“By darn I’m going to work with the public so that this will not happen,” Murray said, standing in her office Thursday morning. “The public needs to know what this is all about.”
Murray said she has become frustrated in recent days while attempting to work on the city’s financial issues, and yet having to deal with what she believes is going to be a request by Council for her to pay for the renovation of her office or resign. She also believes that if she does not resign, members of Council are going to actively work to have her recalled.
“I’ve had it. They’re (Portsmouth City Council) not administrators. That’s my job. I was elected by the public to administer,” Murray said. “They’re trying to impede every executive function that they can, because they want to find as much that can be said negatively to the public, because their ultimate goal is to regain control of this city, so that the same old paws that have had control of this city for the last 50 years will once again have control.”
Murray said she believes the public knows, “this city has been run by a handful of people for the last 50 years.”
Murray said, “They want to regain control, and they know they can’t control me and they do not control me. That’s why I was elected. The public is tired of it. They’re tired of what has happened with our streets and our water and our sewers and our neighborhoods. The public has not been at the forefront of the Council and the mayor’s attention, at least since I’ve been here and before that. So it’s an effort to somehow get me out of office. The public should be so infuriated at these political games.”
Murray recently had the dropped ceiling removed because she said it was full of smoke from illegal smoking being done in the office, and there was no heating source. Murray had a Ptac unit installed. She is also asking to have the carpeting replaced because she said the smoke and the mold have made her and members of her staff ill.
Murray said City Council is refusing to pass an ordinance to pay for the renovations.
Further frustrations have come from what she perceives as the lack of past action on important issues that needed to be addressed.
“We are sitting here with an excess of $75 million combined sewer overflow problem,” Murray said. “I’ve said it numerous times. I got $20 million in stimulus funds put in the budget for that. The former mayor and the former director turned it down. They didn’t know how to use the money, how to match it. I do. So I’m going back for some funding. We’re probably not going to be able to recover that $20 million but we’re going to do everything we can going forward.”
Murray spoke of the potholes in the streets and the lack of the proper equipment to patch those potholes.
‘We’re going to buy that,” Murray said. “I’m not using the Capital (CIP) money to balance the 2009 revenue shortfall. There was a revenue shortfall. We knew it. Why didn’t that former mayor start cutting expenses?”
Murray met last week with David Thompson of the State Auditor’s Office and asked for help with the city’s budgeting process.
“When I told Mr. Thompson that he (former Mayor James Kalb) and Council adopted, in December of 2008, when the world economy was collapsing, he proposed, and Council passed by a 4-2 vote, to increase salaries for the employees, 3 percent a year for three years, he (Thompson) found that incredulous, when everybody was happy to stay where they were, much less take a cut, or be laid off, this city was increasing,” Murray said. “Not one of them that voted for it asked where the money was going to come from. Now they’re worried about me spending $1,000 on a heat source for my office, and taking the smoke out of the ceiling, and out of the carpet, and painting the walls.”
Murray said all that had been done in her office was to return to the original internal structure, uncovering the windows and going back to the original ceiling.
‘They’re worried about that. Why weren’t they worried about the $1.2 million those salary increases were costing us over 3 years?” Murray said. “Not one of those four Council members asked where the money was coming from. I stood up in public and asked where the money was coming from. I’m on the record saying we don’t have it. I’m on the record saying, ‘you need to have a public meeting so people can learn about these lights going down because it’s going to severely impact our neighborhoods, and our residents, and our businesses.”
Murray recalled that former Third Ward Councilman Bob Mollette had continuously asked for a public forum on the removal of the traffic lights on 11th and 12th streets.
“Neither the mayor, nor those four Council members would do that,” Murray said. “And now, what do I do? I put lights back up to save lives and property, while we’re in discussion with the state, and I have a meeting … (today) as a follow-up with the state. We’re talking about how these lights have impacted our neighborhoods and our businesses. And what do they want to do? They want me to send my crews out there in this weather to take those lights down. Those lights are bagged. They’re not hurting a thing. The state knew we were going to leave them and we were going to leave them bagged.”
At the last meeting of Portsmouth City Council, which she was unable to attend because she was ill, Council voted to override her decision to reinstall the lights, and she said they (Council) are of the opinion that the resolution passed orders the lights be removed now.
“I’m advised that they want me to send my crews out there in this weather, endangering them, and the public, when the State Department of Transportation is absolutely fine with those lights remaining bagged,” Murray said.
Murray has a meeting scheduled for Thursday, Feb 25, with the City Traffic Committee to consider the reinstallation of lights previously removed because of recommendations by the Ohio Department of Transportation.
Murray was not finished by a long shot.
“In learning more about the budgeting process as I have been meeting with the auditor, I learned that there was a miscellaneous account, and in this miscellaneous account included various things that I had not focused on and had not been aware of,” Murray said. “And in one of the specific items there is ‘miscellaneous-executive.’ In 2009 there is a $30-some thousand expenditure. I asked what it was, and I have not seen a detailed expenditure report. So I’m thinking, and I’m asking the question now, I could have paid for this (renovation) out of that line item and it would never have become an issue.”
Murray said she is looking for members of City Council to move Monday night to have her pay for those renovations out of her own pocket or resign.
The Portsmouth Daily Times reached David Malone, president of Portsmouth City Council, following the meeting with Murray and asked him if he knows of a Council conspiracy to make Murray pay for the renovations to her office or resign.
“No, I don’t,” Malone said. “Not that I know of. I know that I have not been a part of that discussion. I don’t know anything about that.”
FRANK LEWIS can be reached at (740) 353-3101, ext. 232 or email@example.com