a time reserved for public comment.
“I believed they would deliberately remove me from the agenda,” Covington said. “So I am going to make good use of my five minutes.”
Covington asked the council for an update on an SBI investigation involving the Hamlet Police Department and its handling of money and confiscated vehicles that were never returned to their owners.
Mayor Bill Bayless explained that nothing was done or could be done before the city received a statement from the district attorney.
Covington went on to say that the people of Hamlet deserved to know what happened to a total of $9,515 missing from departmental funds set aside for crushing, towing and storage of seized vehicles.
The council allowed Covington to speak for 20 minutes before McQueen steered the meeting back to the agenda.
“After the criminal investigation is completed, we need to have an administrative investigation,” he said. “We need to let the SBI finish its investigation, let the DA give his order, and then we can work from there. We don’t need to discuss anything having to do with an ongoing investigation. It is not in our best interest to discuss any action involving any criminal investigation that’s ongoing.”
Councilman Tony Clewis later made a motion that City Attorney T.C. Morphis be allowed to draw up a new contract for City Manager Marchell David whose previous contract was voided in April when Morphis discovered it contained no specified term of service, and that a required preaudit certificate did not exist.
Clewis suggested a new contract could be written that addressed these objections.
Bayless motioned that the council look into a new contract; the motion was voted down 3-2.
Other items discussed included plans to restore the Hamlet Opera House, and the board congratulated Hamlet native Justin Jackson for being drafted by the Detroit Lions NFL team.
The mayor said he spoke with U.S. Rep. Richard Hudson about having the Veterans Affairs clinic in Hamlet named after recently deceased Ed O’Neal, regarded by many as a true hometown hero.
“Without him, there would be no VA clinic here today,” Bayless said.
Reach reporter Melonie Flomer at 910-997-3111, ext. 15.