SWANSEA, SC (WIS) - Swansea Town Council members are demanding answers about the mayor's purchase of a Christmas tree that cost over $5,000. The town is suffering from a $1.4 million dollar debt, but the mayor says he didn't spend one dime of taxpayer money.
Swansea Mayor Ray Spires says he wanted to do something nice for the town when he cut a $5,000 check for an 18-foot Christmas tree. With a $1.4 million debt hanging over the town of 600, some on council want to know exactly how the mayor paid for the tree.
"I have all that on the computer across the street," Spires told the council on Monday, "but I'll be glad to pull it and get it to y'all like tomorrow, if that'll do."
Councilman Jerald Sanders says he never got a call from the mayor on Tuesday, so he gave Spires a call. Sanders said Spires told him the town was having computer issues, and couldn't pull the records until Wednesday.
"I'm getting them together for Mr. Sanders right now," Spires said late Tuesday. "We talked a little while ago, and I'm trying to get everything finalized."
Spires says there was a legal problem with some who gave money, which held up releasing the bank records. "It is on the computer, but I had people call that do not want their names released," said Spires.
We pointed out that donations to the town are public record. "They didn't donate it to the town, they donated it to the Fall Festival," countered Spires. The Fall Festival is the name of the town's community projects account, an account that is still part of the town's public record.
But at the tree's dedication, Spires said he named every business that gave money. "I didn't name all of them," Spires backtracked on Tuesday. "That was the ones that wanted to be named."
Around 5:00pm Tuesday, Spires released his records of who donated money for the tree. The invoice shows the tree cost $3,500, with another $2,300 to buy 2,000 lights, and $420 to pay for hardware. The total cost was $5,109.
Spires did not know who gave cash and who gave checks, and wouldn't supply the check register for the account.
The list of donors shows 24 businesses and a total of $6,200. Since we don't have the checks to verify the donations, we're going down each business on this list to verify the amounts.