Mayor and Challenger Disagree on Augusta Trip
Patrick McGrady, who is running for mayor, contends that incumbert Michael Bennett violated ethical standards with the trip.
Mayor Michael Bennett defended his actions for the second time in a week, claiming that his recent trip to Augusta, GA did not violate ethical standards.
McGrady contended "it is not clear if this is classified as a employment relationship, a gift, or a campaign contribution." McGrady's statement also said that the complaint "was initiated to get answers to serious questions about the Mayor’s behavior and relationship with the Ripken Group."
Bennett countered that McGrady's complaint is a campaign ploy.
"Nothing that I did even comes close to violating ethics," Bennett said. "This is a very desperate attempt by an individual who is running for office and is making every grasp he can at trying to find something wrong, rather than tell people what he's going to do to make the city better."
McGrady said: "It is up to the people to ensure that their elected officials are acting in an ethical and honest manner. It seems that Mayor Bennett not only had his trip paid for by the for-profit Ripken Baseball folks, but he also misled the audience in Augusta on this lobbying trip.”
Bennett described events involving the trip.
"I was contacted by Ripken Baseball and someone from Augusta to go down, if I'd be willing to go down, to talk about the relationship between Ripken Baseball and the City of Aberdeen," Bennett said.
"He's trying to blame Ripken Baseball for a bad debt that people in city government made over 10 years ago," Bennett said.
Bennett continued: "We have a debt. We have a loan, it costs us money, but that has nothing to do with our relationship with Ripken Baseball. We have a debt as a city."
In his statement, McGrady cites Ripken Stadium as a burden on the city, while asking for more clarity from Bennett.
"The people of Aberdeen deserve honesty from our elected officials," McGrady said in his statement. "The people of Aberdeen have been suffering under this Stadium deal for a long time, and it seems odd that Mayor Bennett would tell folks in Augusta otherwise. For the sake of the people of Aberdeen, I hope this isn’t true. With the problems with high taxes and high water bills in Aberdeen, the Mayor should be working for the people in Aberdeen, not lobbying for big corporations."
Bennett defended city government operations during his watch and took on some of the concerns McGrady raised early in his campaign.
Bennett said water rates have not increased in eight years, taxes have gone down three out of four years, and sewer rates have increased only due to the federally-mandated upgrades at waste water treatment facilities.
He also pointed to the news first reported by Patch that the city received positive feedback on it's bond assessment.
"I think the city just got recognized for extremely sound financial practices in a certain rating we just got," Bennett said. "We've got a rainy day fund, a balance, and the city is in fantastic shape."
This is the second time this week that the incumbent and challenger have clashed. On Monday, McGrady left the City Council chambers following an exchange with Bennett during the public comment period during a city council meeting.
McGrady attempted to introduce himself and his campaign, but was stopped and called out of order by Bennett, before returning to his seat for a moment and ultimately leaving City Hall.
Bennett addressed his trip to Augusta later in the meeting.