The Kingston City Council met Monday for their regular meeting postponed due to inclement weather and again by the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday. The vote approving Keeter as clerk of court was opposed by Councilmen Chuck Wise and Louise Howell with Mayor Dexter Jones casting the tie-breaking vote.
Keeter previously worked a temporary notice as city treasurer before her final approval failed before the council due to an inability to work as needed.
Court records however were reported by city officials to be in such a poor condition as to need immediate attention from a new staff person. Jones described the situation as placing the city in violation of record keeping mandates. Kingston Police Chief Walter Harrell presented information on the state of court records.
"In the past there has been no accountability of record keeping here, this is on the police side, I can't comment on the other side," Harrell said. "If this stuff is not entered in the system, then that person is scot-free and it's also an officer safety issue too."
Harrell added that the Department of Driver Services has not received any documentation on citations from Kingston since April of 2009.
"What it's going to take to get this in order is having somebody to focus on strictly records right now," Harrell said. "There's a lot of work just trying to catch up the system and make these people accountable and the people that owe the city of Kingston -- we need to make them pay.
"The person here has too much going on. One person can't do it all and that's what happening is that the clerk here is having to do city duties, court duties, taking up money and all this other good stuff."
Procedures in the past had once left the duties of court records with various offices including at one time, the police chief. Wise explained how much of the problem came about, not from dereliction of duty from staff members, but by a series of changes in protocol over the past several years.
"Our city has been turned upside down in the last few years," Wise said. "I see us trying to get a fresh start but the way some of this stuff is said or the way I'm understanding it is like somebody hasn't done their job. The way I'm looking at it isn't that they haven't been doing their job but these jobs have changed hands so many times that and it's trying to find out who's job it is," Wise said.
Also on the agenda Monday was the approval to continue using the 2010 budget until the 2011 budget could by completed.
"We just got the 2009 audit in and we're in the process of reviewing that to get a better picture of where we're at. Once we get this information we'll be able to present to the council, a budget to be voted on," Jones said. "Hopefully we can get this done by next month."
An incident occurring last June saw 37 sawtooth oaks cut down by the Kingston Maintenance Department in the historic railroad "Y." An agenda item was raised Monday to vote on the relocation of the trees after the mayor met with Master Gardener and Kingston resident Kate Posey.
The Master Gardeners along with Keep Bartow Beautiful planted the trees at no cost to the city on Arbor Day 2008. The project was approved by the administration at the time.
Councilman Ed Miklas read a statement prepared describing the Master Gardeners' project as hurriedly planned. Miklas added that the volume and proximity of the trees within the railroad "Y" was disrespectful to the city and done without proper consent.
"The initial plantings were not done hurriedly or with any disrespect to the city of Kingston. They were approved by the mayor at that time for the planting. It's not like we sneaked in in the middle of the night and dug holes and planted trees. The city was aware of it and also city workers helped us do that," Posey said.
The item was tabled for further discussion with the hopes expressed by the mayor and council that a compromise could be reached.
The last item on the agenda Monday was the vote to allow the mayor access to city bank accounts. Jones added that he desired only access to data and information, wanting no power to make transfers or withdrawals as directed by the charter.
"As the mayor I am charged with the financial stability of the city. It is extremely important that I know where our banking accounts are at all times," Jones said. "It puts me in a very crippling position."
A motion was made by Howell to table the issue which was approved to be revisited at a later date.