Greene County Commission agrees to
settlement of lawsuits with Greenetrack

By: John Zippert, Co-Publisher

At its February 14 regular meeting, the Greene County Commission passed a resolution agreeing to settle two long-running lawsuits with Greenetrack, which had clouded the county’s financial position.

The first lawsuit concerned the Commission’s lease payment for its undivided half of ownership of the Greenetrack property and facility. When Bear Bryant Jr.’s corporation left Greenetrack, he gave the ownership, half to the County Commission and half to the employees of Greenetrack.

Greenetrack set up a lease agreement under which it was paying $150,000 a year to the Greene County Commission. Luther Winn, CEO of Greenetrack said, “Because the Commission was experiencing financial difficulties, we voluntarily increased our payment to $250,000 a year.”

The lease agreement ended in 2012 and the Commission decided not to cash the 2013 lease payment check of $250,000 with Greenetrack, because Nick Underwood, Commission Chair at that time, wanted to renegotiate the lease and increase the amount. The 2013 check was never cashed and the dispute led to the Commission filling a lawsuit against Greenetrack.

The settlement, which was negotiated by Allen Turner, Chair and the late Lester Brown, Vice-Chair, provided that the County would be paid $100,000 a year in back rent, for eight years 2013-2021. This $800,000 would be paid in five yearly installments of $160,000. A new lease for two years, beginning on March 1, 2022, with an automatic one-year extension, would be at $100,000 per year.

If there are less than 5 gaming entities in the county, at the end of the lease period, the annual rental would increase to $175,000; if there are more than 5 gaming entities, the rental would decline to $50,000 annually; if there are 5 gaming entities the annual rent would remain at $100,000.

The settlement stipulated that the joint property owned by Greene County Commission and Greenetrack was the total 53.128 acres where the racing, gaming and collateral facilities and land are located.

The settlement also settled another lawsuit by Greenetrack against the Commission concerning operation and maintenance of the sewage lagoon on the property. The Commission had escrowed $160,000 in fees for the lagoon, which will be released to the Greene County Water and Sewage Authority on March 1, 2022.

This lawsuit settlement was first presented to the Greene County Commission at a Special Call Meeting on January 24, 2022.
The meeting was attended by three commissioners, Chair Allen Turner, Tennyson Smith and Corey Cockrell. Commissioner Brown had passed and Commissioner Summerville was absent. Smith moved approval of the settlement but Cockrell would not second the motion and said that he did not agree to the settlement because it favored Greenetrack.

At the recent January 24th meeting, all four commissioners voted for the settlement, which will now go forward.

The Commission agreed to reopen the Senior Citizens Feeding Program at sites at the Eutaw Activity Center and Forkland City Hall as of March 1. The centers had been closed due to COVID-19. The Commission also agreed to re-open the Eutaw Activity Center for other activities as of the same date.

The Commission passed a resolution to be sent to the Governor, Legislative delegation and the family to name LaPorsha Brown, to fill out the remaining months of her father’s term, representing District 1 on the Greene County Commission.

In other actions, the Greene County Commission:

• Approved the 2022 AC County licenses levy and approved a license for Christopher Atkins.

• Approved accepting low bid from West Alabama Fencing for $38,840 for fencing on roadways.

• Approved the financial report and paid outstanding claims. The report showed $4.610,952 I Citizens Trust Bank, $4.895.174 in Merchants and Farmers Bank and $1,098,699 in bond sinking funds in the Bank of New York.

• Approved advertising of available positions in the Highway Department; and travel for staff to training conferences.

• Re-appointed Shirley Edwards to the Greene County Health System Board of Directors.

The Commission tabled action on the use of American Rescue Act funds, action on a franchise agreement letter From Charter Communications concerning broadband in parts of the county; and appointment of two hospital board members from District 2.

Local candidates qualify for May 24, 2022 Primary

Lorenzo French, spokesperson for the Greene County Democratic Executive Committee, released a list of candidates that qualified for local races in the May 24, 2022 Primary Election. French stated that only two seats are up for the Greene County Board Education. “Three candidates in District 1 and three candidates in District 2,” French announced.
In District 1, incumbent Greene County School Board Member Carol P. Zippert is challenged by Robert Davis, Jr. and Fentress “Duke’ Means.
In District 2, current school board member Kashaya Cockrell is challenged by Tameka King and Brandon R. Merriweather.
French announced that all county commission seats are up. Garria Spencer and Shelia R. Daniels have qualified for Commission Seat, District 1. Commissioner Tennyson Smith is unopposed in District 2, and Commissioner Corey Cockrell is unopposed in District 3.
In County Commission District 4, incumbent Allen Turner, Jr, is challenged by Christopher Armstead and Malcom Merriweather.
In Commission District 5, incumbent Roshanda Summerville is challenged by Marvin Childs, Anikia Coleman and Sharlene French.
Two candidates qualified for District Attorney, 17 Judicial Circuit, serving Greene, Sumter and Marengo Counties including incumbent Greg Griggers and Attorney Barrown Lankster, both of Demopolis, AL.
The May 24 Democratic Primary will also feature the Greene County Democratic Committee positions: District 1 candidates: Tony Betha, Sandra Walker, Loydleetta Wabbington, Bernice H. Burton, Joe Chambers, Gary Pearce and Vernon Strode. District 2 candidates: Lorenzo French, Amy Billups Wiggins, Linda Spencer, Sarah Duncan, Gus Richardson, Mattie Strode and Morris Hardy. District 3 candidates: LaJeffery “Chris” Carpenter, Spiver Gordon, Tracy Hunter, Mary Morrow Dunn, Joe Lee Powell, Antonio Pearson, Elzora Fluker, Hattie Edwards, Erika L. Long, Lester Cotton and Frank Smith. District candidates 4: Regina Hines White, Christine Carter, Abraham Croxton, Jr. and Sally Spencer. District 5 candidates: Shameria Jordan, Barbara Ann Collins, Daisy Ann Hutton, Barbara Amerson Hunter and James E. Morrow.

Turner seeks re-election to County Commission seat District 4

Allen Turner, Jr.

 


Citizens of Greene County AL, especially the residents of Dollarhide, Forkland, and Tishabee (District 4), this is Greene County Commission Chairman Allen Turner, Jr seeking your prayers, support, and vote in the May 24, 2022 upcoming Primary Election. Our plan is simple but profound to continue representing and serving you with integrity and experience.
As you know, I am a lifelong citizen of Greene County; Deacon at Springhill Baptist Church; graduate of PHS, AAMU, Alabama Government Institute, Shelton State, and attended UWA graduate program.
Even though the last few years have been a challenge for us, we are grateful for God’s grace and mercy on our Nation as a whole. As current County Commission Chairman, I am committed to maintaining and continuing to provide a professional service to all our citizens, while keeping our county employees, staff and facilities at the highest level of safety possible.
Since 2010, I assisted in many accomplishments in the county and in my District:
Resolved the County’s financial issues and balanced the budget every year; created policies to give all our essential employees incentives and bonuses for their services, especially during this pandemic; spent millions on infrastructure throughout the entire county, especially county roads 148 in Dollarhide, 72 in Tishabee, and 41 (Lloyd Chapel Road) in Forkland.
I approved the installation of storm shelters at the Forkland Town Hall, Steamplant Road Fire Department, and soon to come Tishabee Fire Department.
We have also given more than 150 scholarships to high school and college graduates from District 4; created additional senior citizens programs at the Tishabee and Steamplant Road areas and developed youth summer feeding programs in Forkland and Tishabee.
Since 2017, we have provided outreach services throughout the District, repairing or replacing more than 200 roofs, wheelchair ramps, handicap accessible bathrooms and kitchens, also replaced essential appliances for our disabled and senior citizens.
Our Plan is to continue providing these current services while establishing more programs to better support the unity and growth in our communities. On May 24, 2022 Vote Allen Turner, Jr. Greene County Commissioner District 4, God Bless you.

Greene County Commission approves resolution requiring face coverings to slow spread of coronavirus; reaches partial agreement with Sheriff on budget shortfall

In a specially called telephone conference call on Monday, June 29, 2020, the Greene County Commission adopted a resolution requiring people to wear face coverings, when they are in public settings, in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
The resolution is a response to the continuing rise in coronavirus cases in the state and in Greene County. During the month of June, cases in the State of Alabama rose from 18,000 to over 37,000 with deaths increasing from 653 to 986.
In Greene County cases increased from 95 with 4 deaths to 164 with 7 deaths.
The County’s resolution which goes into effect at 5:00 PM on Wednesday, July 1, 2020 and continues indefinitely until changed by the Commission, has some exceptions. You do not need to wear a mask at home, driving in your car, and when you are outdoors, with less than ten people, who are socially distancing, by at least six feet.
The County’s resolution as contrasted with the City of Eutaw’s ordinance, has no enforcement provisions or penalty for non-compliance. The Eutaw ordinance has a warning ticket for the first offense and a $25 fine for each additional violation.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the nation’s Federal health agency strongly encourages the wearing of face coverings – masks, when people are in public settings as a preventive measure to stop the spread the highly contagious novel coronavirus.
The City’s ordinance is printed in full in our Legal Advertisement section.
According to Commissioner Chair, Allen Turner, the County Commission declined to run their full resolution as a Legal Advertisement.
Commission reaches partial agreement with Sheriff Benison on budget shortfall
The Greene County Commission held two recessed meetings in the past two weeks to discuss the budget shortfall in the Sheriff’s account for personnel and operations. These meetings were held in Executive Session, behind closed doors because they involve legal matters and the name and character of individual employees. After the Executive Sessions, Commission Chair Allen Turner informed the public that no formal official votes were taken to resolve the matters under discussion in the private sessions.
The Greene County Democrat was provided with an exchange of letters between the Greene County Commission and Sheriff Joe Benison on the status of the Sheriff’s Department budget. In prior discussions and negotiations, the Sheriff had agreed to pay supplementary funds to support the employment of staff positions for deputies and jailers beyond the amounts contained in the basic Commission budget for 2019-2020 fiscal year, which began on October 1, 2019.
In its June 23, 2020 letter to the Sheriff, the Greene County Commission indicates that the Sheriff has, as of June 2020, spent all but 9% of budgeted funds for personnel and that there are no other funds that can be transferred to this line item. The County has continued to pay all of the Sheriff’s staff under a prior agreement that the Sheriff would reimburse the county, presumably from electronic bingo fees earned by the Sheriff. The Sheriff has not paid the agreed upon amounts.
In the letter, the Commission states for the six months, January to June 2020, the Sheriff has paid $381,264 of $ 759,303 owed for additional staff above the budgeted number. The Commission also requests immediate payment of two pay periods, at $41,473.10 per pay period, for salaries – $82,964.20; and an additional $100,000 to replenish other budget items that have been depleted to pay staff to date. The Commission also requests payment of $163,000 monthly, starting July 1, as provided in its original agreement with the Sheriff. The Commission says in its letter if the required payments are not made, then reductions in staffing will be implemented.
In his letter of June 25, 2020, Sheriff Benison responds to the County Commission by saying that events, more specifically the COVID-19 pandemic, which interrupted electronic bingo from mid-March to mid June, have occurred, which make it impossible for the Sheriff’s Department to meet its commitments under the original September 2019 agreement.
The Sheriff requests that the 2019 contract be declared null and void, canceling his $ 378,039 debt to the county because of the unforeseen circumstances of COVID-19. The Sheriff agrees to pay $41,473.10, for each two week payroll, starting now and each two weeks following. He also agrees to pay the County Commission $104,973 in bingo fees for the month of July and as much as $135,363 in ensuing months. Under the Sheriff’s bingo rules, the Commission is entitled to these funds, when bingo is operational. The Commission has budgeted these funds for a match fund for Federal and State road and bridge projects.The Sheriff seems to be suggesting that the Commission use these funds to make up the deficit in his operational budget. The Sheriff also requests that there be no layoffs in staff for this fiscal year period.
The Sheriff and the County Commission discussed the issues in their respective letters behind closed doors in the Executive Session. They were not able to reach a full resolution of the issues. The County Commission was unwilling to release the Sheriff from his obligations under the original contract and still holds him responsible for the $378,039 debt.
We have learned that the Sheriff gave the Greene County Commission, two checks for $41,473.10 each, to cover the current and next upcoming payroll and promised to bring additional funds in July, towards his share of the Sheriff’s Department budget. This partial solution averted the layoffs of any Sheriff’s Department staff.
In his letter, the Sheriff also indicates that if circumstances force electronic bingo in the county to close again that he would be unable to meet his financial obligations to the county.

Greene County Commission holds regular meeting; votes to require Sheriff Benison to meet financial commitments to retain staff

The Greene County Commission held its regular monthly meeting on May 11, 2020, at 3:00 PM in the Greene County courtroom. The Commissioners and audience maintained six feet social distancing requirements and most wore masks. Four commissioners: Allen Turner, Chairperson, Lester Brown, Roshonda Summerville, and Corey Cockrell, were present, with Tennyson Smith absent.
Most of the meeting, including a lengthy closed Executive Session, was devoted to the issue of getting Greene County Sheriff, Joe Benison, to meet his financial commitment to the county budget, to pay additional staff above the basic staff included in the budget for deputies, jailers and other staff.
The Sheriff and the County Commission negotiated an agreement at the beginning of the year, for the Sheriff to reimburse the County for additional staffing above the basic staff included in the regular budget. The Sheriff agreed to pay these additional staff, who are on the County payroll, out of funding he receives monthly in fees from electronic bingo operators.
For the past two months since the beginning of March, the electronic bingo establishments in Greene County have been closed due to the coronavirus and no bingo machine fees have been paid by bingo operators to governmental, educational, healthcare and other charitable recipients, including the Sheriff’s Department, which oversees bingo under local Constitutional Amendment 743.
After the Commission’s Executive Session, the members voted to contact Sheriff Benison to require payment of the funds due under the budgetary agreement or terminate the additional staff, who are listed in an attachment to the agreement.
The Commission further agreed that the Sheriff could substitute and amend the list of names of staff to be reduced, but not the number, based on current conditions.
Another topic discussed at the meeting was to consider a 4 mil increase in property taxes that could be approved locally without the action of the Legislature. This discussion arose because the prior proposed 5 mil increase in property taxes, which included 3 mils for the hospital and 2 mils for the County and other agencies, was not submitted by the Legislative delegation for approval.
State representatives A. J. McCampbell and Ralph Howard, as well as State Senator Bobby Singleton, said that since only three of Greene County’s five commissioners signed the 5 mil request, they would not submit the proposal to the Legislature’s local legislation committee. They say their policy is to only move forward with local legislation that is unanimously supported by all County Commissioners. Commissioners Tennyson Smith and Lester Brown did not sign the petition for the 5 mil increase.
If the 5 mil proposal had passed the Legislature it was still subject to a referendum by all voters in Greene County, probably at the November General Election.
Commission Chair Allen Turner said he learned that the County Commission may be able to support up to a four mil increase in property taxes, under special circumstances, without Legislative approval. The County Commission tabled this item, to seek more information to determine if this is a feasible route to generate more revenues and support for the hospital and other county agencies.
In other actions, the County Commission approved a financial report, payment of current bills and claims and a travel request for the Assistant Engineer to attend a June 10-11 training in Prattville, Alabama

County Commission issues update on access to facilities and services

In an effort to protect and keep the community informed of county services, the Greene County Commission has issued the following notice to the public.
Because of concerns about the Coronavirus Pandemic and the emergencies declared by the Federal Goverment, State Government and the County of Greene, the William M. Branch County Courthouse and other county facilities will be partially closed as follows:
The Courthouse will be closed to the public entering except for employees and those involved in casting absentee ballots for the July 14, 2020 Primary Runoff Election.
The public may contact county departments by phone, email, U.S. Postal to have their issues addressed. The contact information will be posted and otherwise made available. 3. County Department heads will maintain at least one employee on duty during business hours to receive U.S. Postal mail, emails and phone calls and direct all calls and/or emails to the appropriate departmental employees working at home. Employees who are not at the regular work site will be at home and available by phone during business hours from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Department heads may rotate employees so that each employee in the department will work in the courthouse or other county sites during the duly allotted workdays.
This emergency policy does not apply to the Sheriff Department, Jail Department whose approaches to health and safety while protecting and serving the county and its citizen will be established and implemented by the Sheriff of Greene County.
This policy does not apply to the Highway Department which will continue its regular operations but will establish adequate preliminary health procedures to protect employees and the public.
This notice of the Greene County Commission will be posted at the Courthouse and at other county facilites as will any amendments to this written statement of emegency policy.
Allen Turner, Jr., 
Chairman of the
Greene County Commission

County Commission develops action plan for health and safety of community

In compliance with the national state of emergency due to the COVID-19 Coronavirus epidemic, the Greene County Commission has devised a plan of action to provide for the health and safety of persons, including county personnel. The general plan includes steps to protect people at higher risk for complications; maintain critical operations; minimize impact on residents, customers and businesses; and be proactive by taking small measures now to minimize risk. More details of the Commission’s Action Plan can be obtained from the commission’s office.
The county has reduced its onsite personnel to a skeletal crew. One person in each county office, including the Probate Judge’s Office, Revenue Commissioner, and County Commission will be on duty each day with others on call if the need arises. The offices of District Judge, Circuit Judge and Circuit Clerk were closed by the state last week.
The sheriff’s office is also closed, but Deputies will continue to be on duty. Any emergency calls should be directed to E-911.
Other essential county employees including sanitation workers will maintain their regular work schedules. Maintenance and county road personnel will have rotating schedules.
According to County Commission Chairperson, Allen Turner, the county will continue to pay employees their current hourly rate during this emergency shutdown.

Commission reports Sheriff has depleted funds in Overtime Line Item

At its monthly meeting held, Monday, December 10, 2019, the Greene County Commission took action to zero out the Overtime Line Item in the Greene County Sheriff’s budget after transferring $9,388.95 to that line item from the Sheriff’s Fuel Line Item. According to the CFO Paula Bird’s report, the Sheriff had already spent above the budgeted funds for overtime pay for employees in his department. Bird reported that she was directed by the Commission Chairperson, Allen Turner, Jr. to make this budget adjustment for the commission’s review and action at this meeting.
In the budget amendment, the commission also approved transferring $478.20 to the jail’s budget.
During the meeting the commissioners were presented a document from Sheriff Jonathan Benison, however, the contents were not discussed in the open meeting. When Commissioners Smith and Brown raised questions about the document, Chairman Turner stated that it would be discussed in executive session.
According to the CFO Bird, the county’s bank totals as of Nov. 18, 2019 were as follows: Citizen Trust Bank – $2,833,696.38; Merchants & Farmers Bank – $1,787,300.29; CD Bond Sinking fund (Investment) – $1.053,312.97; Bank of New York – $616,750.79.
Following an executive session, the commission approved the community liaison appointments presented by Commission Chair Allen Turner, Jr.: Commissioner Brown – Industry and Local and State Agencies; Commissioner Cockrell – Public Works and Housing Authority; Commissioner Smith – Education and Hospital, Health Service and Library; Commissioner Summerville – Personnel, Park and Recreation and EMS; Commissioner Turner – Finance, Department Heads and Extension Services.
In other business, the commission took action on the following:
Approved revision of 2019 Holiday schedule – employees will have Dec. 25, 26, 27 off. Dec. 24 will be a work day.
Approved re-advertising the Coroner’s Bill.
Approved the easement agreement with Marvin Smith and Greene County Commission.
Approved annual bids, including the following: Treated Timber; CMP; Polyethylene Pipe; Aggregates; Liquid Asphalt; Petroleum Products.
Approved allowing Highway Department to assist Greene County Water Authority with earthwork for new building, providing Highway Department is reimbursed.
Approved travel for Engineering Department and Highway Department personnel.
In reference to Agenda Item 12 – Consider budgetary issues with salaries and overtime – the commission approved a motion to recess the meeting until Monday, December, 16, 2019 at 6:30 pm.

Commission cannot conduct business when adoption of agenda fails

On Monday, Nov. 18, 2019, the Greene County Commission resumed a meeting recessed from the previous week, Tuesday, Nov. 12. The Nov. 18 meeting adjourned following several failed attempts by the newly elected Chairman, Allen Turner, Jr., to get the agenda approved.
Commissioner Lester Brown moved to approve the agenda, excluding the item for an executive session. Commissioner Tennyson Smith offered the second. The motion failed with a two-two vote; Brown and Smith for and Turner and Roshanda Summerville against (only four commissioners were present).
On the request again by Chairman Turner for a motion to approve the agenda, Commissioner Roshanda Summerville moved to approve the agenda as printed and the motioned failed for lack of a second. Turner repeated this exercise of alternating motions by Brown and Summerville; each time the motion failed. Turner then asked the Commission’s Attorney Hank Sanders: “What happens now; what are our options.” Sanders replied that once the body failed to adopt/approve the agenda, the meeting is adjourned. However, Commissioner Turner again asked for a motion and Summerville moved to approve the agenda as presented. Motion failed again for lack of a second. Turner then stated the meeting is adjourned.
The commission had recessed the Nov. 12 meeting to allow time for Commissioners Brown and Turner to meet with Sheriff Jonathan Benison regarding the bingo funds the commission needed to meet payroll for all the employees in the Sheriff’s Department.

The commission approved its budget for 2019-2020, allocating approximately 51% of the general fund monies for the Sheriff’s Department, however, that budget had a contingency component consisting of approximately $800,000 which would be provided to the commission from the sheriff’s bingo funds to supplement the sheriff’s budget. The sheriff had provided supplemental bingo funds in previous years to make up the difference from what the county could provide for the sheriff’s department.
Brown inquired as to the purpose of the executive session since he and Turner had not met with Sheriff Benison. Turner did not offer any explanation except to state that all that would be discussed in the executive session. Turner also stated that he had met with Sheriff Benison, but he did not explain why Brown was not included in that meeting, or whether other commissioners attended that meeting with him.
The commission took no action to set a date for a follow-up meeting.

County Commission re-organizes: Tennyson Smith selected as Chair; Roshanda Summerville selected as Vice Chair

Shown L to R: Greene County Commissioners Lester Brown, Allen Turner, Jr., Roshanda Summerville, Tennyson Smith and Corey Cockrell.

 

At the Greene County Commission’s annual organizational meeting, held Wednesday, Nov.14, 2018, Commissioner Tennyson Smith was selected as Chairperson and newly elected Commissioner Roshanda Summerville was selected as Vice Chairperson. Attorney Hank Sanders, who presided over the process, opened the floor for nominations for Chairperson. Commissioner Corey Cockrell nominated Commissioner Allen Turner, Jr. and Commissioner Lester Brown nominated Commissioner Tennyson Smith. Smith received three votes and Turner received 2 votes.

For Vice Chair, Commissioner Turner nominated Commissioner Cockrell and Commissioner Brown nominated Commissioner Summerville. Summerville received four votes and Cockrell received one vote. Following each nomination and vote, Attorney Sanders asked for a motion and second on the selection of officers for the record. Brown moved and Summerville seconded that Smith serve as Chairperson. The vote was again three to two for Smith. Brown moved and Cockrell seconded that Summerville to serve as Vice Chairperson. The vote was four to one for Summerville. The commission approved the second Monday of each month at 6:00 pm as its regular meeting schedule. The Chairperson’s appointment of Commissioners to chair various committees was tabled. The body also agreed to maintain the same designation of bank depositories, with Chairperson Smith and Vice Chairperson Summerville serving as signatories for checks. Smith and CFO Paula Bird will remain as signatories for the safety deposit box. The standard Rules of Procedure were approved. In other business the commission received and approved the finance report and payment of claims as presented by CFO Bird. The following bank balances as of October 18, 2018 were noted: Citizen Trust Bank $2,048,536.88; Merchants & Farmers Bank $4,351,360.62; Bank of New York $358,896.59; Bond Investments $921,428.30. The meeting was adjoined and public comments were invited.