JONESBORO — Tim Jones, audit manager for the Arkansas Legislative audit, said it’s not uncommon for small cities to have issues with budget reconciliations.
The city of Black Rock had an audit finding released March 2021 that found the city’s general fund exceeded appropriations by $46,684.
“Sometimes cities don’t have a budget,” Jones said, noting those type of findings in a legislative audit are considered small findings.
Darlene Schmidt, recorder/treasurer for the city, said the money was not missing, but was just mislabeled.
“We bought a truck for the street/water department,” she said, noting the city had to buy it through the general fund because of legal reasons. “We were supposed to pay the general fund back.”
Gayle Brock, former mayoral candidate, alleges the Black Rock city officials misappropriated funds.
“At the city council meeting Monday night, the city council members just said they will accept the audit findings and not investigate it,” she said. “They don’t want anyone knowing what they are doing.”
Brock said she has lived in Black Rock since 2004 and since that time, she has realized just how much nepotism is going on in the town.
“The mayor (Bonnie Ragsdale) hired her daughter to be recorder/treasurer,” Brock said, noting Schmidt also acts as water superintendent.
Schmidt said she was actually hired by former Mayor Bud McLaughlin for the water department.
“I worked for him for two years before he said he wasn’t going to run for mayor again,” Schmidt said. “He said but your mother is. I thought it was a colossal joke. In the beginning she would come in and say have you gotten such-and-such done yet?”
Schmidt says she calls her mother mayor until 3:30 p.m. every day.
As far as Ragsdale appointing Schmidt as recorder/treasurer, Schmidt said those were the actions of the city council.
“They asked me to take that position when the former treasurer/recorder resigned,” Schmidt said.
Rumors abound as Brock has launched a Facebook page determined to expose corruption in Black Rock.
The site, a Facebook page called Transparency 4-A Better Black Rock, has postings on Brock’s allegations of corruption in the town.
Brock alleges Schmidt has no license to operate the water department.
Schmidt said she does have a license to act as the city’s water superintendent.
“I have worked here 12 years. I started out as a water clerk, then I got my water license,” she said.
Brock also accuses Schmidt of drinking and driving and wrecking the city’s truck during a yearly festival. A copy of the accident report is posted on the Facebook page.
According to the report made by Officer Z. Barton, Schmidt was driving a 2014 Chevy Silverado belonging to Black Rock. The report stated the Schmidt was turning into an alley off 2nd Street when she side-swiped a parked car in the alley.
“The driver of the vehicle left the scene for several minutes finally returning upon being called by the chief of police,” the report stated.
Schmidt said she was not drinking.
“Someone moved the barricade, I had to go through the alleyway. All I did was scrape the bumper, and then I left to go and find someone to show what I had done,” she said, noting the incident occurred during the middle of the city’s annual Foothills celebration on the Fourth of July.
She was penalized for the accident. “I got wrote up for it,” she said.
Despite the many allegations circulating in the town, Jones said there were no findings in the legislative audit report that warranted the auditors turning over a report to the Lawrence County prosecuting attorney’s office.
“Black Rock overspent what they budgeted, and the city did not amend the budget,” Jones said. “In cities this small, budget findings are the most common.”
As far as the other allegations, Schmidt said she chalks it up to the fact it’s nearing election time.
“Gayle has run for both mayor and city council and been defeated both times,” she said. “It’s nearing election time again.”