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Brighton mayor used city labor, assets for personal gain

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Brighton mayor Jeff Scott used city labor and equipment for personal gain, the state comptroller said Thursday.

Allegedly under the guise of locating water meters, on Oct. 28, 2013, Scott had two public works department employees use town-owned equipment to locate and replace the water meter, but also to remove tree stumps, do landscaping, and dig, prepare and pour the foundation for a house.

The employees worked at the site, located on Kenwood Avenue, for three days. On the second day, they were told not to charge their work at the site to the town when they filled out their time sheets.

"Instead they would be paid by the contractor, who they first saw on-site that second afternoon," comptroller Justin P. Wilson said. "They employees had not previously discussed their compensation for their work with the mayor or anyone else."

The employees used equipment owned and maintained by the public works department – a backhoe, dump truck, trailer and two vehicles – while working at the home of Hunter Scott. Additionally, fuel for the vehicles was paid for by the town and dirt was hauled from the town's storage area to fill the holes left when stumps were removed.

Wilson said the town's own personnel policy was violated in that employees seeking outside employment are required to have written authorization from the mayor.

The investigation also revealed the members of the Board of Mayor and Alderman were unaware of and did not approve the use of town employees and equipment.

Wilson called it an abuse of power by the mayor, one that creates potential liabilities for the town. Mayor Scott was also accused of authorizing additional improper use of the town's equipment.

The investigation revealed an unnamed alderman used the town's backhoe at his residence on two occasions in October 2013. The alderman reportedly admitted to its use for unloading landscaping materials at his home with permission from the mayor. An off-duty firefighter operated the backhoe.

The mayor also authorized the spreading of asphalt on private property by public works employees.

Though he had no comment, saying his response was in the report, last year Scott told WMC-TV Action News 5 that city vehicles were on the property because the employees were on call and could be called anywhere at any time. He said they'd taken time off to complete the work, but the employees told auditors they were not notified of the arrangement until the second day of work at the property.

In his response to the audit, Scott told the comptroller's office that he, at no time, intended for the employees to work at his son's home while on the town's clock nor did he intend to use the town's equipment without proper compensation and reimbursement.

He went on to say that he has allowed the town to use his personal equipment when the town's equipment was inoperable and, as a licensed electrician, completes electrical work for the town at no expense and with no compensation.

The Board of Alderman has made a formal request that the mayor reimburse the town for any and all costs associated with the comptroller's finding. To date, according to the report, the contractor, who was unlicensed, paid $200 for the use of the backhoe.

"While money was collected by the town for the use of the backhoe by the mayor, the situation will be examined," Scott said in his response to the audit. "It is the goal of all involved to rectify the situation and adhere to all regulations/recommendations."

On Thursday, Scott told The Leader he's said all he's going to say about the matter.

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