Taylor, now the Union County finance director, was the only one of five individuals to speak in public at the City Council’s special meeting on how radio station WBLS came to receive $20,000 in city funds for the Aug. 1, 2010 event. Of others subpoenaed to appear before the governing body, only Corporation Counsel Dan Williamson attended the meeting but chose to speak in closed session. The mayor “evaded receipt of service” both at City Hall and at home, council attorney Ramon Rivera said, while former acting chief finance officer Sandra Cummings could not be located and city purchasing agent David Spaulding was expected but did not show up Wednesday.
In the scramble to come up with a check on the Friday before the Sunday event, Taylor said the mayor began calling her at 1:47 p.m. on her personal cell phone rather than a city line, then made “over a dozen calls” which by late afternoon contained “expletives throughout the conversation.”
Taylor detailed for Rivera the normal procedures for cutting checks, but said between 4 and 4:11 p.m. on July 30, 2010 she was told by Spaulding that two checks, one for $16,000 for WBLS and one for $4,000 for WLIB, were needed. She said she questioned Spaulding on whether regulations for bidding and contracts had been followed, then called Williamson.
Because her conversation with Williamson might fall under attorney/client privilege, Rivera did not pursue it in the public session. Taylor’s husband Lester, also an attorney, noted his wife was there “voluntarily to cooperate with the City Council.”
By then on that Friday, Spaulding was not returning her calls, Taylor said, but the mayor wanted a memorandum in writing for the payment. After she wrote one authorizing payment “if all was in order,” Taylor alleged the mayor told her to change it to $20,000 for WBLS with a “CYA” memorandum. Asked by Rivera to explain the term, Taylor said it meant "cover your ass." Also on camera, Taylor quoted Robinson-Briggs as saying she was “the f-ing mayor.”
“Did you feel threatened?” Rivera asked.
“I was threatened,” Taylor said, adding she was cursed at and yelled at.
In further questioning, Taylor said the funds came from an Information Technology account and confirmed signatures on a July 30 purchase order she received Aug. 4, 2010 as those of the mayor, Spaulding and the IT director. In addition, Taylor discussed a $15,000 check from Investors Savings Bank, made out to the Division of Parks and Recreation for July 4 sponsorship, that she said she was told to use for the Aug. 1 event.
The mayor has alluded to a $15,000 donation that offset the event’s cost, but never revealed the donor.
The explosive testimony had members of the public exclaiming, but after Rivera said he had no further questions for Taylor, the public was excluded and Williamson spoke in closed session.
The entire public discussion was videotaped and recorded by transcript.
Rivera said the mayor’s attorney claimed she had “insufficient notice” of the investigation, but that if served another subpoena, she would appear at another date. Wednesday’s session was “not a hearing, not a trial,” Rivera said, but just part of the investigation.
Inquiries into costs of the August 2010 Town Meeting began immediately after the WBLS radio broadcast at which The Rev. Al Sharpton made a brief appearance. Plaintalker filed an OPRA request on Aug. 2, 2010 and eventually received some information, including a copy of the $20,000 city check and documents showing the budget lines from which funds were taken.
The council voted in September 2010 to launch an investigation, but issues over the governing body’s first choice for legal representation delayed the matter. Rivera was hired in April and the mayor is being represented by Stephen Edelstein. In July, Council President Annie McWilliams said an update revealed that Edelstein had failed to respond to Rivera. After Rivera gave “tentative conclusions” that misconduct may have taken place, the council agreed to use its subpoena powers to escalate the investigation.