Former Prichard water board manager’s expenses were authorized, attorney says

Updated: Feb. 8, 2022 at 5:00 PM CST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

PRICHARD, Ala. (WALA) - Hundreds of thousands of dollars in questionable expenses by water system’s former manager occurred with the knowledge and approval of the water board, her attorney said Tuesday.

Jason Darley, who represents Nia Bradley, said there is more to the audit that has drawn outrage across the region.

“A lot of these charges, we believe, are going to be found to be authorized as part of forms of payment,” Darley told FOX10 News.

The Prichard Water Works and Sewer Board paid for an audit to scrutinize credit card purchases from 2018 until last year. Board attorney Jay Ross said the examination turned up questionable charges to Bradley’s credit card – the corporate credit cards of other employees. The expenditures ranged from Louis Vuitton purchases to high-end hotels to subscriptions to streaming services.

Darley said Bradley took trips for business reasons, such as to renegotiate bonds. He said the board authorized the more personal purchases as a way of paying bonuses that it didn’t have cash on hand for.

“There’s documentation of bonuses, and some of these bonuses couldn’t be paid,” he said. “And as a result, it’s our position that these purchases were part of that compensation that should have been paid.”

Darley said he does not know exactly how the water system’s expenditure process worked but added, “I know that the chairman was consulted at some point,” he said.

Board Chairman Russell Heidelburg could not be reached for comment. Ross, who on Monday described the spending as the “worst case of public corruption” he has seen, told FOX10 News on Tuesday that he was unaware that the board had approved the questionable expenses.

Michael McClantoc, who succeeded Bradley as manager last year, said he does not know all of the details about the ongoing investigation. He could not explain how questionable expenditures from before his tenure could have continued for so long without detection.

“It might take months before anyone has any answers,” he said.

McClantoc said the water system is working to implement reforms.

“Accountability – we are making sure accountability is there,” he said.

Prichard water customers on Tuesday expressed outrage over the troubled utility’s latest black eye. Ann Russell said it not only impacts customers like herself but the image of the entire city.

“I think that’s terrible,” she said. “You know, we’re living in a poor city anyway, and to take from it, it just adds on to how people look at us now. You know, they look at us bad.”

Andreada Thomas expressed anger.

“It needs to be investigated. … “It’s just unreal,” she said. “It really don’t have anything to do with the consumers or us, who are paying the bills here. Shouldn’t have been done.”

Raymond McDonald said he cannot help but think there’s a connection between the spending allegations and chromic complaints of high utility bills.

“I think that’s real bad – real bad,” he said. “They’re overcharging everybody.”