Tennessee Takes Financial Control Over Mostly Black Town Due to Poor Money Management
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Tennessee Takes Financial Control Over Mostly Black Town Due to Poor Money Management

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The state of Tennessee has taken control of the finances of Mason, a mostly Black town of about 1,500 people due to claims of poor financial management.

On Thursday, Tennessee Comptroller Jason Mumpower announced the official financial takeover of Mason after Mason’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen voted not to surrender the town’s 153-year-old charter, Action 5 News reported.

The city has a long history of financial, issues including a past indictment for theft of town funds. Mumpower’s move came after he offered Mason an ultimatum to relinquish control of the charter to the state or risk financial takeover.

However, ceding over control of Mason to Tennessee government officials would place the mostly Black, heavily Democratic town under the control of the state’s primarily white and Republican-led Tipton County, as noted by the Tennessee Lookout.

“I’m sad for the taxpayers of Mason,” Mumpower said. “We will be working hard to step in and get their finances in shape.”

The comptroller said Mason has suffered from issues related to poor money management for the last 20 years. Mumpower cited the recent closing of a prison that made the town’s population drop to just 794 people.

However, Mason officials cite the town’s convenient location 4.5 miles from the newly planned Blue Oval City, the Ford electric truck and battery plant that’s been deemed one of the largest manufacturing investments in the state’s history.

“There’s no way Mason won’t prosper and grow,” Mason Vice Mayor Virginia Rivers said. “And now they want to take it away from us.”

But Mumpower claims Mason is in need of a “sound government.”

By closely supervising the town’s finances, we will put Mason on a path toward fiscal responsibility,” Mumpower said.

As part of managing the town’s finances, Mason will have to pay back $597,000 the town reportedly owes for its Water and Sewer Fund. The state will have veto power over every expense of $100 or more Mason makes.

Van Turner, president of the Memphis NAACP branch and a member of the Tennessee Conference of the NAACP legal redress committee, cited the lack of benchmarks provided by the state to return power back to local elected officials. Without benchmarks, Turner says the town has grounds for a lawsuit.

“We need a timeline of how long this is going to take and what specific metrics they are using before they transfer power back to Mason,” he said.

“Because it can’t go on forever. That would be an indirect taking of its charter.”

The state has said the takeover will last for “as long as it takes” to get Mason back in stable financial standing.