Missouri has been a lot in the news recently and not in a good way. In addition to the terrible situation in Ferguson, now comes another story from the small town of Parma where for the first time a black person was elected to the office of mayor. Tyrus Byrd, who was born and raised in the town and has also served as city clerk in the past, was elected mayor displacing the incumbent who had held office for 37 years.
Immediately following the election results, however, something strange happened. Six of the city’s eleven full-time employees consisting of five of the six police officers (two full-time and three half-time, including the chief) on the force resigned, as did the city’s attorney, the clerk, and the waste water treatment plant supervisor.
The new mayor has no idea why these people resigned because the resignation letters were on a computer and somebody had wiped clean all the city’s computers before handing them over to the new mayor.
The outgoing mayor said the letters had cited “safety concerns”. I wonder what those could be?
In the April 7 election, 122 people voted for Byrd. Ramsey received 84 votes. It was about double the typical turnout.
Byrd said she walked into City Hall a week later to pay her water bill and tried to say hello to the mayor and other city employees but was met with silence.
When Byrd showed up for work at City Hall, she was unable to locate financial statements, the book of ordinances, budget, meeting minutes or any other city documents.
“There’s nothing,” Byrd said.
As it turns out, Kim Hampton, who has been city treasurer for 24 years and runs the Mahan Gin, keeps many Parma financial documents in a 14-by-14-foot fireproof safe at the cotton gin.
“I do all of my job here,” said Hampton, who did not resign.
Asked how the city could fulfill public records requests when the documents weren’t at City Hall, Hampton said, “They (the residents) all know where I’m at.”
Byrd said she eventually obtained some account statements. A few of those statements showed that city employees routinely used city credit to purchase personal items, and then paid the city back by having money withheld from their paychecks over a period of months.
It puzzles me why such a small own even has its own police force and why it is so large, with one officer for approximately 130 people. And yet even in a city small enough that everyone should pretty much know everyone else and good relations between police and citizenry should be a cinch, the Parma police has been accused of harassing black men in the town.
There just seems to be something deeply rotten in the police culture in the US that transcends all other factors.