Brawling in Breckenridge

Insults and accusations fly in a bitter, madcap race for mayor

"It's hard to make an informed vote on something you can't see," Hills says, adding that contracts are read aloud at council meetings.

When Hills asked for copies of city contracts, he says the mayor first refused him and then blacked out the names of the contractors and the amounts they were paid. After he appealed to the state attorney general, Hills says, Ledbetter finally relented -- but not before charging him $50 for copying fees.

"There's certain things that's not for the public," Ledbetter insists, pounding his hand on his desk. "That's the trouble with a lot of people -- they think they can get anything they want. They can't. I know the law."

Last summer the dispute between Ledbetter and Hills devolved into a brawl on the floor of the city council chambers after the mayor smacked the councilman on the head with a gavel. "We had ladies up there, and [Hills] started calling everybody MF this and that," Ledbetter recounts. "James Hills pushed my shoulder and I turned around and he did get tapped a little bit in the head with the gavel. But the county refused to issue a warrant for that."

Adds Ledbetter: "If I would have wanted to hit Jim Hills, I could have broke his neck in 30 seconds."

Ledbetter is equally indignant about charges that he sexually harassed two female city employees. The allegations came to light this month, after a letter notifying city council members of the filing of a formal complaint made its way into the mailboxes of everyone in town. The city council recently voted to hire a special prosecutor to investigate the allegations.

"I'd go in there in the mornings and tap them on the back," Ledbetter explains of his contact with female employees. "I'd take candy in there and give them candy -- I keep it for the little kids who come in."

Ledbetter says he doesn't believe the allegations will hurt his chances for re-election. At Grandma's, a diner across the street from city hall, the soap opera Days of Our Lives is on the television and cigarette smoke fills the air. An elderly woman counts her money before paying the bill. She ferociously defends the mayor. "I don't care what people say," she snaps. "I like him."

Mason says she's planning to spend the remaining days before the election going door-to-door, telling people why Breckenridge Hills needs new blood.

"It will probably get nastier, knowing the two of them," Hills predicts. "Anita has no qualms about pulling out all the stops and dragging his name through the dirt, and he'll do the same."

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