A Pima woman called for Mayor C.B. Fletcher to resign during Tuesday night’s council meeting after obtaining documents that show former town manager Sean Lewis may have used the town credit and debit cards for five times the $5,439 he admitted spending for personal use.
Lewis narrowly kept his job in May after a preliminary audit disclosed he had failed to turn in some receipts and had not properly document others. Lewis accepted responsibility for his “laziness” and said policies and procedures had been put in place to ensure it didn’t happen again. The council voted, 3-2, to retain Lewis. He ended up resigning three months later after he admitted the $5,439 in expenditures; council members Lucas Hoopes and Sherrill Teeter called for him to be terminated.
Lewis’ replacement, Vernon Batty, was sworn in Tuesday.
According to Lewis and Fletcher, Lewis has since paid the town back.
On Tuesday night during the town council’s Call to the Public, Teresa Bailey said she recently received an April 2 letter sent to Fletcher and town council members by accounting firm Colby and Powell outlining 199 purchases made from July 2019 to November 2020 amounting to $34,687. According to the letter, Lewis identified 56 purchases that were personal in nature, but the accounting firm was unable to determine if the remaining 143 were authorized town purchases.
“For each of those purchases there were either no supporting documentation, or the supporting documentation provided did not contain enough information to determine its purpose. The total dollar amount of these purchases was $29,248,” Jim Usevitch, a Colby and Powell accountant, wrote.
During her three-minute Call to the Public comment, Bailey pointed out a handful of the purchases for which there was no documentation or explanation provided. She also provided copies of the letter to anyone who asked for it. The letter included four pages outlining the 199 purchases. Among those items listed in the letter:
• $2,795 in bank withdrawals.
• Two $600 payments to Veterans First, a mortgage lender in Salt Lake City, Utah.
• More than $6,000 in purchases from Amazon.
In addition, receipts for a four-day, $582 stay at the Westin La Paloma in Tucson in July 2019 were provided without explanation. Another $269 in food receipts for the same period were also turned in without explanation.
Bailey said one simply has to go to their Amazon account to see their past purchases so she doesn’t understand how those purchases could go unexplained. She also pointed out many of the unexplained, undocumented purchases were made on weekends, including a $53 purchase at a Show Low Home Depot, a $389 purchase at Tractor Supply and a $66 purchase at the Beverage Palace.
“There are five pages of these transactions that are in question, which has me questioning as a citizen why are we not moving to prosecute the previous town manager? Doesn’t the council have the same questions?” Bailey said. “Mr. Mayor, you should be ashamed of your actions in handling these findings. You gaslighted the public. You bullied the council to try to keep as much information hidden as possible. You are not brushing this under the rug.”
After Fletcher announced Bailey’s time was up and suggested she place the topic on a future council agenda so the council could respond, she said she would simply continue to bring up the matter during every Call to the Public.
“You should resign, Mayor, and I have copies if anybody wants to do their own investigation,” Bailey said.
Following the meeting, Bailey said she began getting interested in local government after last November’s national election, going so far as to meet with Fletcher and nearly all of the Pima Town Council for tips on how to be a better citizen. She decided to ask for the audit findings and Lewis’ resignation letter in August following Lewis’ resignation. She met with Fletcher after receiving the resignation letter, but had to ask for the audit findings a second time on Sept. 13 after learning Fletcher had “closed out” her earlier request. She received the documents Sept. 30.
“I don’t have any ill will toward Sean, but I do work in the government sector and you can’t misuse public funds,” the Eastern Arizona College employee said. “I would expect other government entities to follow the rules, too.”
During her meeting with Fletcher, he told her Lewis’ personal expenditures were a “one-time thing” and took place when his personal debit card was temporarily shut down during an emergency trip out of town because his bank suspected fraud, Bailey said. She was shocked when she saw the full details of the 199 purchases.
“My first reaction was to do a Call to the Public because I wanted to get this out there. I don’t think people realize what was going on,” Bailey said.
Bailey complained that Fletcher lets some people exceed the three-minute Call to the Public time limit and often breaks the rule that states the council is not to respond.
“Other times he shuts people down immediately,” Bailey said.
On Wednesday, Fletcher said he was driving to West Virginia for a month-long vacation, his first vacation in seven years. He said he didn’t have the documentation available to discuss, but insisted the unexplained purchases “are not near the amount she’s talking about.”
“Sean is even with us on everything. He doesn’t owe us anything,” Fletcher said.
Fletcher said the Eastern Arizona Courier could email him the documents but he wouldn’t discuss them until after his vacation. He referred all other questions to Vice Mayor Dale Rogers, saying, “I’m sure you’ll get all of your questions answered.”
Rogers did not return messages left for him.
To see Colby and Powell’s findings, visit eacourier.com.