Birmingham City Council searches for $20 million deficit answers

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - The city of Birmingham is short $20-million for its current fiscal year budget. Acting Mayor Carole Smitherman revealed the deficit Tuesday after a weekend of studying the city's books.

Now, city council members are trying to figure out how this happened and how to fill in that gap.

City council members had concerns when they were working on the budget. At the time the council was being accused of working to slowly and dragging its feet.

Acting Mayor Smitherman says all of this came out after she questioned former Finance Director Steve Sayler. Smitherman says after Sayler told her of the $20 million mistake, he resigned and was escorted out of the building and his office was locked up. The $20 million went to fund things like bullets for the police department and gasoline to fill up city vehicles.

Smitherman has formed a task force of Birmingham business leaders to investigate this matter. The acting mayor does not know if former Mayor Langford knew about what was going on. She says she plans on questioning him about the discrepancy.

Councilor Valerie Abbott does not think Sayler is the only one who knew about this problem. Birmingham's Chief of Staff Deborah Vance-Bowie said she did learn about the $20 million shortfall a week before Langford's trial, but did not immediately come forward. Bowie said if Langford would have been found not guilty, this information would still have been released.