MLLINGTON, TN - It was a packed house in Millington on Monday, August 1, 2011, for the first Board of Aldermen meeting and public appearance of Mayor Richard Hodges since Wednesday’s raid by the TBI and District Attorney General’s office.
Still, no new information is being released about the raid or what authorities were looking for, but Mayor Hodges did say he will not step down from his position.
Millington residents said the room at city hall was the most crowded they’d ever seen at one of those meetings. It was filled with about 100 people.
The meeting opened with prayer, “We are hurting father, and we know there are many things being said."
It was the first hint that something was wrong. Then city leaders addressed ordinary city business like grass clippings, trash and the sewer system. There wasn’t another word about state agents raiding city hall, the police department, a local transmission shop and Mayor Hodges' home for more than an hour.
At the end of the meeting, Mayor Hodges read a prepared statement. It didn’t focus on the raid, instead it focused on his wife’s suicide the day before the raid.
“My family would like to thank everyone for the prayers and support, especially those who showed their utmost respect for my wife, Rita," Hodges said. “Folks, we love y’all and we can see you love us, and that’s what’s going to get us through this situation. Thank you, very much.”
When asked about the elephant in the room, the raid on city offices, Mayor Hodges said he’s hired an attorney and had no comment. But he did say he has no plans to step down.
“Why should I step down?” Hodges said. “I haven’t been charged with anything. I haven’t been proven guilty. No, I don’t plan to step down.”
He added a picture of his wife of 35 years to his seat on the aldermen bench. He says her photo is a reminder to stay focused on the city and his work at hand.
“She was my rock,” Hodges said. “She’s the one who kept me going and she’s still going to keep me going.”
Aldermen Mike Caruthers says it’s difficult to understand what’s happening, but he and most of the community are standing behind Mayor Hodges.
“I’m sure they’re confused," says Caurthers, "but we’ll get through this. We’ll be fine and whatever happens, happens.”
Millington resident and former city finance director, James Knipple, didn’t speak at the meeting but says he was shocked when he heard about the raid and was hoping for a few answers at the meeting.
“I think all of us are concerned.” Knipple told abc24.com. “I don’t know how it will work out, but I hope it will to everyone’s benefit.”
Many residents said they chose not to speak during the public comment portion of the meeting because they said they knew their questions wouldn’t be answered.