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.