The mayor and mayor pro tem of Forest Hill resigned Wednesday afternoon after they were accused of misusing city funds to purchase tickets for Michelle Obama’s book tour, just a day after council members denied the mayor’s request for more time to prepare for hearings on the accusations.
Mayor Lyndia Thomas said she planned to resign rather than let council members decide her fate.
“I don’t believe in putting my fate in somebody else’s hands,” she said. “They are doing the wrong thing. I am a mover and a shaker. I get things done, and they don’t like that.”
Thomas and Mayor Pro Tem Beckie Duncan Hayes also filed for re-election Wednesday, the first day to file for office for candidates in city council and school board races.
Clara Faulkner is now the acting mayor until the May 4 election.
Thomas and Duncan Hayes said in their resignation letters that they chose to resign because if the council would have voted to remove them from office, they could not run for election for another three years.
Thomas added that the expenses for her and Duncan Hayes to attend Obama’s appearance in Dallas and for the reading club and restaurant meals were approved by city manager Sheyi Ipaye.
“If we did anything wrong, then he (Ipaye) wouldn’t have approved them,” she said.
The council voted 5-0 to accept their resignations when Thomas and Hayes showed up at the first of two public hearings Wednesday night.
Hearings were scheduled Wednesday to give Thomas and Duncan Hayes an opportunity to defend themselves against the charges of misusing city funds.
Council members Carlie Jones, Gerald Joubert and Stephanie Boardingham accused Thomas and Duncan Hayes of using city funds for events and restaurant meals that were not considered to be related to city business.
Joubert said Wednesday he was surprised that the mayor and mayor pro tem resigned.
“Why didn’t they defend themselves in the hearing?” he asked.
Jones said she was also shocked by their resignations.
A standing-room only crowd gathered to speak on behalf of Thomas and Duncan Hayes during a meeting Tuesday but the council voted 4-3 to proceed with hearings to determine if the two elected officials should be suspended or removed from office.
Thomas had asked for three months to prepare to dispute the charges against her.
She and Duncan Hayes came under fire after they were reimbursed for $545 tickets to attend Obama’s book tour in December. Other receipts turned in for reimbursement were for school supplies.
Thomas has said that Forest Hill has a public relations budget and that she and the mayor pro tem have requested reimbursement for events they attend on behalf of the city, which is allowed by its charter. The school supplies, Thomas has said, were for a children’s reading club that she started.
Thomas accused the council members of violating the Open Meetings Act when they met at a Starbucks to sign paperwork to request the special hearings.
But the council members said they did not violate the law.