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Mayfield city officials request audit to provide transparency regarding tornado donations

Damage from a tornado is seen in downtown Mayfield, Kentucky.
Mark Humphrey
Damage from a tornado is seen in downtown Mayfield, Kentucky.

As recovery efforts continue in Mayfield nearly eight months after a devastating tornado hit the area, the city’s finances are undergoing an audit at local officials’ request.

Mayor Kathy O’Nan says the city council wants to clear up possible confusion or misconceptions about the amount of money donated to the city and how it has been used since December’s tornado disaster. The Integrity Group – a Florida-based disaster management firm contracted by the city in January to oversee their activities in the rebuilding process – will carry out the audit.

O’Nan said she hopes this audit will show transparency when it comes to the amount of donations the city has received in the last 8 months. Though millions of dollars have been donated to the tornado recovery cause across the state, O’Nan says Mayfield didn’t get anywhere near that much.

“While the city did receive funds,” O’Nan said, “It is nothing like what was received at the tornado relief fund set at the Independence Bank. It is not the Team Western Kentucky Tornado Relief Fund, which was set up by the governor.”

O’Nan said she estimated the city had received an amount between $130,000 and $140,000 dollars with a portion of those funds being diverted to the city’s police and fire department. She said other funds came with special conditions for usage by the donors. One example of this, O’Nan said, was a donor who gifted money to the city specifying it should be used to assist a local youth organization. That money was used to help the local Boy Scouts of America troup purchase a new trailer after they lost theirs in the tornado.

The mayor said, after all the specifically designated funds were allocated, Mayfield had somewhere between $80,000 and $90,000 dollars to put towards projects chosen by the city council. As of now, O’Nan said the council had not decided on how exactly it would use those funds but that the end product would be something the entire community could benefit from.

“One of the things [the city council] has discussed is one of our parks needs playground equipment, which will cost much more than $80,000 dollars. And, that’s something everybody can have access to,” O’Nan said.

Another possible source of confusion, O’Nan said, is her connection to the Mayfield Graves County Tornado Relief fund that was set up through Independence Bank. She said the fund was started in collaboration with Sheriff John Hayden and Mayfield Independence Bank President Darvin Towery.

“As the mayor, I serve on [the Mayfield Graves County Tornado Relief Fund board] just as an ex officio member. I do not vote on how that money is distributed,” O’Nan said, “I just am there … so that people from all over the United States who started to send donations would see that’s a legitimate board.’”

Other members of that board include Mayfield Independence Bank President Darvin Towery, Former Graves County Circuit Judge Tim Stark and Cindy Cash.

The mayor expects to receive the audit before the Mayfield City Council meeting on Aug. 8, when she will share a report regarding the Mayfield Graves County Tornado Relief Fund along with the audit's results.