Wagon Mound mayor: Utility situation 'disturbing'

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By David Giuliani

The village of Wagon Mound’s list of delinquent utilities accounts failed to include those of a number of city employees and others, the village’s mayor says.

Mayor Arthur Arguello said in a statement that when he took over as mayor in March, he found a “disturbing situation” in which the utilities weren’t paying for themselves.

As a result, he said the state had forced the village to transfer “substantial amounts” of money from its general fund to the utilities.

The mayor said the village council has been closely reviewing the list of delinquent accounts in the effort to make the utilities self-supporting.

Arguello said that after he took office, he discovered that the then-utilities billing clerk, Gloria Mejillas, had been preparing delinquent lists by hand rather than simply printing out the utilities’ “aging list.”

He said her list didn’t include all delinquent accounts, including her own account from February 2009 to after he came into office.

The same went for other village employees, he said.

“Also, other citizens who should have been on the delinquent list, for reasons that are still unclear to me, were not on the delinquent list,” Arguello said in the statement. “It was the billing clerk’s responsibility to perform collections for the village. This was a situation that I could not allow to continue.”

Mejillas was fired not long after Arguello took office.

She said this week that the mayor’s statement on the delinquent accounts was “totally incorrect,” contending that the billing situation had worsened because of the mayor and his allies.

“They created all of these problems. I don’t know what they are trying to do,” she said. “They let me go; they should leave me alone.”

In recent months, the village has suffered from instability. Its most recent clerk-treasurer, who runs the day-to-day operations, left suddenly a couple of weeks ago after only a month on the job.

The mayor has placed the utilities superintendent on leave, and the village has yet to fill the utilities clerk’s position.

As a result, the village has been shorthanded. During one weekday last week, the village hall was closed all day because an aide, the only remaining office employee, had a medical appointment.

“We expect our clerk-treasurer position to be reopened soon, and I hope that qualified and dedicated people will apply for the position,” Arguello said.

In April, the village called in the state police to investigate what officials called alleged embezzlement. Two of the three office employees were place on leave during that inquiry, but no one was charged.