In an unusual move at a city council technical review meeting on Tuesday, May 7, local citizen and attorney Steven Lisk called out Councilwoman Annie Black for what he said was a need for her to be held accountable for her words because she had lied to the public.
“At the last council meeting, Councilwoman Black discussed her efforts to educate herself on the budget and the difficulty she was facing. She thought this was something important because she posted the video on her Facebook page,” Lisk said.
At the April 23 city council meeting, Black expressed her displeasure over the upcoming budget process complaining that the city manager would not allow her to review the budget documents until May 7 giving the council and public only a week to review the document before public hearings.
“Ms. Black made a big deal about this,” Lisk said, “strongly suggesting that she was being kept in the dark and that the information had been kept from her. However, that is not what happened.”
Black said she had not been allowed to have any input into the tentative budget nor was she allowed to discuss individual department budgets with the managers. “Our budgets are not built around a strategic plan that the council and citizens have created,” Black said. “This council must be included along with the city manager in creating our budget.”
Lisk read parts of an email exchange between Black and City Manager Andy Barton on April 22 regarding her request for budget information. “Based on this email, Ms. Black was less than truthful in her characteristic of that conversation,” he said.
“Mr. Barton’s email concluded by saying, ‘I would respectfully ask that you reconsider your request for the preliminary budget numbers and wait until the budget is ready on May 7th. Let me know how to proceed, and I will, of course, comply,’” Lisk said.
“This is not Mr. Barton telling her she was not permitted to see the information and it’s being withheld from her,” Lisk said. “In fact, it’s Mr. Barton explaining that at the time of her request, the information was not complete, his office was still working on it, and that he was not prepared to defend or discuss the numbers that were still a work in progress.
“Ms. Black even noted in the email exchange that she was sure the reason they were not getting preliminary numbers without requesting them had nothing to do with a lack of transparency or control but it comes across that way.
“One of the reasons it may appear this way Ms. Black is the fact that you have been pushing this narrative for awhile. She claimed she was not permitted to review the budget until May 7. She has been on a campaign on social media claiming she’s going against ‘the establishment and good ol’ boys club.’ The truth of the matter is that she requested this information, Mr. Barton carefully explained in detail the budget process and it would create more questions than it would answer. He said a number of times in the email exchange he would be happy to provide the information if she persisted.”
Lisk went on to say that Councilwoman Black had a duty to be honest and truthful in her position.
“It is not appropriate for a council member to purposefully mislead the public and that is what Ms. Black did at the last meeting. Lying has consequences. Ms. Black lied to the community to fit some narrative. That narrative is ‘us against them.’
“It’s divisive and it’s not okay. I hope the rest of the council will address this. As for the rest of the community, the fact that Ms. Black misled the public illustrates that she should not be trusted on her word alone. If she says something, those words should be verified to ensure their validity and truthfulness.”
There was no response from either Councilwoman Black or other council members.