REALITY CHECK: Money allegedly stolen from Prichard while city paid company to keep books

(IMG:WPMI) REALITY CHECK: Money allegedly stolen from Prichard while city paid outside company to keep books

Prichard city councilman Lorenzo Martin says his city needs to make changes, big ones, following the arrest of fired Prichard Chief of Staff James Blackman on 21 criminal charges.

He's accused of stealing more than $100,000 taxpayer dollars.

The councilman now wants to form a Citizens Financial Advisory Committee and ensure that moving forward, every city check is signed by one representative of the Mayor's office and one city council person. But that's not all.

"There's no way you can go on as business as usual without doing something different," said Martin.

For starters, Councilman Lorenzo Martin wants to immediately terminate a contract the city has with Robert Headrick, Jr., a CPA based out of Mobile.

NBC 15 learned Thursday that Prichard pays this CPA firm $11,533 a month, that's $138,400 a year, to oversee the city finance department. That means Headrick keeps the books, writes the checks and according to a letter NBC 15 received, is in charge of identifying errors.

But from January to December of 2017, the DA's office says James Blackman was stealing money from the city. And that means it happened under this firm's watch.

"That contract was only for a year but from what I understand from the administration, we're on a month to month with that. I think personally that contract needs to be voided immediately because that contract said you would protect us," said Martin.

Despite what happened, Mayor Jimmie Gardner says he thinks it's too soon to pull the plug on the CPA firm.

"Upon the investigation (by the DA's office) being concluded, I'll take any and all appropriate action involving whomever at that point in time," said Gardner.

On Thursday, NBC 15's Christian Jennings tried reaching out to Robert Headrick by phone. She left him a voicemail and her call was never returned. She also tried finding him in person, checking both addresses listed online for his business.

Inside a building on Sage Avenue we did find his office, but no one came to the door when we knocked and the door was locked.

According to the State Board of Public Accountancy, his status is "delinquent" meaning he hasn't paid his recent dues.

The mayor says the city is insured and the attorneys are working to recover the funds that Blackman allegedly embezzled.

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