County Bingo facilities provide $332,820 to designated entities

Sheriff Benison continues work on changing bingo rules to help hospital

In a telephone interview with The Democrat, Sheriff Benison said that he is continuing to work on changes to the Greene County electronic bingo rules to assist the Greene County Health System (GCHS).
The Sheriff met with the GCHS Board of Directors last week and committed to increasing the per machine fee on bingo machines by $25 to support the health care services of the hospital, nursing home, physicians clinic and other services.
This change in the machine fee would generate $50,000 a month
to support health care for Greene County, starting November 1.
“ We desperately need these funds to cover ‘uncompensated care’ for low income residents,” said John Zippert, GCHS Board Chair.

Bingo

Shown above: Boligee City Councilperson Ernestine Wade, Mayor of Union James Gaines, Greene County Board of Education CFO Katrina Sewell, Bingo Clerk Emma Jackson, Greene Co. Sheriff Jonathan Benison, Bingo Clerk Minnie Byrd, Shirley Edwards Greene County Hospital Board member, Forkland Councilman Joe Tuck, and Brenda Burke representing County Commission.

 

On Friday, September 15, 2017, Greene County Sheriff Department distributed $332,820 in monthly bingo allocations from the five licensed gaming operations in the county. The recipients of the monthly distributions from bingo gaming designated by Sheriff Benison in his Bingo Rules and Regulations include the Greene County Commission, the Greene County Sheriff’s Department, the cities of Eutaw, Forkland, Union, Boligee and the Greene County Board of Education. To date, only the Palace (Tommy Summerville Police Support League) contributes to the Greene County Hospital. The following assessments are for the month of August 2017.
Greenetrack, Inc. gave a total of $60,000 to the following: Greene County Commission, $24,000; Greene County Sheriff’s Department, $9,000; City of Eutaw, $4,500; and the Towns of Forkland, Union and Boligee each, $3,000; Greene County Board of Education, $13,500.
Green Charity (Center for Rural Family Development) gave a total of $60,000 to the following: Greene County Commission, $24,000; Greene County Sheriff’s Department, $9,000; City of Eutaw, $4,500; and the Towns of Forkland, Union and Boligee each, $3,000; Greene County Board of Education, $13,500.
Frontier (Dream, Inc.) gave a total of $60,420 to the following: Greene County Commission, $24,000; Greene County Sheriff’s Department, $9,420; City of Eutaw, $4,500; and the Towns of Forkland, Union and Boligee each, $3,000; Greene County Board of Education, $13,500.
River’s Edge (NNL – Next Level Leaders and TCCTP – Tishabee Community Center Tutorial Program) gave a total of $60,000 to the following: Greene County Commission, $24,000; Greene County Sheriff’s Department, $9,000; City of Eutaw, $4,500; and the Towns of Forkland, Union and Boligee each, $3,000; Greene County Board of Education, $13,500.
Palace (Tommy Summerville Police Support League) gave a total of $92,400 to the following: Greene County Commission, $4,620; Greene County Sheriff’s Department, $36,960; City of Eutaw, $27,720; and the Towns of Forkland, Union and Boligee each, $4,620; Greene County Board of Education, $4,620 and the Greene County Hospital $4,620.

School board approves superintendent’s contract Greene County schools awarded $300,000 for school based 21st Century Community Learning Centers

At the Greene County school board meeting held Sept. 18, 2017, Superintendent James Carter announced that the school system, in partnership with the Greene County Children’s Policy Council, under the leadership of District Judge Lillie Jones Osborne, was awarded two 21st Century Community Learning Center Grants (CCLC) for Eutaw Primary School and Robert Brown Middle School, totaling $300,000. The projects will serve 100 students at each school facility with a 36-weeks after school program (Monday through Friday) and a four-to-six-weeks summer enrichment program.
The 21st CCLC programs at both schools will focus on Reading, Math and Science, and (STEM), Arts and Music education, tutorial services, language enhancement, recreational skills, entrepreneurial education and nutrition and health education, counseling and expanded library access.
The project also includes programs that promote parental involvement and family literacy, and drug, bullying and violence prevention programs.
“The current funding of this 21st Century CCLC project is a significant boost to our overall goals and efforts in preparing our students academically as well as equipping them with relevant life skills,” said Dr. Carter.
According to Dr. Carter, the sponsoring partners have scheduled orientation and training for timely implementation of the programs.
At its September meeting, the school board approved a contract agreement with Superintendent Dr. James H. Carter, Sr. for the period 2018-2020.
Other personnel actions of the school board included the following:
*Approved the resignation of Lamar Lavender, Custodian at Greene County High, effective September, 2017.

*Approved employment of Tina Cherry as Substitute Cook, Child Nutrition Program.
*Approved Additional Service Contracts 2017 – 2018 Greene County High School: (Separate Contract) Karon Coleman – Head Track Coach.
*Approved Catastrophic Leave for Angelia Hood – Special Education Coordinator, Central Office; Family Medical Leave for Linda Merriweather – Cook, at Greene County High School and for Freddie Merriweather – Bus Driver, Transportation Department.The board approved the following administrative services:
*Greene County Schools One-on-One Technology Handbook.
*Implementation Guide of Curriculum Component for Strategic Plan (Phase 1).
*Contract between Greene County Board of Education and Greene County Sheriff ‘s Department through Football season.
*Contract between Greene County Board of Education and Greene County Commission for School Resource Officers, for the following schools: Greene County High School; Robert Brown Middle School and Greene County Learning Academy.
*First Reading of the Travel Policy.
Superintendent Carter also reported on the following initiatives in the school system.
*Teachers in grades Pre-K – 3rd will be trained in how to implement the Math Their Way concept, an approach which incorporates adding concrete means in calculations.
*Students at Robert Brown Middle School will have the opportunity to engage in a community garden program.
*Provide opportunities for students in grades 4 -12 to engage in the National Park Service Programs.
*Field trips will have a greater focus on historical sites in and around Greene County this school year. Also, a main focus will be on the contributions that Black citizens made in the civil rights movement.
*We are exploring the possibilities of implementing during this school year a salad bar for students and teachers at all schools. Students also have the opportunity to provide input in the school menu.

Eutaw City Council concerned about financial recordkeeping and reporting

At its regular meeting on Tuesday, September 12, 2017, the Eutaw City Council was unable to get a second and vote on a motion made by Councilman Joe Lee Powell to pay bills for the month of August.
Three Council members present, LaTasha Johnson, Jeffrey Carpenter and Sheila H. Smith expressed misgivings about paying the bills without a more detailed financial statement and record of the City’s finances and bank accounts. Councilman Bennie Abrams was absent and was not present to second or vote on the motion. Had Abrams been present, the motion may have resulted in a tie vote on paying the bills.
Councilwoman LaTasha Johnson said she sent Mayor Steele a letter asking for specific information about bills and bank accounts especially the funds coming from electronic bingo. Councilman Carpenter said he has been pushing for many years for the city to have a budget and pay bills based on a plan and a budget.

Mayor Steele said the City of Eutaw did not have its records in proper form to provide the reports and budget that were being requested. Steele said Council members could come to City Hall “at any time and request that the City Clerk show them any bills, bank statements or other financial data they want to see.”
Steele said that he had discussed this with James Gardner, the City’s CPA and accounting firm and was advised that additional funds were needed to train and support City Hall staff to enter information in the computer system to generate the needed reports. Steele said that he would invite Gardner to speak with the Council at a work session on Monday, September 18, 2017 to explain the situation.
At the Council Work Session, Gardner explained that the last audit for the City of Eutaw was done by him in FY2012 and that a Financial Compilation Report and Financial Statement was done for fiscal year 2014, through September 30, 2014. There have been no financial statements or reports done by his firm for the ensuing fiscal years of 2015, 2016 and 2017. Bank statements and files of receipts and expenditures are on file in the City Hall, which could be used to construct a financial statement and reports.
Gardner said that he would send an estimate of the cost to do these unaudited compilation statements by the next City Council meeting. Gardner said it would cost $4,000 to $7,000 to train City Hall staff to enter financial information in a modified QuickBooks system, for the city’s multiple accounts, starting October 1, 2017. Once this training was done and the system was properly maintained he could do an audited statement for the FY2018, which ends September 30, 2018.
Mayor Steele said that he would bring a report from the CPA firm on recordkeeping, accounting and financial reporting to the next meeting for the Council to make a formal decision.
At the Council Work Session, Mayor Steele reported that the City water system expansion project was moving toward conclusion. More new digitized self-reporting water meters will still be installed, including individual meters in Carver Circle taking the place of a single master meter.
Steele said the new water tank would be painted by the end of October and put into operation by the end of the year. This would allow the power pole to be moved from its temporary location in the street near the Courthouse to its permanent place. The Mayor also indicated that the water line contractor would return to fix other areas that were affected by the construction.
The Mayor indicated that the City’s knuckle-boom truck to cut and remove trees from city roadways was in the shop and would require $18,000 to $20,000 to repair. He reported that both City backhoes were also in the shop for repair and that the city workers were doing their best to pick up branches piled up on the side of roads and streets.
Steele said, “Our equipment is very old and in need of repair and upgrading. We are going to do our best to prepare for the Tour of Homes, scheduled for October 7 and 8, in Eutaw.”
At the September 12 Council meeting, Councilwoman Sheila H. Smith confronted Mayor Steele and tried to make a motion to deny the Mayor the use of a new 2017 Tahoe, he uses for conducting city business. Smith said the vehicle could be better used by the Police Department.
Steele said he needed the car to show visitors interested in the community, a positive image of the community. He also said he needed a reliable vehicle to travel to meetings to seek resources for the city. The Mayor suggested that Smith was taking these actions against him, as personal retribution, because he had requested that she turn in her city issued cell phone. The Mayor was successful in ruling the motion out-of-order but the issue lingers and may come up again in future meetings.

Greene County and Alabama law enforcement apprehend St. Louis, MO fugitive

raw.jpgOn Wednesday, September, 13, 2017 at approximately 7:30 p.m. law enforcement officials from the Greene County Sheriff’s Office, the 17th Judicial Circuit’s Drug Task Force and the Eutaw Police Department apprehended Andre Lemoyne Williams, 32, of St. Louis, Missouri, without incident. Williams was wanted by the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department for Murder 1st Degree and a Parole Violation on which there is a $1,000,000 cash bond. Williams is being held at the Greene County Jail awaiting extradition. “We would like to thank all of the agencies that assisted us with this apprehension including the Tuscaloosa County Sheriff’s Office Aviation Unit. We also want to thank the Greene County Ambulance Service for being on standby during this high risk apprehension. This is a prime example of what can be achieved when we all work together as one,” stated Chief Deputy Jeremy L. Rancher, Greene County Sheriff’s Office.

Newswire : Medicaid funding, public transportation highlight Arise’s 2018 priorities

Alabama Arise logo

New Medicaid revenue and creation of a state Public Transportation Trust Fund are among the goals on Alabama Arise’s 2018 legislative agenda. Nearly 200 Arise members picked the group’s issue priorities at its annual meeting Saturday in Montgomery. The seven goals chosen were:

· Tax reform, including untaxing groceries and closing corporate income tax loopholes;
· Adequate funding for vital services like education, health care and child care, including approval of new tax revenue to prevent Medicaid cuts;
· Consumer protections to limit high-interest payday loans and auto title loans in Alabama;
· Dedicated state revenue for the Alabama Housing Trust Fund;
· Reforms to Alabama’s death penalty system, including a moratorium on executions;
· Creation of a state Public Transportation Trust Fund; and
· Reforms to Alabama’s criminal justice debt policies, including changes related to cash bail and driver’s license revocations for minor offenses.

“All Alabamians deserve equal justice and an opportunity to build a better life for themselves and their families,” Alabama Arise state coordinator Kimble Forrister said. “We’re excited to continue our work for policy changes that would make it easier for hard-working Alabamians to get ahead.”

More than one in five Alabamians – almost all of whom are children, seniors, pregnant women, or people with disabilities – have health coverage through Medicaid. That coverage plays an important role in keeping hospitals and doctors’ offices open across the state, especially in rural areas.

“Medicaid is the backbone of Alabama’s health care system, and we must keep it strong,” Forrister said. “The Legislature needs to step up and approve new, sustainable revenue for Medicaid in 2018. It’s time to stop the annual funding battles and ensure all Alabamians have access to health care.”

Lack of adequate transportation is another major challenge that limits economic growth and erects barriers to daily living for many low-income residents and people with disabilities across Alabama. Arise will push for creation of a state Public Transportation Trust Fund as a step toward closing that gap. A bill to create a trust fund passed the Senate this year and has momentum heading into 2018.

Alabama Arise is a nonprofit, nonpartisan coalition of congregations, organizations and individuals promoting public policies to improve the lives of low-income Alabamians.

Newswire : Historic marker honors Autherine Lucy Foster, Tuscaloosa Civil Rights heroine


 U. A. campus to honor Autherine Lucy Foster; and her 1956 student photo
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — A giant in civil rights history was recognized on Friday, September 15, 2017 with the unveiling of the Autherine Lucy Foster Historic Marker at The University of Alabama.
An afternoon ceremony was held on the lawn of Graves Hall. Speakers were UA President Stuart R. Bell, Dr. Peter Hlebowitsh, dean of the College of Education; Marian Accinno Loftin, a UA distinguished alumna; and Dr. E. Culpepper “Cully” Clark, former UA dean and communication professor emeritus and author of “The Schoolhouse Door: Segregation’s Last Stand at The University of Alabama.”
In stressing Foster’s importance to UA’s history, Bell said, “Mrs. Foster’s initiative and courage opened the doors and created the opportunity for all races to attend the University. This historic marker will serve as a testament to her enduring impact on our campus and beyond.”
Hlebowitsh said the idea for the marker came from faculty who petitioned the University to place a historic marker near the site where Foster first attempted to enroll but was driven away by a mob in 1956.
“We are gratified that the University is recognizing Mrs. Foster in this manner,” Hlebowitsh said. “This honor is in keeping with the magnitude of her contributions to the history of our University.”
On being notified of the honor, Foster said, “I never imagined my decision to enroll would affect so many in so many ways. Today, I have several children who have attended the University and am, myself, a proud graduate and member of the alumni association. I am very humbled that the University has chosen to recognize me in this way.”
The Autherine Lucy Foster story is one of persistence, patience and desire for self-improvement. In 1952, after graduating with an English degree from Miles College, she applied to UA but was rejected because of her race. After a three-year legal battle, she was admitted by court order.
On Wednesday, Feb. 1, 1956, she registered as a student in UA’s College of Education. That Friday, Feb. 3, she attended her first class as a graduate student in library science, becoming the first black person in Alabama admitted to a white public school or university. But on Monday, Feb. 6, as some 3,000 protested, the board of trustees expelled her, citing her and other students’ safety.
Loftin was in a children’s literature class with Foster on that fateful day. She had these memories of the turbulence as well as of Foster’s contributions to UA history:
“On Friday, February 3, Autherine’s first day in class, she crossed the Quad alone without notable incident. But on Monday a crowd gathered, and the disturbance accelerated. Chants became angry shouts. Our class was dismissed, and Autherine was ushered out of the building to safety.”
Loftin continued: “I had the honor of nominating her to the College of Education’s Educator Hall of Fame — our College’s highest honor — and to be seated at her table in 2016 when she was inducted. It was a delight to see her interact with the guests, who admired her so greatly. Seated in her wheelchair, she was gracious, with a good-natured sense of humor.”
In 1988, the University officially annulled her expulsion. The next year she re-enrolled at UA with her daughter, Grazia. Foster earned a master’s in elementary education in 1991 and participated in the graduation ceremony in May 1992 with her daughter, a corporate finance major.
In 1998, UA named an endowed fellowship in Foster’s honor and unveiled a portrait of her in the Student Union Building. She was recognized again in 2010 when the University dedicated the Autherine Lucy Clock Tower recognizing her as one of three UA desegregation pioneers, along with Vivian Malone and James Hood.
Today, UA is a multicultural campus including more than 4,000 African-Americans among its approximately 38,500 students.

Newswire : Equifax data breach leaves at least 143 million consumers at risk

By Charlene Crowell (Communications Director, Center for Responsible Lending)

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Record-breaking, back-to-back hurricanes in Houston and Florida brought unprecedented winds and rains affecting millions of Americans. Yet another storm just as brutal, but financial in nature, is raging and affects at least 143 million Americans: that’s the Equifax data breach that took place from mid-May to July of this year.
On July 29, Equifax, one of the three major credit reporting corporations, discovered that unauthorized data access had occurred. Yet it was not until September 7 when the multi-national data breach was announced publicly. This massive cybersecurity breach includes federal income tax records, as well as employee records for government employees and those of Fortune 500 firms. Even recipients of major government programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security are affected.
For consumers, the personal information exposed to fraud and identity theft could mean a lifetime of closely monitoring and defending personal data to fight theft, fines and more. For businesses, questions will emerge as to whether millions of credit accounts were fraudulently opened and additionally whether they will be held partially responsible for its perpetuation.
In reaction to this cybercrime, a surge of federal class action lawsuits are going after Equifax. As many as 50 have been filed in at least 14 states and the District of Columbia as of September 12. The Federal Bureau of Investigation is reportedly examining what went wrong from a criminal perspective. On the civil side of the law, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is beginning its own independent investigation.
Now a growing number of bipartisan inquiries from Capitol Hill are demanding to know why these breaches of personally identifiable information (PII) came about, what actions Equifax took, and what the global firm intends to do on behalf of consumers whose names, birth dates, addresses, Social Security numbers and drivers’ licenses are all in jeopardy. Equifax also knew that an estimated 209,000 credit card holders and some 182,000 consumers in the U.S. who have a dispute on file with a creditor also had comprised PII.
“This hack into sensitive information compiled and maintained by Equifax is one of the largest data breaches in our nation’s history and someone has to be held accountable,” said Congresswoman Maxine Waters, the Ranking Member of the House Financial Services Committee in an article for “Business Insider.”
“Given the important role credit scores play in the lives and financial futures of hardworking Americans, Congress must diligently examine the way our credit reporting agencies are operating and impose additional statutory and regulatory reforms to protect the integrity of the country’s credit reporting system,” Waters continued.
In a September 11 letter to Richard F. Smith, Equifax’s Chairman and Chief Executive Office, the Chair and Ranking Member of the Senate Finance Committee went further to pose a series of questions to be answered by September 26. Issues raised in the letter include binding arbitration clauses that deny affected consumers the right of class action lawsuits, the firm’s security systems and controls, how consumers can expect to be officially notified, and what, if any, protections Equifax will offer to affected consumers.
“The scope and scale of this breach appears to make it one of the largest on record, and the sensitivity of the information compromised may make it the most costly to taxpayers and consumers,” wrote Senators Orrin Hatch, Senate Finance Chair and Ron Wyden, the committee’s Ranking Member.
The following day, September 12, another letter to Equifax included questions on what data changes to Equifax’s security plans and procedures were made as this breach now becomes its third one in only two years; the letter was signed by 24 Members of Congress, who serve on the House Energy and Commerce Committee and represent 15 states. Three are also members of the Congressional Black Caucus: Representatives G.K. Butterfield of North Carolina, Brooklyn’s Yvette Clarke and Bobby L. Rush of Chicago.
“Your company profits from collecting highly sensitive personal information from American consumers—it should take seriously its responsibility to keep data safe and to inform consumers when its protections fail,” wrote the representatives.
“The massive Equifax data breach is one of the largest in our country’s history, affecting half of the United States population and nearly three-quarters of consumers with credit reports,” said Chi Chi Wu of the National Consumer Law Center. “A security freeze is the most effective measure against “new account” identity theft, because it stops thieves from using the consumer’s stolen information.”
To follow Wu’s advice, consumers will need to contact all three of the major credit reporting bureaus and request that no new accounts be opened in their names. Once requested, consumers will not be able to easily apply for new credit accounts or apply for a loan. An additional layer of precaution would be to contact every creditor and request that respective accounts be flagged for unusual or new credit activity. Detailed information on how consumers caught in the Equifax breach can take these and other steps to protect their credit is available on the Federal Trade Commission’s website.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau also has another consumer-friendly rule that Congress is currently fighting: preserving the right for consumers to file lawsuits when financial disputes could not be resolved otherwise. Announced on July 10, Richard Cordray, CFPB Director explained why the rule is important.
“Arbitration clauses in contracts for products like bank accounts and credit cards make it nearly impossible for people to take companies to court when things go wrong,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. “These clauses allow companies to avoid accountability by blocking group lawsuits and forcing people to go it alone or give up. Our new rule will stop companies from sidestepping the courts and ensure that people who are harmed together can take action together.”
Days later on July 20, Capitol Hill lawmakers turned to a seldom-used option, the Congressional Review Act, to deny the rule from taking effect. Sen. Mike Crapo, Chair of the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee and Rep. Jeb Hensarling, Chair of the House Committee on Financial Services announced a coordinated legislative attack to roll back CFPB’s arbitration rule. The law allows Congress to fast track a veto of new federal regulation with limited debate and a simple majority vote in each chamber.
On July 25, the House passed its resolution on a highly-partisan vote of 231-190. To date, the Senate has yet to take a corresponding vote.
“The Equifax data breach is yet another reason to support the CFPB’s arbitration rule that would restore consumers’ day in court,” noted Melissa Stegman, a senior policy counsel with the Center for Responsible Lending (CRL). “When a company has injured consumers, it should not also decide whether those affected have a right to pursue justice. Although Equifax claimed it will not assert arbitration in the aftermath of its data breach, consumers must be able to challenge corporate wrongdoing in the courts and Congress should cease its efforts to quash the rule.”