CUMBERLAND, Ky. (AP) - When the mayor of a small Appalachian town got tired of questions about his city's debt, he took the idea of government transparency to the extreme.
He gave the public the username and password to the city of Cumberland's bank accounts, allowing taxpayers to pull up financial statements on how their money was being spent.
"I'm always thinking of things like that," said Carl Hatfield, mayor of the 2,600-population town, on Thursday. "That's public accounting."
Hatfield posted the username and password on a local public access channel on Nov. 22, with a statement directing folks to the Web site for BB&T bank.
"It's your services fees and taxes, you should see how it is being accounted for," the statement read in part.
The ad ran over Thanksgiving weekend, but the username and password were blocked a few hours after being revealed. Hatfield said access to the account was denied after he realized users could transfer funds between the city's three accounts for the general fund, water and sewage.
The ordeal sparked outrage from other city officials, including Mayor-Elect Loretta Cornett, who were caught off-guard with the ad.
"It blew my mind," Cornett said. "It's very scary not knowing down the road what could happen. I don't know yet what all was seen."
So far, there's no evidence that anyone tampered with the accounts beyond Hatfield, according to Cornett.
Bank officials declined to comment on the situation.
Hatfield, who did not seek a second term, said his only intention was to make city spending more transparent, especially after recent heated city council discussions over the town's debt of about $220,000 from a landfill, utilities and a water bond.
"There was no harm done, no loss of funds," he said.
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved