Baker council criticized for hiring BR accounting firm

Mayor Harold Rideau said Wednesday he will continue to press the City Council for written evaluation forms council members said they filled out in deciding on an accounting firm to audit the city’s books for the fiscal year that ends June 30.

The council voted 4-1 April 23 to give the contract to the Postlethwaite & Netterville firm of Baton Rouge, rather than continuing with auditor Mary Sue Stages, of Baker, a certified public accountant, whose firm had been auditing the books for years.

Councilman Charles Vincent said the members used the evaluation forms in helping them determine the firm they thought would be better suited for the job, and Rideau made a formal public records request at Tuesday’s council meeting for the evaluations.

Vincent told the mayor the forms were available from Angela Canady, clerk of the council, but Rideau said Wednesday Canady had forms from only one council member.

Two businessmen — Jack Milton, of Baker Range, and Charles Crittenden, of Pop-a-Lock — told the council Tuesday they are outraged at the council members who voted to hire the Baton Rouge firm.

Milton said he does not favor Baker’s money going to Baton Rouge, and by hiring Postlethwaite & Netterville, the council picked the higher bidder.

“It’s time for a recall,” Milton told council members. “I’m going to agitate the hell out of you. I’m going to get it changed.”

Crittenden told the council members favoring the Baton Rouge firm their actions were “disgusting and hypocritical.”

The council fired a city auditor doing business in Baker for 50 years, Crittenden said, and hired a firm charging $12,000 to $15,000 a year more than Stages did.

Crittenden said the only complaint ever received against the Stages’ firm was when a new computer system was implemented by the city, which caused the accountant to seek an extension.

The only council member to respond to the audience complaints was Joyce Burges, who said approving a new company was not an easy decision to make.

It was not a “flip decision,” said Burges, who repeatedly asserted that there is “no entitlement to taxpayer money.”

Of the five council members, only Pete Heine supported Stages.

Heine, who said he is in favor of the council doing business with local firms, said he was denied his chance to speak when a motion and second were made to hire Postlethwaite & Netterville at the April meeting.

Vincent challenged Heine’s comment Tuesday; but Heine said, “We’re going to get into it … I did not have a chance to speak.”

Burges said she would be glad to discuss her vote and reasons after the meeting with Milton and Crittenden. She also said she hoped the protesters would feel differently about hiring the new firm at the end of the year.