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Audit, budget on voters' minds in Lawrenceville

LAWRENCEVILLE -- Just weeks after an audit determined improprieties in Lawrenceville, fiscal responsibility was at the forefront in a forum among city council candidates Thursday.

P.K. Martin, who is seeking his fourth term on the council, said the city acted swiftly, firing its gas superintendent after the council learned a fine had been paid without its knowledge.

"We weren't aware of the issues until the issue blew up in our faces," Martin said, calling the findings "brutal" and adding that the new city manager form of government should help in accountability and communication, and that the council is working on new regulations moving forward. "Now we have to deal with it."

All six candidates seeking two seats in the upcoming Nov. 8 election said transparency and sound budgeting are key to moving the city forward.

"We're a small town feel, but we are a big city. We need to put in controls to run our city like a business," said Eric Reid, who is running against former Councilman Bob Clark and Brad Sullivan in a race.

Clark said he pushed for stricter budgeting when he was in office, and Martin backed the measure, but it failed.

"The budget is the single most important thing, if done right, that ensures your organization does what it is supposed to do," Clark said.

Rex Millsaps, the former mayor who is challenging Martin, said he opposed a comprehensive annual financial report and felt confident with the current annual audit.

"In the past, I felt like I didn't want to spend $10,000 to look at the 10-year history," he said of the extra requirement in the other document. "You can look at 10 audit reports and find the same thing."

But Renita Hamilton, who is also challenging Martin, and Sullivan, both business owners and political newcomers, said the stricter measures are needed.

"We should make sure we are accountable," Sullivan said.

"We can take that information and move forward to be more productive in the future," Hamilton added about the scathing audit report.

One local woman, Donna McLeod, said she was disturbed by the report's findings and wanted to find out what each candidate would do to fix the situation.

"There's one thing to put a band-aid on it. There's another thing to prevent it from happening again," she said.