August 15, 2014 11:40:15 AM
Whether or not you plan on attending a private fundraiser for Mayor Robert Smith tonight, you have a vested interest in the event if you are a Columbus resident.
A promotional flyer distributed for the gathering lists City Hall's main phone number as a point of contact to find out more about the event, which takes place this evening at Happy Hollow Drive near Nashville Ferry Road, according to the flyer.
The gathering will be a skeet shoot hosted by the mayor, according to the flyer.
The flyer states the event is sponsored by the "Friends of Mayor Robert Smith" and prompts those who want more information to call 662-328-7021.
Contacted Thursday, officials with the Mississippi Office of the State Auditor and Mississippi Ethics Commission declined to comment on whether directing potential attendees of a private event to a phone number staffed by city employees and paid for by city taxes is a misuse of public resources.
Calls to Smith were not returned as of press time today.
The Dispatch does not know who paid for the flyers or who arranged for the information they contain.
Multiple councilmen told The Dispatch they had heard of a campaign flyer in circulation but knew no other details. Advertising for Smith published in The Dispatch before last year's municipal election states the ads were paid for by "the Committee To Re-Elect Mayor Robert Smith, Sr."
Councilman Bill Gavin said that if the fundraiser is intended to secure campaign financing, he believes "it's a little early." The next municipal election will be held in 2017.
The Dispatch could not confirm the purpose of the fundraiser.
Gavin declined to comment on listing City Hall's phone number on a flyer aimed at promoting a private fundraiser.
"This is the mayor and the people that are giving it for him," Gavin said. "If they're comfortable with giving him a fundraiser almost three years away, that's up to them."
Nathan Gregory covers city and county government for The Dispatch.
1. Ex-office manager arrested for embezzlement COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY