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Mayor Says ‘Voodoo Is Still Pending’ At City Hall

October 5, 1987

FLORALA, Ala. (AP) _ When this town’s 85-year-old mayor sprinkled ″voodoo dust″ around City Hall to ″drive the evil spirits out″ no one was quite sure whether it was all just a joke.

But the next day, the town’s first black police chief, A.V. Patrick, received an unsigned ″warning letter from spirits″ that demanded he leave town or ″spirits see cemetery nearby in near future.″

Patrick is not laughing.

″The letter came the next day after it happened,″ the police chief said Monday. ″I feel like the letter was connected with the voodoo dust. I feel like he was trying to scare me.″

″The mayor told me, ‘If (the powder) works, you’ll know.’ But I told him, ‘I didn’t come here running and I’m not leaving running,’ ″ Patrick said.

Mayor H.T. Mathis, who is white, acknowledged he spread the powder - actually corn starch - over the City Hall floor early one morning last month but won’t discuss the reason because ″the voodoo is still pending.″

Mathis and the city council have long been at odds, most frequently over who controls the police department in this town of 2,000 on the Florida state line. City Councilman Jack Inabinett said he thinks Mathis sprinkled the powder to frighten Patrick, who was promoted to chief by the council in January.

Inabinett said a police dispatcher saw the mayor spreading the powder, and Mathis told him he was doing it to ″drive the evil spirits out of City Hall.″

City Council member Muriel Savage said the ″voodoo dust″ was nothing more than a joke that got out of hand.

″The black chief sort of believes in voodoo. It really upset him. The mayor knows nothing about voodoo, so he sort of joined in on the joke,″ she said.

But Patrick, who has served on the small town’s police force for 14 years, said he doesn’t believe in voodoo. ″It doesn’t worry me at all,″ he said.

The letter, which had a Boston postmark, said in part:

″Your stars show that you have crossed up and angered the gods of your spirits by your actions and conduct in your treatment of your fellow man ... unless the spirits see fit to justify your cause, which can be done with large sums of money in the right places, which you have not done.″

″It’s a mystery why I sprinkled the powder,″ Mathis said. ″There’s been a lot of discussing about it. I did it. I really don’t know why.″

Mathis would not own up to the letter but said it is ″a mystery, too. I think it’s all connected.″

Mathis has demonstrated bizarre behavior in the past over his desire to control the police department. In June 1986, Inabinett had the mayor arrested for reckless endangerment and harassment for allegedly pulling a knife and threatening him.

Mathis was upset when a majority of city council members refused to uphold his firing of then-acting Police Chief Paul Mitchell, said Inabinett, who eventually dropped the charges.

Mitchell finally resigned in September 1986 after being fired several times by Mathis and rehired by the council.

Mathis, elected in 1984, has one more year remaining in his term and says his mental powers are fine.

″I am not 85 years old. I’ve had 85 birthdays. I am in perfect health,″ he said.

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