The Houston County Commission will vote Monday on whether to amend an agreement with the Town of Gordon to assist the town with a financial audit.
Rather than write the town a check, the county commission plans to reimburse the town’s expense.
Last month, Gordon Mayor Charles Dismuke requested an audit of years 2017-2021 to help the town get its finances in order after several turbulent years politically.
Commissioners voted May 24 to pay $16,500 toward Gordon’s audit. However, the commission worded the agreement in a way that would have Houston County pay the auditor directly rather than the Town of Gordon. The county has since learned it cannot do that, hence the need to amend the agreement with Gordon.
It will be up to the Town of Gordon to come up with the funds to pay the auditor, Commission Chairman Mark Culver said during Thursday’s administrative meeting.
“They need to have an audit done for the years they haven’t had one done because a lot of the grants and the entities they do business with need the audit before they can just give them funds,” Culver said. “They haven’t been able to do audits or anything else because they haven’t had the funds. We have no interest in getting into their business or bailing them out, but we provide them some funds so we have interest in this audit because we have funds involved.”
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The past few years have been troubled for the Town of Gordon.
In 2017, then-Mayor Elbert Melton was charged with voter fraud stemming from his 2016 election and second-degree theft pertaining to $1,700 in town funds. He was found guilty on two counts of voter fraud in 2019 and removed from office. Prior to his conviction, the town council stripped Melton of his mayoral duties following his absence as Hurricane Michael moved through the southeast corner of Houston County.
During his tenure, Melton clashed with several council members. Three resigned from office. Mayor Pro Tem Shana Ray – who became mayor in 2019 following Melton’s ejection from office – was arrested for a trespassing charge filed by Melton and his family and later for a harassment charge filed by a Gordon resident.
Dismuke defeated Ray for the mayor’s seat in 2020.
During the county commission’s May 5 administrative meeting, Dismuke provided a grim financial picture for Gordon, including bills that went unpaid during a previous administration. Dismuke told county commissioners the town owes hundreds of thousands of dollars in bills, state and federal garnishments, and loan payments.
The town relies on water and sewer fees for revenue as well as a small amount of sales tax revenues from a Dollar General.
“Our maintenance department – you’re looking at our maintenance department,” Dismuke said during the May 5 meeting, posted to the county’s YouTube channel.
While county commissioners praised efforts to get Gordon’s finances in order, several said there needs to be accountability for any misused or misappropriated funds.
Dismuke said the town needs a solid financial audit in order to be eligible for grants and loan programs that would help it move forward.
“We just want to do the right thing,” Dismuke said.
Peggy Ussery is a Dothan Eagle staff writer and can be reached at email@example.com or 334-712-7963. Support her work and that of other Eagle journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today at dothaneagle.com.