Tennessee takes financial control of a mostly black city due to mismanagement of money
The state of Tennessee has taken control of the finances of Mason, a majority black town of about 1,500 people due to allegations of financial mismanagement.
On Thursday, Tennessee Comptroller Jason Mumpower announced Mason’s formal financial takeover after Mason’s Council of Mayor and Aldermen voted not to waive the city’s 153-year-old charter, Action 5 reported. News.
The city has a long history of financial problems, including a past arraignment for theft of municipal funds. Mumpower’s decision came after offering Mason an ultimatum to relinquish control of the charter to the state or risk a financial takeover.
However, ceding control of Mason to Tennessee government officials would place the predominantly black, heavily Democratic city under the control of the predominantly white, Republican-led Tipton County, as noted by the Tennessee Lookout.
“I’m sad for the taxpayers of Mason,” Mumpower said. “We will work hard to step in and get their finances back in shape.”
The comptroller said Mason had suffered from problems related to mismanagement of money for 20 years. Mumpower cited the recent closure of a prison which caused the town’s population to drop to just 794 people.
However, Mason officials cite the city’s ideal location 4.5 miles from the new Blue Oval City, the Ford electric truck and battery plant that has been considered one of the biggest manufacturing investments in the history of the state.
“There’s no way Mason isn’t thriving and growing,” said Virginia Rivers, Mason’s vice mayor. “And now they want to take it away from us.”
But Mumpower says Mason needs “sound government.”
By closely monitoring the city’s finances, we will put Mason on the path to fiscal responsibility,” Mumpower said.
As part of managing the city’s finances, Mason will have to repay $597,000 the city should have for its water and sewer fund. The State will have veto power over all expenditures of $100 or more made by Mason.
Van Turner, president of the Memphis NAACP branch and a member of the NAACP’s Tennessee Conference Legal Appeals Committee, cited the lack of guidelines provided by the state to return power to local elected officials. Without landmarks, Turner says the city has grounds for a lawsuit.
“We need a timeline of how long it’s going to take and what specific steps they’re using before handing over power to Mason,” he said.
“Because it can’t last forever. This would be an indirect take from its charter.
The state said the takeover will last “as long as it takes” for Mason to return to financial stability.