FORSYTH -- City Council members said Friday that the Monroe County Sheriffs Office is investigating the circumstances of Mayor John Howard II not paying his city utility bills for six months.
At a called council meeting, Councilman Eric Wilson read a prepared statement on behalf of the council that said council members had no knowledge that Howard had fallen behind in his payments until Nov. 22, when City Administrator Thomas White informed them of the situation.
White learned about the mayors delinquent bills that same day, when he received an open records request from the media about the situation, Wilson said.
Howard said he fell behind because of personal issues in his life. His daughter Elandria Banks, 24, died of cancer July 12. One week later, Howard was laid off from his job as an information technology worker at Upson Regional Medical Center in Thomaston.
I fell behind on everything, Howard said after Fridays meeting. Im the provider for my family, and I kept it from my wife because I didnt want her to worry. I was too proud to speak up and ask for help.
Howard said he has recently gotten help, and his bills are paid.
At the start of Fridays meeting, Howard said he never asked for special treatment and that council members were unaware of his financial situation until White contacted them.
I didnt reach out for financial help, Howard said during the meeting. I am a human being ... and Im not exempt from anything. Members of City Council didnt know anything about it until (Nov. 22).
At a called meeting Nov. 25, the council asked the sheriffs office to investigate matters related to irregularities in utility billing.
Councilman Jimmy Jones, who is chairman of the committee that oversees utilities, said Friday he has spoken with the utility billing softwares designers to see if there are any technical issues and ask for recommendations to prevent future issues.
Howard and Wilson said they wont further discuss the situation while the investigation is ongoing. Howard said he hasnt yet been interviewed by investigators.
Monroe County sheriffs spokeswoman Allison Selman-Willis said Friday the investigation remains ongoing, and theres no timetable for its conclusion.
To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.