Mobile City Councilman Fred Richardson used the announcement portion of Tuesday’s City Council meeting to defend himself, almost two weeks since Lagniappe reported he was the most prolific traveler among councilors.
Richardson doesn’t refute the report and said the publication “had a right” to report on it, but he proceeded to address some “unanswered questions” from the July 10 cover story.
“Fred Richardson is qualified to stand on an international stage to represent the city,” Richardson said near the end of the 90-minute meeting. “I don’t have to apologize to nobody for having represented this city. If it’s not illegal and it’s not earmarked … I will do it.”
On 16 trips between 2005-2008 for which Lagniappe was provided expenditures records, Richardson spent an average of $1,744.86 per trip, for a total of $27,917.77 in the three-year period. Richardson, at the time, declined to comment on the travel records.
He has since explained that the trips he goes on are beneficial to the city and gave a few examples of such trips. Richardson said during a 2008 trip to Cockburn, Australia, as part of a sister cities program, he and then-Councilwoman Connie Hudson took a side trip to Austal headquarters to help convince them to build combat ships in Mobile, if awarded the military contract. He said, at the time, Austal was just building high-speed recreational vehicles.
“They’ve hired over 4,000 employees,” Richardson said. “Was it worth me going? Get your calculators out and do the math.”
He said his travels have taken him to London and Paris for various airshows.
“I started going to the airshow because of EADS and we got them,” he said. “I kept going to get Airbus. Was it worth the while? Let’s do the math.”
He said businesses in Mobile generate $8 billion a year in revenue and Airbus alone will eclipse that mark by 2018, when the final assembly line is projected to produce 96 A320s here.
“Airbus will generate more money than all businesses combined,” Richardson said.
He likewise defended trips to Germany, Hong Kong and Sao Paulo, Brazil for reasons of economic development.
Richardson also alluded to a former county commissioner who went from Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida “to buy liquor” and questioned why Lagniappe was going after his travel records when “every one of my expenses have been legitimate.”
“I ain’t afraid of no paper,” he said. “If they run out of ink I’ll buy them some more. You can write whatever you want to write … I can defend myself.”
In regular business, the council unanimously passed an ordinance to prohibit the sale of electronic cigarettes to anyone under the age of 19. The ordinance was based on a presentation the board received from youth council member, said Council President Gina Gregory.
Retailers will have to verify the age of anyone buying the products if they appear to be under the age of 27, according to the ordinance. Anyone who is found guilty or pleads guilty to an offense outlined in the ordinance is subject to a fine of between $200 and $500, or a maximum of six months in jail.
The council also approved a contract with Scott Lewis, with Lewis and Associates, to perform a cable television franchise fee five-year compliance examination of Comcast Cable. The contract is worth $25,000, but Assistant City Attorney Florence Kessler told councilors during a pre-conference meeting that the last time Lewis did this service it saved the city $75,000 in unreported franchise fees.
The council also approved a professional services contract with Barry Strock Consulting Associates for ERP software. The contract is worth $99,747.
The council also approved the appointments of Marc Jackson, Melissa Morrissette, Dean Parker Jr., Mike Saxson and Cheryl Williams to the Industrial Development Board. The council reappointed Lowell J. Friedman to the board.
The council also appointed Holly Vinson to the History Museum of Mobile Board and Carolyn Green to the Advisory Commission on the Disabled. The council appointed Noble Beasley and Catherine O’Keefe to the Citizens’ Park and Recreation Advisory Committee.