By Jeff Clark/Monroe Journal
ABERDEEN – Mayor Jim Ballard, who also serves as interim electric department manager, was arrested Thursday on felony bribery charges.
He is accused of offering $30 to a businessman who had inquired about his electric bill and expressed his displeasure with the mayor’s performance in office.
Ballard, who was elected in 2008, has been interim department manager at the electric department since the arrest of former manager Adrian Garth January 15. Garth was arrested for felonious extortion charges.
Ballard turned himself in to the police about 11:40 a.m. Thursday. He was taken to the Monroe County Detention Center and released on a $5,000 bond set by Monroe County Justice Court Judge Robert Fowlkes.
The arrest stems from an affidavit signed by Monroe County bail bondsman Keith Morgan, who pressed charges against Ballard on March 12. Aberdeen Police Chief Henry Randle said a missing warrant was the reason for the delay before the arrest.
“The original warrant that was signed by Judge Adrian Haynes disappeared from the court clerk’s office,” Randle said. “So, we are going to make sure and have the locks changed on that office. It’s (former building inspector) Terry Lenoir’s old office, so we don’t know who has keys to that office.”
According to the bail bondsman’s allegations and signed statement, Ballard “did willfully, feloniously and corruptly offer a gift of $30 to Morgan when he was at the electric department to ask questions about his bill.”
“My bill for my shop for 29 days was approximately $29,” Morgan said. “The mayor said that was correct for the amount of usage. The next bill I received was $69. The mayor would not give me a reasonable explanation for this bill. It became obvious that I was going to have to pay the bill for $69.
“As I started to leave, I expressed my displeasure in the mayor’s performance. He told me not to threaten him – I assured him I was not threatening him. After paying my bill and getting my receipt, I got into my car, which was in front of the electric department and started to drive away.”
Then, Morgan said, Ballard “walked outside, motioned for me to come back, approached my driver’s side window and took $30 out of his pocket, a $10 bill and a $20 bill, and threw it into my car. I told him to ‘get his dirty money out of my car’ and I left.”
Randle said both he and Haynes made sure the charges were legitimate before issuing the warrant.
“Judge Haynes researched this charge and a public official can be charged for this,” Randle said. “I have studied codes on this myself to make sure it was legitimate.”
Contact Jeff Clark at (662) 369-4507 or email@example.com
Views mixed on mayor’s arrest
BY JEFF CLARK
ABERDEEN – As news of Mayor Jim Ballard’s arrest begin to spread Thursday afternoon, residents expressed mixed opinions about the episode.
“This was just about two hotheads having an argument,” said Marsha Ballard, a former relative to the mayor by marriage. “(Jimmy) shouldn’t have lost his temper like that. But I think pressing charges against him is ridiculous. I don’t see where there was any bribery. Mayor Ballard only wants what’s best for the city of Aberdeen. He’s a good man and he’s an honest man.”
Viki Mason, who has the popular Aberdeen blog vikimason.com, said that although Ballard has his flaws, she feels the arrest was not necessary.
“I’m not the president of the Jim Ballard fan club by any stretch of the imagination, but to my mind this is pure nincompoopery (sic),” Mason said.
Aberdeen resident Chris Jackson said he doesn’t know the circumstances surrounding the arrest well enough to comment on Ballard, but he offered a general view of the city’s ongoing problems, particulary with the investigation of the electric department.
“This is just more bad news for Aberdeen,” Jackson said. “I work with a former alderman from another town and we discuss Aberdeen everyday. Aberdeen is a joke all around the state. We need some people in office with integrity – people who care about Aberdeen. We need a code of standards and morals in City Hall.”