An external auditor has been hired by the Brentwood Town Council to examine allegations that its mayor obtained a debit card under the town’s name and used it to cover $7,500 in personal cellphone expenses and pay for a $300 plane ticket, among other charges.
Xzavier Montgomery-Wright, who has been mayor of the town for two years, spent much of Thursday in a closed-door meeting with other town officials and the auditor. The meeting came a day after Montgomery-Wright was evicted from her Brentwood home and law enforcement officials put her possessions on the street.
Her landlord said she owes him more than $7,000 in back rent.
“I have no comment. I have no comment,” Montgomery-Wright said as she entered the meeting.
In November, the council was notified by Treasurer Orson Carter that he and Montgomery-Wright were in possession of town debit cards that tapped directly into the town’s checking account, said Town Council member Aneeka Harrison. Records showed about 50 questionable charges on the debit cards, Harrison said, adding, “They were not authorized to have these cards.”
The council censured Montgomery-Wright earlier this year for the alleged unauthorized use of the card for personal expenses.
Carter and other town officials declined to comment.
Residents of Brentwood and eight other jurisdictions in Prince George’s County will head to the polls on May 2. Montgomery-Wright is seeking a second term.
Harrison, one of four incumbents seeking reelection, said she has asked the mayor to step down, but Montgomery-Wright refused. “I made a motion for her to forfeit her office and it failed by one vote,” she said.
Harrison, who has lived in Brentwood for 23 years, said the council has to work to repair any damage done. “My hope for the town is that we can move forward and be fiscally responsible so that residents can have faith in our local government,” Harrison said.
Montgomery-Wright’s eviction could create a another sort of problem. Melora Anderson, acting town clerk, said that according to the town’s ordinance, candidates and elected officials must be residents of Brentwood.
“If she does not have an address [in Brentwood], it would be a forfeiture of office,” Anderson said. “This is a matter that the Town Council will have to deal with.”
Montgomery-Wright was paying $1,425 a month to rent a house in the 3800 block of 37th Place in Brentwood, according to court records. But last June, her landlord, Earl Lowe Jr., filed a complaint in Maryland District Court charging that she owed $4,142.00 in rent dating to September 2009.
“She was a good renter. I don’t know what happened,” said Lowe, who added that Montgomery-Wright began renting the home about eight years ago. “You have to be able to pay your rent or at least make an effort.”
Several Brentwood residents expressed concern about the town’s political future as word of the audit became known. But outgoing Brentwood council member Marlene Robinson said she remained optimistic.
“Look at the park,” Robinson said as she walked outside the town hall. “We have new initiatives that we are undertaking. We have to focus on quality and the services we have delivered in the past.”