Judsonia’s water superintendent made two public apologies this week for removing service fees since October 2015 that he owed on his personal account, while the Judsonia City Council called for tighter accounting in the department.
“I want to start out saying me removing my services fees was not with malice intent,” Justin Jones told the city’s water board Monday. “I do apologize for poor judgment on my part. It will not happen again. It’s been paid in full and I hope that I can be forgiven.”
The amount that was paid in full was $2,355.11 in past due service fees. Customers who do not pay their bills on time are charged a $60 service fee. The nearly five-year period that Jones owed for dated until this April.
Documentation concerning Jones overriding service fees on his account was provided to The Daily Citizen by Austin Moody, a laborer for the Judsonia Water Department who said he “warned him [Jones] about what was going on in 2018.”
Judsonia Water Board President Mitchell Spurlock told The Daily Citizen after what Jones owed was paid that he had apologized and no other action would be taken against him.
“As far as I’m concerned if we have another strike of any kind of complaints of unworthy workmanship or unworthy taking care of our customers, then it will be null and void,” Spurlock said Monday.
Water board member Ricky Holmes told Jones and Moody that “both of you know your job. You have been here long enough and you know the system, you know the people. You just got to be honest with one another, do your job, help each other out, but don’t get in the predicament where he’s [Moody] is having to do all the work, because he was. You know he was, or 90 percent of it. I know from way back he was working his tail off, but that’s water under the bridge but we need to keep it that way.”
He told Jones he understood that as the superintendent, “you’ll have things to do in the office – paperwork things like that, that’s fine.”
“This has rode the city hard, and I haven’t been on the board very long but still there’s no use putting from the mayor down to us in the situation that we’re in,” Holmes said, “but like you said, you know you was wrong. As for as forgiving, I don’t have no problem. That’s a strike.”
He said he has known Jones “a long time but we need to get everything aired today. If you got a problem with somebody, pick it out. If you got a problem with anything, don’t just sit there and tell your husband or your wife, ‘Well, I wish I would have told them then,’ don’t do that, get it out today and that way when we leave here, we’ll all be friends, everybody do their work and there won’t be no problems.”
Jones said that he has “no issues. Me and Austin, we have worked good together. Today, we worked pretty good together.”
Spurlock said, “This is going to be confronted as a group. All I got to say on the deal has been said. ... I have talked to both of you and we are not going to hash this out again. It won’t be hashed out again.”
Jones’ other public apology came at Tuesday night’s Judsonia City Council, where Spurlock said he feels like Jones learned from what he did. He also reiterated that access to water records would be limited to the department’s bookkeepers, but said they can’t put a passcode on that system.
“This will not occur again,” Spurlock said.
Council member Louis Anglin asked Spurlock if he was recommending Jones “stay on” as water superintendent. He said, “Yes sir, because I think he is abundantly blessed by what has happened, by the public and by God only. We didn’t know any more in accuracy than you all did. I pulled the records back to 2014. This is not something that was on going every month.”
Anglin asked that if it had been going on since 2014, why was it not investigated. Spurlock said he didn’t know about 2014 but he knew about the last five to six months.
The council also said water rate increases were approved “in good faith” in August 2021, “but we have an employee who is basically stealing.”
Spurlock then was asked, “What would happen if one of your employees at Spurlock Inc. got your credit card and and filled up his company truck in the evening and so you know it’s got a whole tank of fuel in it and at 8 o’clock in the morning, there’s another tank of fuel charged to that card. Where would he stand there? If he had been doing that for five years? Well, it happened in the water company.”
Some tighter accounting in the water department was called for. 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 here on is do the right thing. I do care about this city. I chose to raise my kids here.”