Monroe Mayor Jamie Mayo chastised local businessman Friday Ellis last week, claiming the mayoral candidate lied in his campaign announcement about his previous work for the city of Monroe.
Ellis told The Ouachita Citizen the career detail in his campaign announcement was simply an error, stemming from a misunderstanding with his campaign team.
Four candidates, including Ellis, are challenging Mayo’s re-election bid in the April 4 municipal primary election. The other candidates include Marie Brown, Fredrick Louis, and Ronnie Scott.
“I’m drinking politics through a fire hose right now,” Ellis said. “I’m learning we have to watch every word. I get it. I’m not savvy in politics, and I’m not looking for those kinds of things to hold over my opponents.”
During a news conference on Jan. 16, Mayo claimed Ellis lied to the city’s voters by releasing a candidacy announcement that stated Ellis worked for five years in the city’s engineering department as a “Project Manager.”
“[He] lied about his credentials for the city of Monroe, and all that will come out during the campaign,” Mayo continued. “He’s indicated he was one thing that he was with the city of Monroe, because I hired him back in 2007. From 2007 to 2012, I signed off on it.
“When Mr. Ellis made his announcement, he lied that he was in one position, which was a management position, which he was not. It was a non-managerial position. Now if he lied about this, what else would he lie about? Well, we’ll soon find out.”
After the news conference, The Ouachita Citizen asked Rod Washington, Mayo’s press relations officer, to elaborate on the mayor’s claim and specify what position Ellis held in the city’s engineering department. In response, Washington said city human resources documents showed Ellis worked as an inspector, not as project manager.
“He’s absolutely correct,” Ellis told the newspaper on Tuesday. “That’s all public record.”
Ellis, a political novice, said his campaign announcement’s claim that he worked as a “Project Manager” resulted from a misunderstanding with his campaign team, which prepared his announcement and inappropriately translated his work as a job title.
“Have I been beating the streets to claim I was somehow a manager or had a management position? No,” Ellis said. “I’m not going to claim I was anything more than an inspector.”
According to Ellis, the only project manager at the city was Arthur Holland.
“He was my boss, direct supervisor,” Ellis said.
Ellis clarified another allegation. Contrary to Mayo’s claims, Ellis said he was hired by former city engineer Sinyale Morrison, not Mayo as the mayor suggested in his remarks last week.
“I was a construction inspector for the city’s engineering manager,” Ellis said. “Sinyale Morrison hired me. I never met the mayor, but I’m sure he had to sign off on it.”
Mayo took aim at Ellis in the news conference shortly after unleashing a barrage of critical remarks against state Rep. Michael Echols, who recently resigned from the Monroe City Council. On Jan. 15, Echols published a video on Facebook containing veiled allegations that Mayo and City Council Chairman Juanita Woods were trying to disrupt the appointment of City Councilman-elect Doug Harvey to complete Echols’ unexpired term. Echols and Ellis are political allies.
According to Mayo, Echols was calling for “new leadership, new vision” from a man who had lied about his own career.
In his interview with The Ouachita Citizen, Ellis said his campaign’s focus was to achieve certain goals sought by citizens whether clean water, safe neighborhoods, or finding more jobs.
“I’m not running against Jamie, I’m running for Monroe,” said Ellis, who owns the Governor’s Cigar & Pipe shop on North 3rd Street. “I’m not interested in dragging anyone through the mud. If I lose this thing, I get to go back and smoke cigars, and that isn’t a bad station.”
Ellis also referred to another local video published on Facebook that showed Mount Olivet Baptist Church Pastor Oliver Billups discussing the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. as part of a program on Monday observing the national holiday that marks King’s birthday.
“If you don’t feel convicted after seeing his video, I don’t think you have a pulse,” Ellis said.
In the Facebook video of Billups’ sermon, Billups transitions from a discussion of King’s legacy to a series of pointed questions about problems facing Monroe and Ouachita Parish. Some of Billups’ remarks appeared directed at Mayo, who attended the program. For example, Billups referred to a new arena, which has been one of Mayo’s pet projects.
“We don’t need an arena,” Billups said. “We need jobs. Jobs with insurance. Jobs with benefits. We need honesty, we need forthrightness.”
Billups also appeared to target boasting and campaign promises by public officials seeking re-election — an apparent reference to Mayo — instead of tackling crime and homelessness in the city.
“Why do we boast of what we have when our brethren, our sisters, our sons, and our daughters are being assaulted in dark places and people are being killed along highways while we dangle, as a carrot before the rabbit, things that now come forward in re-election time?” Billups said. “Our children are killed. Our women are raped in their homes, cars and on the streets. Our sons are shot down like animals. Many are left without shelter.”
“I can’t be Monroe Proud while my brothers and sisters are under bridges, in alleyways,” he added.