Julie Akins says she’s been ‘bullied’ for more than 2 years
By Holly Dillemuth, Ashland.news
Ashland City Councilor Tonya Graham and Mayor Julie Akins traded barbs as Tuesday evening’s council meeting was coming to a close over a comment the mayor made online about wanting the city to consider a “forensic audit.”
Graham made a motion, seconded by Councilor Steven Jensen, to add an item on the agenda to address comments allegedly made by Akins on a social media platform regarding her desire to look into a “forensic audit” of the city, pending having enough City Council votes. Graham took Akins’ online comment as accusing the City Council or staff of mishandling funds or miscommunicating about them.
“That’s a very, very serious conversation,” Graham said. “We saw tonight that we don’t always agree. There’s a fair amount of things, there’s a lot of different opinions here, but I think I’m safe in saying one thing we would all agree on is of our responsibility as it relates to making sure that any sort of evidence of an issue like this would be immediately taken up and if there’s enough evidence, that we would take action it, and so I would like to hear the concerns that you have that led to your conversation in the public so that we can take it up and address it as a body.”
Akins denied making any assertions that there was ever any criminal wrongdoing by city staff, and repeatedly asked Graham if she, the mayor, was being accused of something.
“I said, ‘at some point I would like to consider a forensic audit,’” Akins emphasized.
“What I’m saying is, if you have evidence, mayor, we need to hear it,” Graham said.
Akins told Graham that, if she’s being accused of something, she has 30 days to have a hearing where she is able to choose whether it is held during an executive session or in a public meeting, with a right to legal representation.
“Ya’ll have done this to me before, I’ve done my homework,” Akins said.
“If you don’t have any evidence, then I think our staff deserves an apology,” Graham said.
Akins invoked her right to speak to the matter at a time of her choosing, including during an executive session.
“I don’t actually report to you,” Akins told Councilor Graham. “Should I wish to bring this forward to council, I will do so and it would be most appropriate in an executive session if that’s the discussion. I am not prepared at this time to have that discussion.”
Councilor Shaun Moran spoke up to defend Mayor Akins, saying that it seems like “every three months we do this, people take pot shots at the mayor.”
“Audits are reasonable,” Moran added. “Having a free shot at the mayor seems to be open season every three months. I don’t support that. I think we’re better than that.”
Moran went on to tell Graham he found her comments “kind of dirty” and a “cheap shot, something that I hope you’re held accountable for in November.”
Councilor Gina DuQuenne said she didn’t take the statement online as accusatory.
“We all evening talked about our fiduciary responsibility and auditing is a way of the world,” DuQuenne said.
Akins responded, in agreement with DuQuenne, “It’s not the way I intended it.”
After saying she had nothing more to say on the matter, Akins continued.
“For two and a half years I’ve been bullied and I’m really sick of it — so entirely sick of being bullied by this body,” Akins said.
“I’m sorry I won the mayor’s race, get over it,” she said. “I’m tired of always being accountable for what I say on social media and nobody else.”
She said maybe “the councilor’s confused,” referencing Graham.
“I’m not running for election in November so you don’t need to throw me under the bus,” she said. “Why don’t you wait a couple years.”
Councilor Moran jumped in, asking if the meeting could be adjourned. Councilors voted to end the session.
Reach Ashland.news reporter Holly Dillemuth at email@example.com.