SPRINGFIELD — Ordered by a judge to resign as mayor in the next 90 days, Charles Martin on Wednesday presided over a meeting of the town’s Board of Aldermen, working to craft his legacy to the town.
On Monday, Martin pleaded guilty to a ticket-fixing scheme that also resulted in the resignation of the town’s police chief. Judge Bruce Bennett, of the 21st Judicial District Court, ordered Martin to resign, but allowed him to remain in his post for three months while he works on establishing a water system for the town. Martin also must pay $550 in fines and fees and perform 32 hours of community service.
In sentencing Martin, Bennett was sympathetic to the mayor of nearly 30 years. “You don’t have to apologize to me, Mr. Mayor. I think I know bad public officers when I see them, and I’m not looking at one now,” the judge said.
In an interview Wednesday, Martin said he looks forward to seeing the new water system through its beginning phases and said bringing a water system to Springfield will be one of the highlights of his long career in public service. Bids for construction of the system will be opened at 2 p.m. Thursday. The town has budgeted $1.2 million for the system.
The mayor said engineers informed him the project should be completed in about six months, weather permitting. Martin said funds for the water system were obtained through a loan from the state Office of Community Development.
Looking back over his years as Springfield’s mayor, Martin said bringing a sewer system to the town a number of years ago was another highlight. That project, funded by a federal grant through the U.S. Department of Agriculture, cost $2.7 million.
“We are a small town, and it takes a long time to get anything accomplished,” Martin said. “It took me 10 years to get the sewer system and another 10 years to finally get a water system, but it was worth all the work.”
He added that the great joy of being mayor was the opportunity to serve the public. “We have some great people in our little town and I have thoroughly enjoyed working with the people. The people have made this job a joy, and I will always remember fondly my years as mayor.”
Martin said he was not told by the court exactly what date he must resign from office but speculated it will be Oct. 13-14. When his responsibilities to the town are finished, he said, he looks forward to traveling with his wife to some of the nation’s national parks. “We are ready to do some camping,” he said.
The mayor said he is not sure when an election will be held to choose his successor. He noted there will not be enough time between the date of his resignation to get an election on the fall ballots, so it will probably be early next year before an election is held.
After Martin resigns, the town will be managed by Mayor Pro-Tem Tommy Abels, one of the town’s five aldermen. Abels said he is ready to assume the duties of mayor and will serve until a new mayor is elected. He said he is undecided at this time whether he will run for that office.
Former Police Chief Jimmy Jones and Martin initially faced four felony charges in a 2011 incident where Martin asked Jones to reduce a woman’s drunken-driving arrest as a favor to a friend. An investigation led to the charges leveled against the two. Jones accepted a plea deal in the case in April and resigned the same day.
At Wednesday’s meeting, the aldermen set the pay for interim police chief Stephen Myers at $13.50 an hour for a 30-hour workweek. Myers told the council that he wants to serve only as a part-time chief because he also has a pest control business that he manages. Springfield’s police chief is appointed by the Board of Aldermen. Martin said he is exploring what procedures the aldermen should follow in appointing a permanent police chief. He said he has consulted with the Louisiana Municipal Association about choosing a police chief and is awaiting a reply.
The aldermen on Wednesday also adopted a $550,000 town budget for the 2015-16 fiscal year. Sales taxes and various fees account for the town’s general budget, which is set at $450,000. The town maintains a separate $100,000 budget for its solid waste disposal costs.