Minden Press-Herald

Sep 30th

Heflin mayor responds to recall

TillmanHeflin Mayor Judy Tillman said she hoped to keep her opinions quiet, but now she says she feels the need to defend herself against a group of individuals bent on having her recalled.

Tillman dodged a recall bullet in 2012 when 26th Judicial District Court Judge John Robinson ordered six names stricken from the first petition to recall Tillman after the governor's office issued a proclamation for a recall election in July.

Tillman said she believes one alderman in particular is pushing the recall, beginning with an issue over who would mow the lawn for the Village of Heflin.

"The mayor before me had asked (Webster Parish Police Juror) Steve Ramsey that since he is an elected official and he is from our district, he does have discretionary funds that he could give to the village if he so chooses and that he is over the roads in all of Webster Parish, that he get a letter from the Board of Ethics stating that it is legal for him to get the bid (to mow),"

Tillman said. "When I took over, I asked him to do the same, which he refused to do."

One thing led to another, she said, and Ramsey's aunt, Heflin Alderwoman Catherine Lee, wrote a letter to the Ethics Board on his behalf.

"She does not state that he has discretionary funds and that he is over the roads," Tillman said. "This letter was sent unknowing to the other aldermen or myself."

A letter was received in response, stating there was nothing unethical about using Ramsey's lawn care service; however, Tillman maintained that the board could not have made an informed decision because they "did not have all the details."

Tillman said the second recall committee, headed by Nordine Mahur, claims she is abusing her power by acting without approval of the three aldermen.

"We are under the Lawrason Act," Tillman said. "As mayor, I have no say. I only carry out what the aldermen vote on."

In July 2012, Tillman said she was accused of closing the Heflin ball park, which had a section of bleachers considered unsafe by the village's insurance company until hand and back rails could be installed.

Barbara Hutchins, chairwoman of the first recall committee, said that concern began when Tillman instituted a policy that a signed waiver is required to use Heflin's two baseball fields.

"You have to sign a piece of paper releasing (liability)," Hutchins said at the time. "I don't know why they can't fix the ball field or put up signs saying 'At Your Own Risk.'

"I have nothing against (Tillman)," she continued. "Except, they need to fix the ball park for the kids."

According to Tillman, the ball park is open and tape has been placed around the bleachers that were deemed unsafe.

"I did not close the ballpark," Tillman said. "The minutes state '(Alderman) Todd Leake, seconded by Catherine Lee, made a motion to lock all the gates, giving access to the bleachers until rails can be installed.'"

The motion was approved unanimously, including a vote from the third alderman Robert Stachowitz. The mayor has no voting power.

Tillman, aid she has done a lot for the Village of Heflin during her short time in office.

"Since I became mayor, we have gotten three water grants, and we have a new water tank, inside and out," she said. "The third grant should be in any time."

Tillman said she has made self-funded trips to Baton Rouge to talk with legislators about remodeling an old gymnasium on village property to make an activities center.

"I would like to have a farmer's market there," she said. "A place for the elderly – or anyone – to walk or play ball or whatever the aldermen wish to use it for."

Population of the Village of Heflin is around 180, Tillman said. Her position as mayor is unpaid, and she said she puts in around 15 hours per week.

The election with Tillman's recall on the ballot will be held Saturday, April 6. The most recent recall petition has 78 signatures and only 62 are required, according to the proclamation.






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