PRICHARD, Ala. (WALA) – Hundreds of thousands of dollars in questionable spending by the former water system manager took place with the knowledge and approval of the water board, his lawyer said on Tuesday.
Jason Darley, who represents Nia Bradley, said there was more to the audit that sparked outrage across the region.
“We think a lot of these fees will be allowed as part of payment methods,” Darley told FOX10 News.
The Prichard Water Works and Sewer Board paid for an audit to look at credit card purchases from 2018 to last year. Council attorney Jay Ross said the review revealed questionable charges on Bradley’s credit card – other employees’ company credit cards. Spending ranged from Louis Vuitton purchases to high-end hotels to streaming service subscriptions.
Darley said Bradley took trips for work, such as renegotiating bonds. He said the board allowed more personal purchases as a way to pay bonuses he didn’t have cash for.
“There are bonus documents, and some of those bonuses couldn’t be paid,” he said. “And therefore, we are of the view that these purchases were part of that compensation that should have been paid.”
Darley said he wasn’t sure how the water system spending process worked, but added, “I know the president was consulted at one point,” he said.
Board Chairman Russell Heidelberg could not be reached for comment. Ross, who on Monday described the spending as the “worst case of public corruption” he has seen, told FOX10 News on Tuesday that he was unaware the board had approved the questionable spending.
Michael McClantoc, who took over from Bradley as manager last year, said he did not know the full details of the ongoing investigation. He couldn’t explain how questionable spending from before his tenure could have gone on for so long undetected.
“It could be months before anyone has any answers,” he said.
McClantoc said the water supply system was working to implement reforms.
“Accountability – we make sure the accountability is there,” he said.
Prichard Water customers expressed outrage on Tuesday at the latest black eye of the struggling utility. Ann Russell said it doesn’t just affect customers like her, but the image of the whole town.
“I think it’s terrible,” she said. “You know, we live in a poor town anyway, and to draw from it, it just adds to the way people look at us now. You know, they look down on us.
Andreada Thomas expressed her anger.
“We have to investigate. … “It’s just unreal,” she said. “It really has nothing to do with the consumers or with us paying the bills here. It shouldn’t have been done.
Raymond McDonald said he couldn’t help but think there was a connection between the expense allegations and the Chromic complaints of high utility bills.
“I think it’s really bad – really bad,” he said. “They overcharge everyone.”
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