By Bonnie Culverhouse
What started as another turndown of the City of Minden’s budget ended in a shouting match between Mayor Terry Gardner and Dist. C Councilman Vincen Bradford.
After Gardner dropped the gavel to end the meeting and stood to leave, his chair was pushed forward and when he pushed it back, the chair struck the American flag, causing it to fall and narrowly miss Bradford.
“I hope that wasn’t meant for me,” Bradford said.
“It was,” the mayor joked.
However, Bradford did not seem to think it was funny.
“Well, come on then,” Bradford said. “If you want to do, do it.”
Minden Police Lt. Joel Kendrick tried to de-escalate the situation between Bradford and the mayor.
“He tried to hit me with it,” Bradford yelled.
“No one tried to hit you,” Kendrick said.
“He just said he did,” Bradford responded, before repeatedly telling Kendrick to, “get your hands off me. I wish he’d hit me, I wish he’d hit me.”
The special session, which began at 4 p.m., gradually became more heated with time, beginning with another failed attempt to pass the city’s $39M budget.
Once again, the vote was 3-2, with councilpersons from Districts A, B and C as the naysayers.
There were two items on the agenda, the budget and request to poll citizens who have electric bills as to whether they would consider having $5 added to their monthly bill to fund raises for police and firefighters.
The second item passed by a vote of 3-2, with District A Councilman Wayne Edwards casting a yea vote along with District D Councilman Michael Roy and District E Councilwoman Pam Bloxom.
However, there was much discussion from the audience concerning the already-too-high utility bills and what an additional $5 could do to persons on fixed incomes. At that point, accusations came from some councilpersons that others would not attend budget workshops in order to work toward a balanced budget that would include those raises.
District B Councilwoman Terika Williams-Walker pointed out that lines between the two agenda items appeared to blur.
“When we started this budget, it was never about the police,” Walker said. “No one here is going to disagree that police officers and first responders do not need a raise. But when we started this budget, it wasn’t an issue about the raise … that was never an issue with the budget. That came along after the fact.
“We had other issues with the budget,” Walker continued. “And the mayor’s aware of that. Everyone sitting here is aware of that. It’s not about the police officers.”
Walker went on to point out the issue was raises for the Economic Development director and the Human Resources director.”
Walker and Bradford have maintained through the budget discussion that Gardner should not have promised raises to the persons in those positions.
“The main focus of the City of Minden is to be transparent,” Gardner said. “My thought is, they (council) need to get onboard, come up here and see me, and we can move this city forward. I told Councilman Edwards I was going to call a city council meeting, and he said multiple times, ‘I am going to do the right thing.’”
Gardner went on to say the city council has to function and has to do so with the mayor.
Edwards said since he has been back on the council, he has never missed a council meeting.
“I missed one workshop – that was beyond my control,” he said. “And I did walk out of one council session because I disagreed with what was going on. I own up to that.”
Gardner adjourned the meeting, asking the council to get onboard and move the city forward.
PHOTO: Bonnie Culverhouse: Minden Police lieutenants Chris Cheatham (from left) and Joel Kendrick, with the aid of Deputy City Marshal Joe Cornelius (far right), try to de-escalate a shouting match between Dist. C Councilman Vincen Bradford (center) and Mayor Terry Gardner (not shown).