POSTED: Friday, May 8, 2009 - 8:27pm
UPDATED: Monday, July 8, 2013 - 9:57am
COFFEE CITY - Tomorrow is election day in Coffee City, but some residents say they are worried their votes will be tainted in controversy.
For years, residents say controversy has swarmed around Coffee City's city government, and for years, citizens say they've felt helpless in their fight against what they call corrupt city officials.
Now, action is being taken, light's being shed on what residents say is a fight that's lasted too long.
In Coffee City, if you listen carefully, you usually don't hear a whole lot.
But these days you'll hear some of its 200 residents getting angry about their city government.
"Looking at what's going on down here, there's red flags waving all over the place," Ray Wakeman says.
Ray Wakeman has lived here for 28 years. He says he used go to city council meetings all the time, but years ago, he and others started getting frustrated.
"They don't allow their citizens to speak at City Council meetings," Mr. Wakeman says.
"Those nuts are the City Council!" Tony Moore says.
They're referring to the current City Council and Mayor, Frank Ross.
Some say they're keeping secrets.
"The city has not had an audit for three years," Mr. Wakeman explains.
Wakeman says, that's no coincidence.
"The City Secretary and her husband who is the ex-Mayor have both plead guilty to stealing from the city."
"You have somebody that's plead guilty to stealing, why do you want them on the job?" Wakeman says.
According to County Attorney, Clint Davis, that's mostly true.
Charges were brought against City Secretary Rose Warren, and her husband, then the Mayor, for abuse of official capacity.
Mr. Warren's case was dismissed on the condition he pay back what he took and resign from being the Mayor, which he did.
Mrs. Warren was convicted of a misdemeanor abuse of official capacity, she was given probation and a fine.
But, Mrs. Warren was kept on as the City Secretary, and her husband, Mike, after he resigned, ran again for Mayor against Tony Moore.
Mike Warren was announced as the winner, but Mr. Moore was suspicious of the election, so he checked out the official numbers for himself.
"I had 25 votes, Mr. Warren had 26, which he wasn't even supposed to be in the race, however, if you look at this form here, from Athens, this is what counted the electronic votes, I received 6, he received 4, which means I won the election, with their cheating, 31 to 30. It's simple Math. It's not rocket science!" Mr. Moore says.
Mr. Moore blames Rose Warren for the mix-up, saying she was the one who counted those votes that got her husband elected.
But he wasn't the Mayor for long, he was told to resign again, but when he did, he was appointed to City Council.
That leaves Henderson County Attorney, Clint Davis, scratching his head.
"Why the City Council of Coffee City would choose to do that? I don't know. That's their decision," Mr. Davis says.
Tony Moore thinks it's because they're all in it together, but he believes some are getting wise to what's up.
"Appointing Mike Warren into the City Council. One stood up and said no. That was a big minute for us," Mr. Moore says.
As if the controversy over the mayoral election and allegedly stealing city funds wasn't enough for this city government, Rose Warren was indicted on charges again for the same thing: abuse of her position.
County Attorney Clint Davis says this time, she got eighteen months probation and she's not allowed to work for Coffee City at all.
"She's out of the city, which is one of the accomplishments we believed needed to happen," Mr. Davis says.
But Mike Warren is still on the City Council, and he says, he deserves to be.
"Was any of it illegal? Did I break the law about anything?"
"I've given twenty years of my life to public service and i don't regret any of it," Mr. Warren says.
Rose Warren's attorney says, she's just glad it's all over.
"There's remorse that this happened. There's remorse for what she did. She's sorry that things have turned out this way," Brett Harrison explains.
But Mr. Davis says, it's not over just yet, "I believe there are additional investigations ongoing surrounding Coffee City both against Rose Warren and Mike Warren, but also against other officials in Coffee City."
Rose Warren's official last day as City Secretary was today.
She didn't leave without making her mark, though.
Mrs. Warren posted the agenda for Monday's City Council meeting about 3:45 this afternoon.
The agenda included a proposal to "re-appoint" or fire several city employees.
We'll be there Monday night to fill you in.