Judsonia’s water superintendent this week issued two public apologies for waiving service fees since October 2015 that he owed to his personal account, while the Judsonia City Council called for stricter accounting in the department.
“I want to start by saying that the waiving of my utility fee was unintentional,” Justin Jones told the city’s water board on Monday. “I apologize for the lack of judgment on my part. This will not happen again. It has been paid in full and I hope I can be forgiven.
The amount that was paid in full was $2,355.11 in overdue service charges. Customers who do not pay their bills on time must pay a service charge of $60. The nearly five-year period that Jones was to date from April.
Documentation regarding Jones exceeding service charges on his account was provided to The Daily Citizen by Austin Moody, a Judsonia water utility worker who said he “warned him [Jones] about what was happening in 2018.
Judsonia Water Board Chairman Mitchell Spurlock said The Daily Citizen after what Jones owed had been paid, he had apologized and no further action would be taken against him.
“As far as I’m concerned, if we have another strike of any kind of complaints of unbecoming work or unbecoming treatment of our customers, then that will be null and void,” Spurlock said Monday.
Water board member Ricky Holmes told Jones and Moody that “you both know your stuff. You’ve been here long enough and you know the system, you know the people. You just have to be honest with each other, do your job, help each other, but don’t meddle in the difficult situation he is in. [Moody] must do all the work, because he was. You know it was, or 90% of it. I’ve known for a long time that he was working his tail, but that’s water under the bridge, but we have to keep it that way.
He told Jones he understood that as superintendent, “you’ll have things to do in the office – things like that are fine.”
“It’s put a strain on the city, and I haven’t been on the board for very long, but there’s no point in blaming the mayor on us for the situation we’re in,” Holmes said. , “but like you said, you know you were wrong. As for forgiving, I have no problem. It’s a strike.
He said he’s known Jones “for a long time, but we have to get it all out today. If you have a problem with someone, choose them. If you have a problem with anything, don’t just sit there and tell your husband or wife, “Well, I wish I had told them then,” don’t do that, get it out today and that way when we leave here, we’ll all be friends, everyone will do their job and there won’t be any problems.
Jones said he had “no problem. Me and Austin, we worked well together. Today we worked well together.
Spurlock said: “It’s going to be faced as a group. Everything I had to say about the deal has been said. …I’ve spoken to you both and we’re not going to talk about it again. He will no longer be questioned.
Jones’ other public apology came at Judsonia City Council on Tuesday night, where Spurlock said he felt Jones had learned from what he had done. He also reiterated that access to water records would be limited to department accountants, but said they could not put a password on that system.
“It won’t happen again,” Spurlock said.
Council member Louis Anglin asked Spurlock if he recommended Jones “stay on” as superintendent of waters. He said: ‘Yes sir, because I think he is blessed abundantly by what has happened, by the public and by God alone. We didn’t know any more about accuracy than all of you. I took the records back to 2014. It’s not something that happened every month.
Anglin asked if this has been going on since 2014, why hasn’t it been investigated. Spurlock said he didn’t know for 2014 but he did know the past five to six months.
The council also said the water rate increases were approved “in good faith” in August 2021, “but we have an employee who is essentially stealing”.
Spurlock was then asked, “What if one of your employees at Spurlock Inc. got your credit card and filled up his company’s truck at night and you found out there was a whole tank of fuel and at 8 o’clock in the morning there’s another tank of fuel loaded on this map. Where would he be standing there? If he’s been doing this for five years? Well, it happened to the water company .
Stricter accounting in the water department was needed. Spurlock said he handled the situation “immediately, that’s all I can tell you. I had no idea.”
Jones said: “The only thing I can do from now on is do the right thing. I care about this town. I chose to raise my kids here.