Mid-South council members arrested for not paying water bills

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Two Helena-West Helena council members are facing misdemeanor charges after being accused of not paying their water bills.

According to Helena-West Helena Police Chief Virgil Green, Alderman John H. Huff Jr. and Alderman Christopher "Foe Foe" Franklin both failed to pay their monthly bill on time.

Green said both Franklin and Huff demanded and received special treatment from the West Helena Water Utility; when they did not pay on time, they were not being penalized.

Green added that both Franklin and Huff used bad checks to pay for water services and skipped their payments for months. An average citizen's water services would have been shut off with their meter removed in this time frame.

"What makes this even more disturbing is these two elected officials are policy makers for the City of Helena-West Helena, and they themselves are now facing allegations they have violated the same policies they were elected to uphold," Green said. "While they both had the means to pay their water bills they chose to abuse their positions as aldermen. We have city employees who are struggling paycheck to paycheck to pay the same water services these two have abused for months."

Resident Pamela Lockhart is a mother of four children and said she tries to pay her bill on time every month. She said she knows exactly when it's due.

"I know I need to pay it by the 15th. That's when I try to pay it," she said. "That's all I can say. I pay my bill."

Lockhart and her husband both work hard to put food on the table and pay for utilities in their home.

If she doesn't pay the bill, she said she knows what happens.

"They cut it off," she said.

However, that's not the consequence that was handed down to Huff and Franklin. In fact, they didn't face any repercussions from the water company, according to investigators.

Now, Franklin and Huff are charged with abuse of office and prohibited actions by municipal officials.

"We're not talking about a lot of money," chief Vigil Green said. "We're talking about an average water bill of $70-$80 a month."

"Ain't nobody above the law," resident Bobby Adams said.

Green said he wants to send a message to everyone.

"We're public servants. We serve the public," Green said. "These council members are obviously policy makers for the city of Helena-West Helena and they should be held accountable for their actions."

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