Long Beach mayor explains why work was done on private property

Long Beach Mayor George Bass on Friday released a statement to explain how he ended up on the State Auditor’s annual exceptions report.

On Monday, Aug. 9, 2021, State Auditor Shad White issued his annual report for fiscal year 2021 that he said identified stolen or misspent taxpayer money.

Bass was listed in the exceptions report as having authorized work on private property. A demand from the State Auditor’s office was made on June 16 for $5,352.66. When the report was issued, it indicated no reimbursement had been made.

On Friday, Bass said in his statement that the work done was in an effort to fix a persistent flooding issue on Alexander Road north of Railroad Street.

“In early March 2021, I, along with City Public Works employees inspected the area of Alexander Road, North of Railroad Street, for persistent complaints of flooding and standing water issues,” Bass said in his statement. “It was the recommendation of the Public Works, and agreement of all involved, that placement of sand over the city right of way and privately owned property to level a low area holding standing water would cause the standing water to drain towards drainage culverts and ditches previously placed to address a long history of drainage and flooding issues in the area.”

Bass said that because city work on private property was recommended, he consulted with City Attorney Jim Simpson Jr. and discussed the proposed sand project. Simpson advised that, with the consent of the private landowner and based upon two separate Attorney General opinions, the city was authorized to perform the drainage work on the private property and right of way. The work was performed March 10-11.

Bass said two members of the Board of Aldermen questioned the work, disagreeing with his decision.

“Shortly thereafter, I and the City Attorney were informed of a complaint made to the State Auditor’s Office, which resulted in an investigation in which City Officials, the City Attorney and I fully cooperated, including providing supporting documentation and legal authority,” Bass said.

The State Auditor’s office informed Long Beach on June 15 that the Public Works Department’s use of municipal-owned equipment and resources performed at a cost of $2663.01 was without proper authority.

Bass said he requested additional information and reconsideration of the determination on July 26.

“The State Auditor’s Office explained the failure to have the Mayor’s Directive spread on the minutes before completing the work required the reimbursement of the public funds,” Bass said. “The private property owner also cooperated in the investigation and after having been made aware of the Auditor’s decision, has tended the total amount of the project, including the cost of the Auditor’s investigation to the City of Long Beach. Therefore, all city or taxpayer funds have been completely reimbursed.”

Bass went on to finish his statement saying he acted based on the best information he had and a legal opinion provided by Simpson.

“I respectfully disagree with the Auditor’s determination; however, I respect the authority of the State Auditor’s Office and have fully complied with the requirements of its investigation,” he said.

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