(CBS) — Harvey is a suburb that is more than $150 million in debt.
Critics say Mayor Eric Kellogg has mismanaged finances while taking care of his family.
2 Investigator Pam Zekman reports on the latest example raising questions about thousands of taxpayer dollars used to pay off his sister’s debt.
The debt was for a Mercedes Benz leased by the mayor’s sister, Joyce Kellogg Weaver.
“No, they should not have paid that debt,” Harvey Alderman Christopher Clark says.
It happened after the sister was sued and the city of Harvey was added as a defendant in the case because the finance company attorney says he was informed she worked for the city.
Joyce Kellogg Weaver didn’t work for the city, but court records show Harvey failed to respond to several wage garnishment proceedings and judgment notices. Ultimately a judge ordered a $19,000 payment from Harvey’s bank account — taxpayer funds.
“It is not justifiable basically to pay that debt for someone because they’re your sister,” Clark says. “She wasn’t a city employee. The car was not a city-owned vehicle.”
The spokesperson for Harvey, Sean Howard, denied any mayoral involvement.
“The mayor did not know,” he insists.
That’s troubling to Clark, who says it’s part of a pattern.
“Money is just spent like it’s the mayor’s piggy bank and it has to stop,” Clark says.
The mayor’s critics say he has a history of using his position to get his family jobs, contracts and other benefits, at taxpayer expense.
A few examples: His niece, Bettie Lewis, is the city attorney. Her firm earns a $16,000 monthly retainer from Harvey. Her mother, Dreina Lewis, the mayor’s sister, is a $70,000 mayoral aide. And his son Eric Kellogg Jr.’s company got a $96,000 social media deal that ended after aldermen questioned it.
As for Joyce Kellogg Weaver’s car debt, there is no pattern, the mayor’s spokesperson says.
The 2 Investigators went to Joyce Kellogg Weaver’s home. Zekman was invited in at first, but once she started asking questions about the car, she was pushed out the front door.
As a result of the inquiry, the mayor asked the law firm of Smith Amundsen to investigate. That’s the firm that includes the mayor’s niece, Harvey city attorney Bettie Lewis, who has removed herself from the matter because of potential conflict of interest.
CBS 2 was sent a copy of a letter written to the mayor by the firm’s attorney, Stepfon Smith, and dated Wednesday.
The letter says after a review of the court docket “it appears the city of Harvey was improperly made a defendant” in Joyce Kellogg Weaver’s debt case, that a judgement was “improperly taken” against the city of Harvey, and “unbeknownst” to the city the creditor got a turnover order to get the funds from a Harvey bank account “improperly.”
Now, the city will file a petition to vacate the judgement against Harvey and seek reimbursement of the funds, the attorney said. No explanation was given as to how and why the city did not respond in court when the case was ongoing.