Acting mayor of Aberdeen says racism, toxic environment behind accusations from State Auditor’s Office

ABERDEEN, Miss. (WCBI) – Ward 2 Alderwoman and acting mayor of Aberdeen Lady Garth spoke out Thursday on the accusations of misappropriation of public funds against herself and her fellow colleagues.

Garth is a life-long Aberdeen resident and says the small town can be a toxic environment. She says the long-standing racial divide in the city is a contributing factor to what she claims is a disproportionate response by the Mississippi State Auditor’s Office concerning allegations that she and two other aldermen violated the state’s constitution.

“A white attorney or white clerk or white whatever (gets) absolutely nothing (from the state),” Garth said. “So what can I conclude from that? You are a racist. A straight up racist.”

The State Auditor’s Office says the vote by Garth, Ward 1 Alderman Nicholas Holliday and Ward 3 Alderman Edward Haynes Jr. to reinstate the salary of now ex-mayor Maurice Howard in 2020 was an illegal donation of public funds.

The State Auditor’s Office is demanding the three board members pay back the more than $30,000 that added up to.

“As long as they, the whites, had the majority, they were fine and the blacks were fine with it,” Garth said, describing the tension between different city leaders. “But as soon as someone push for another position or push to change things, this is what you get.”

A spokesman for the State Auditor’s Office says the payment was classified as back pay in the minutes for the meeting on July 9, 2020. However, that term does not appear anywhere in the copies of the minutes and agenda WCBI received from the city.

Instead, the meeting minutes describe the the decision as a reinstatement of the mayor’s salary in unused “unallocated funds.”

Garth says there wasn’t any such fallout when the board reinstated their police chief’s salary in 2016. She claims she and others have brought up previous legal concerns.

“We called the state about a lot of things,” Garth said. “Contacted the state about a lot of things that we knew point-blank were illegal. Nothing was done. The state did not come in. The state did not even respond.”

The acting mayor claims the current accusations, which she denies, also stem from unrest by former city officials like ex-attorney Robert Faulk.

“That prior attorney, he’s still in his feelings because he was ousted,” Garth said. “Several of the others are still in their feelings because they got ousted. The people spoke. The people were sick of them.”

Faulk and long-time city clerk Jackie Benson were fired at the first meeting of the new board of aldermen.

Holliday was present during Garth’s interview with WCBI as a show of solidarity, while Haynes says he does not wish to comment on the situation.

Garth said she is currently consulting with attorneys and that the three alderman will remain united in their response.

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