BAKER — A city councilwoman’s interview after the last council meeting came back to haunt her Tuesday when Mayor Harold Rideau and Councilman Pete Heine blasted Joyce Burges for her comments.
The matter came up as the council moved toward selecting a new auditor. Despite the raw feelings over the interview, the council voted unanimously Tuesday night to hire Melvin Davis, one of two auditors who answered Baker’s advertisement seeking someone to conduct the city’s audit for 2014-15.
Valencia McNeely, auditor for the Governor’s Office of Elderly Affairs, also applied for the job.
Davis, who owns a CPA firm that has worked with state and local government organizations, told the council he expects his fee to be between $42,500 and $47,000.
Postlethwaite and Netterville, which conducted the city’s 2013-14 audit for $62,000, declined to seek renewal of its contract.
In an interview after the Aug. 11 meeting, Burges said the firm didn’t wish to renew its contract because of the difficulty of working with the city and the controversy surrounding its hiring in 2013.
She also said the council did not use a rating system she had developed when they chose Postlethwaite and Netterville to replace the Stages family auditing firm.
Rideau and Heine took exception to those claims Tuesday night.
The comments quoted in the article “really had me upset because you threw us all under the bus,” Heine told Burges.
“The mayor and I called Postlethwaite and Netterville and they said that wasn’t the reason why (they decided not to seek renewal of the contract),” Heine said.
“I know exactly what I said,” Burges countered. “I said there could have been a number of reasons.”
“You also … said we didn’t use your rating system,” Heine said. “I filled it out and we used it.”
“This makes it look like I can’t get along with an auditor,” Rideau told Davis. “We are going to cooperate and will break our backs to get you what you need.”
During the meeting, Burges also said her endorsement of Postlethwaite and Netterville in 2013 earned her threats.
“They made comments like ‘We’re going to make sure she gets off the council,’ ” Burges said in an interview after Tuesday’s meeting.
Following that 2013 meeting, she said, she asked to be escorted out because of what she saw as threats from people gathered under the breezeway of the Baker Municipal Building.
“All of the council members had to have home police security for a week after the vote, just because we chose a new auditor,” Burges claimed.
Baker Police Chief Mike Knaps said he could not remember either incident. He recalled the council members and other city officials leaving the 2013 meeting together as usual.
“We drove by the council members’ houses on regular patrols like any other citizens,” he said. No additional security was asked for or needed, Knaps said.