Vaughn, who has been serving as Powder Springs’ mayor since 2004, is running for her third term on Nov. 8, against former police chief L. Rick Richardson and Paul Moore.
“I am now in my second term as mayor and find it curious that years later my opponents have chosen to criticize me for working harder for the city than would be required of my position as mayor,” Vaughn said. “To dredge up something that’s long since been a moot point is nothing but a last-minute attempt to stir up controversy at election time where none has ever existed before.”
Vaughn says the $3,000 pay was legal and that she did not violate city ordinance 2.14(e) because she received just a stipend, not the full $115,000 a year city manager’s salary. She also denies an additional allegation that accuses her of driving a 2002 city-owned Chevrolet Suburban for private use.
“I was given the stipend to try and help cover some of the expenses that I was having to do while working 12-hour days as interim city manager … and I haven’t (driven the Suburban) in a couple of years, except when we go on a retreat and we travel together or on city business,” she said.
Shortly after former City Manager Dane Perry resigned in 2005, City Council members Nancy Arnold, Bob Farmer, Al Thurman, Tom Bevirt and Ra Barr asked Vaughn to be interim city manager. A resolution was signed on Dec. 5, 2005, to validate the appointment.
On April 3, 2006, the council met in an executive session and talked about paying Vaughn for her extra work.
According to Powder Springs City Clerk Dawn Davis, minutes of the executive session were not taken so there is no record of what was talked about during the executive session. Davis said Vaughn did not participate in the meeting.
Davis confirmed that the council unanimously decided to increase Vaughn’s salary. However, the only documentation to support the stipend was an email from former finance director Gina Auld to the payroll clerk relaying information that she had verbally received from then-Mayor Pro-tem Bob Farmer. Farmer passed away in February.
“Mr. Farmer called and the council voted unanimously to pay the mayor retroactive back to December additional pay of $3,000 per month for her city manager duties,” the email reads.
Auld asked the payroll clerk to issue Vaughn a check on April 13, 2006, for $12,000 and then on April 28, 2006, to begin issuing Vaughn a check for her regular mayoral pay of $1,500 and $3,000 for her “approved” stipend by the council.
“She will receive the additional $3,000 each month until a new city manager is hired,” the e-mail from Auld said.
Vaughn received the monthly stipend for 18 months until Charles Nickerson stepped in as city manager in May 2007.
Ra Barr, who served on the council between 2003 and 2010, said he remembers the meeting but recalls the stipend amount being less.
“We talked about what I thought was $1,000 … an agreement reached that was a unanimous agreement amongst the council members,” Barr said.
A vote was not taken at the time of the discussion in the executive session because the Open Meetings Act deems that any vote taken during an executive session as null and void, Barr added.
“Whatever you agree to must be brought into a public meeting and voted on publicly,” Barr said. “This seems to be a budget amendment, and our city charter says a budget amendment has to be done through a resolution or ordinance, and you pass those in an open, public meeting.”
Barr said he has looked at his city council meeting notes and minutes and hasn’t been able to locate when the resolution or ordinance could have been approved for Vaughn’s stipend.
“I can’t find where the public vote was ever taken,” Barr said. “That’s my particular issue. It appears that an action was taken to pay this lady a lot of money without any basis of council action.”
Tom Bevirt, who has served on the city council since 1999, said he was the one who recommended the stipend.
“We just thought it was the right thing to do,” he said. “I’m not sure how the figure was arrived at but it was considerably less than what we were paying city managers at the time, so we just thought it was a fair deal.”
Bevirt remembered all council members being present that day, including council attorney Richard Calhoun of Brock, Clay, Calhoun and Rogers.
“We had to check about the legality of it … that was covered because it was a temporary arrangement. We had no idea that it would go on as long as it did,” he said.
Bevirt said he believes the allegations are coming to light at this time because of the Nov. 8 election.
“There are a lot of people with grudges. It’s sad. Nobody brought anything up back then. Nobody questioned this,” he said. “It’s not going to help matters any when folks make these wild statements.”
Vaughn stepped in as interim city manager again in January 2009 after Nickerson was fired through May 2010 when Rick Eckert was hired, but she was not compensated.
Phone calls to former city council members Nancy Arnold and Al Thurman and attorney Calhoun were not returned by press time on Wednesday.
The mayoral election for Powder Springs will take place on Tuesday.
At a public forum last week, Vaughn produced a copy of a polygraph test that she took to prove that she was honest about L. Rick Richardson’s firing. He was fired in February for allegedly selling city property, including three police vehicles without authorization, although L. Rick Richardson said previously that Vaughn authorized the sale. Richardson said on his campaign website that a lawsuit filed a few years ago by his brother, Ray Richardson, against the city for firing Ray Richardson as deputy police chief, led to L. Rick Richardson’s termination and that Vaughn was out to get him for his testimony during a 2008 deposition in the case.
Candidate contributions have been publicly reported on the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission website.
To date, Vaughn has raised approximately $5,700 in contributions for the race, including a $500 donation from city attorney Calhoun, Croy Engineering, Farmer’s widow Nancy Farmer and Vaughn’s husband the Rev. Ray Vaughn. Of these contributions, Vaughn received $2,600 in loans.
Richardson has raised $3,150 in contributions including a $250 donation from New Town Developers and D&D Fleet Cleaning Services.
Moore has not reported any contributions and in a previous interview with him, he said he does not plan to accept contributions for the mayoral race.