Prichard Mayor Jimmie Gardner announced the termination of his administrative executive assistant after “irregularities” were found during an ongoing audit of the city’s finances.
According to Gardner, James A. Blackman worked for the city of Prichard for a little more than a year before he was suspended without pay on Wednesday, Jan. 10. He said Blackman was ultimately terminated the following day via a letter from Prichard Police Chief Walter Knight.
Though he kept many details under wraps, Gardner did say his office already turned over documentation of the financial “irregularities” that prompted Blackman’s termination to Mobile County District Attorney’s office so the matter can be investigated criminally.
“As mayor of this city, I would assure you that when it comes to these matters concerning the integrity of the finances of this city that erode the confidence in our city and of our citizens — regardless of who may be involved — it will not be tolerated,” Gardner said. “Where it began and where it ends, all of those things will be determined during the course of this investigation.”
Gardner declined to answer questions about whether other employees could be implicated along with Blackman in addition to other rumors about his termination. Asked about how much public money could be amiss, Gardner said only that “it could be in the thousands.”
According to the city of Prichard’s website, Blackman was the “Chief of Staff” in Gardner’s administration, though the mayor exclusively identified him as his “administrative executive assistant” during a hastily assembled press conference Tuesday evening.
In a biography on the web page that appears to be self-authored, Blackman lists his responsibilities as “assisting the Mayor” and the “citizens of Prichard.”
“I pledge to be transparent and honest in every dealing of the city,” he wrote. “We deserve a government that is representative of, and accountable to, each one of the citizens of Prichard.”
Following the investigation, Gardner said the city stands ready to take “whatever course of action that’s necessary.” Given the nature of his position, Blackman likely worked closely with the mayor and his other administrative staff members.
Gardner seemed to acknowledge that, calling the situation “tough.”
“I asked to be the mayor of this city. I ran on integrity and on being open, and so to stand here — in particular over someone that I care for and love personally — and have to terminate them, that’s a very difficult thing,” he said. “But regardless of who it is, none of us is above the law.”
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