Commission at odds with attorney selection process; adds four new projects to budget

The Greene County Commission met in regular session, Monday, May 10, 2021, with its recently hired legal counsel Attorney Mark Parnell of Birmingham. Prior to the agenda being approved, Commissioner Lester Brown noted that the item, Approval of Previous Minutes, was not on the agenda. Following the lead of the Commission Chairperson, Roshanda Summerville, the agenda was accepted, with the added minutes, on a motion by Commissioner Allen Turner, second by Commissioner Lester Brown. Prior to the April 12 minutes being acted on, Commissioner Brown noted that those minutes did not address the fact that the voting procedures, led by Commissioner Summerville, for hiring legal counsel at the April meeting did not allow him or Commissioner Tennyson Smith to cast a vote for the candidate of their choice. According to Brown, when the Chairperson called for the vote on Candidate 1, three commissioners voted for Candidate 1 and Commissioner Summerville then declared that Candidate 1 was selected and ended the process. Votes were not called for the other candidates. Brown insisted that he and Smith should have been afforded the opportunity to vote on the other candidates, so their choices would be in the record. This is what Brown wanted to add to the minutes. “I am not attempting to change how the vote went; majority rules and I accept that. I just wanted the chance to put my vote for another candidate in the record,” he stated. Commissioner Corey Cockrell commented that when Candidate 1 received the majority vote, what’s the use of voting on anybody else. When Commission Attorney Parnell was asked for advice on the matter, he inquired whether the minuets had been voted on; the Chairperson affirmed they had not. Parnell then stated that the minutes could not be changed, but he informed Brown that his statements could be placed in the minutes of the current meeting. There was no clarification for the basis of this statement on the minutes by the attorney. In most rules of order, minutes can be changed – corrected and amended. As the business continued, CFO Macaroy Underwood presented the finance report including payment of claims and budget amendments. The budget amendments included items/projects not in the current approved budget. Six safe rooms were approved at a cost of $600,000 to come from bingo revenue; Security system for Highway Department at a cost of $15,750; Repairs and maintenance to jail control panel at a cost of $15,000. Underwood noted that insurance the county pays has increased by $22,577.38. This was also not in the current budget. He also presented the claims paid for April: Accounts Payable – $237,401.27; Payroll Transfer – $213,815.29; Fiduciary – $535,234,84; Electronic Claims Paid – $75,093.69. According to Underwood, 43% of the county’s budget should be remaining, however, four departments are under 43%. In other business, the commission acted on the following: * Approved all county employees returning to full time on May 17, 2021. * Approved the County Engineer’s contract as presented. * Approved the Engineer purchasing milling at a cost of $14,000 to be paid from bingo funds. (Milling is recycled asphalt which will be used on dirt roads.) * Approved Highway Department doing foundation work with the Water Authority. * Approved travel request for Assistant Engineer to attend class in Prattville, June 9-10, 2021. * Approved contracting with Secretary of State regarding new handicap accessible voting machines. * Approved Legal Shields speaking with employees regarding payroll deduction. Tabled all open appointments for DHR and PARA Boards. * Approved Back-to-School 2021 Sales Tax Holiday Resolution. * Denied request from the Democrat for graduation ad in special issue saluting graduating students. At the close of the commission meeting during public comments, Mr. Spiver Gordon, longtime community activist, expressed his opinion regarding the dismissal of Senator Hank Sanders as county attorney and the commission’s procedure in selecting new legal counsel. Gordon said he represented the views of many Greene Countians who were disappointed with the commission’s actions against Attorney Sanders who had served the county for more than 25 years. He related Sanders’ services to the community throughout the Civil Rights era without expectation of monetary payment. “I know the commission has the right to hire who they want as county attorney, but many of us are disappointed in how you went about it,” he said. Gordon noted that Sanders was not afforded the respect of an interview. Gordon also expressed concern with the commission’s monthly meeting schedule. “The county commissions is an elected body that is supposed to serve the people, yet you are distancing yourselves from the community by scheduling your meetings at 3:30 in the afternoon. Not many citizens can attend at that time,” he stated. Gordon also noted that executive sessions during the meeting were once placed toward the end of the agenda, when the public could leave after hearing the earlier business on the agenda. “Now with your executive session near the top of the agenda, we have to wait a very long time to hear the rest of the business of the meeting,” he stated. Gordon cautioned the commissioners that they should revisit their duties and commitment of service to the people. Ms. Iris Sermon, E911 Director, addressed the commission regarding wording or presentation of items listed on the agenda for action. “The items begin with the word ‘consider’ therefore when the commission votes, you are voting to consider the item, not really voting to approve or not approve the item,” she stated. Sermon asked the commission to look closely at how they design their agenda. 

County partners with BBCF for advanced funds to purchase COVID related items/services

The Greene County Commission met in its regular session, Monday, Dec. 14, 2020 with all commissioners in attendance. The agenda presented was approved with an addendum, offered by Commissioner Corey Cockrell, proposing that Bingo funds received by the county be separated from the country’s general funds and only spent when authorized by the County Commission. The proposal was approved.
The County Commission also agreed that any additional items and/or services related to addressing the COVID-19 pandemic, and approved by the state, would be purchased with advance funds available through the Black Belt Community Foundation (BBCF). Once the county receives its CARES reimbursement, BBCF would be refunded the advance funds provided. This arrangement with BBCF allows the county to make needed purchases without tying up local funds or making other budget adjustments. To date, the county has expended approximately $220,000 in COVID related expenditures. Greene County has been allotted a total of $500,000 in CARES money.
BBCF, which raised these earmarked funds to assist local communities, has a similar arrangement with other county and municipal governments in its service area.
The commission approved a staggered schedule for county employees through the end of this calendar year. The county offices will remain open, but will serve citizens by appointment only.
County offices will be closed for the holidays on December 24 and 25, 2020 as well as on January 1, 2021.
The commission approved a one-time payment to employees at the rate of $300 for part-time employees and $550 for full time employees.
Commission Chairperson, Roshanda Summerville, announced the following commission committee appointments: Commissioner Lester Brown is assigned Education; Commissioner Corey Cockrell is assigned Highway and Solid Waste; Commissioner Allen Turner is assigned Public Safety and Health; Commissioner Tennyson Smith is assigned Industrial Development and Summerville is assigned to Personnel and Finance.
In other business, the commission acted on the following:
Tabled consideration of draft suit related to Commission vs Greene County Sheriff.
Approved extension of exemption application to January 18, 2021.
Approved engineer hiring additional staff for paving.
Approved hiring personal property clerk.
Approved match for 2021 HRRR Grant (Bridges without guardrails).
Approved modification of the 2020 HRR grant to include just two sites.
Approved three year participation plan for liability coverage renewal (related to bridges).
Approved advertising for solid waste driver.
Approved Red Cross Agreement, relative to county providing use of facility during disaster recovery assistance.
The County CFO, Macaroy Underwood presented the following bank balances as of November 20, 2020. Citizen Trust Bank – $3,848,524.22; Merchant & Farmers Bank – $2,845,573.19; Investments – $1.076,756.46. Bank of New York – Report not available.
Underwood reported the following claims paid for November: General Fund – $$86,999.60; Gasoline – $51,911.28; Appraisal Fund – $$1,098.93; Solid Waste – $17,942.41;
Senior Citizen Fund – $1,108.84; Federal match – $436.34. Electronic claims paid totaled $75,827.09.

Commissioner Turner places item on agenda to advertise for legal representation

The Greene County Commission held its regular monthly meeting Monday, September 14, 2020 at 3:30 pm. Prior to any action taken on the agenda, Commissioner Lester Brown raised concerns about item 11 on the agenda which had not been proposed and discussed in the commission’s work session held the previous Wednesday. Agenda Item 11 called for advertising for legal representation for the commission.
In the course of the discussion, it was revealed that only Commissioner Roshanda Summerville had received a call, prior to the meeting, from Commission Chairperson Allen Turner, Jr. informing her that item 11 would be on the agenda. Commissioner Corey Cockrell stated that he had not been told the item would be on the agenda, but he could recall other instances when items, not discussed in a work session were placed on the following agenda.
According to Commissioner Brown, the Commission’s Policies and Procedures require that there must be a unanimous decision by the commission before an item can be added to the agenda. This can be substantiated by statements contained in the Commission’s Rules of Order document:
Rules of Procedure, Section V
Order of Business
“A. There shall be an official agenda for every meeting of the Commission, including special and emergency meetings. …The agenda for the regularly scheduled meetings shall identify the items to be considered and determine the order of business to be conducted at the meeting.
…The agenda shall be established prior to each meeting under procedures to be adopted by the County Commission.
J. Any departure from the order of business set forth in the official agenda shall be made only upon affirmative vote of all the members of the Commission present at the meeting.
L. Additions to the agenda shall only be made by affirmative vote of all the members of the Commission present at the meeting.”Both Commissioners Lester Brown and Tennyson Smith stated that Turner had disrespected them in placing an item on the agenda without contacting them for their input.
The agenda was eventually approved with three votes.
Following an executive session, the commission approved all the items on the agenda, with little clarity as to how item 11 would be executed. According to Commissioner Lester Brown, he offered a motion to put a contract in place with the commission’s current legal representative, Attorney Hank Sanders. “My motion was to replace what was presented in Item 11, with a contract for the attorney” Brown stated. Brown’s motion was approved, however, a spokesperson in the commission’s office stated that the commission agreed to put a contract in place and advertise for legal representation.
Commissioner Turner stated in a later conversation that the commission voted to approve Agenda Item 11 to advertise for legal representative and include providing a contract. “Our current attorney is not under contract with the commission. He can show up or not show up. His contract expired years ago and was not dealt with,” he said. Turner also acknowledged that Attorney Sanders was not notified that the commission intended to advertise for legal representation.
When asked if he had someone in mind to bring in as legal counsel for the commission, Turner responded: “ That is something the commission will decide.”
Other actions taken by the commission included the following:
Approved the 2019-2020 School Resource Officers (SRO) Contract. Reportedly, the commission had not received the 2019-2020 contract from the Sheriff’s office during that school term.
Approved the Errors Report as presented by Revenue Commissioner’s office.
Approved the transfer of 2014 Dodge Ram truck from Road Department to Maintenance Department.
*Approved agreement with Terracon for aquifer testing at landfill for cost of #3,500.
Approved option to close unused landfill at cost of $30,245.
Approved renewing CIMS agreement for period of October 1, 2020 – September 30, 2021.
Approved engineering soliciting proposals for bridge replacement for STR#30032-265, bridge on County Road 60.
Approved ratifying removal of a tree on a building at Robert Brown Middle School.
With the county’s fiscal year ending, September 30, the finance department reported the budget balances for the various departments. As of September, the commission had 8% of budget remaining; Circuit Court Judge had 19%; District Judge had 19%; Circuit Clerk had 9%; District Attorney had 5%; Court Reported had 3%; Probate Judge had1%;Appraisal Office had 29%; Revenue Commission had 6%; Elections had -7%; Board of Registrars had 8%; Maintenance had 0%; Sheriff had 0%; Jail had 9%; EMA had 8%;Coroner had 41%; Youth Services had 0%; E911 had 0%; Library had 27%; and Board of Education had 0

County Commission agrees to opt-in PILT Class Action Lawsuit

At its regular meeting held Monday, July 9, 2018, the Greene County Commission approved joining the Payment In-Lieu of Taxes (PILT) Class Action Law Suit and authorized Chairman Tennyson Smith to sign all necessary documents. This law suit relates to payments due to a local government for federal lands within its borders. The U.S. Government does not pay taxes on land it owns in a county, therefore, Congress passed a law mandating the federal government to make substitute payments in lieu of taxes.
The statue explains the following: “PILT payments provide compensation to certain units of local government within whose borders lie lands that are owned by the federal government and which are therefore immune to state and local taxation. The statute sets forth specific formulas to calculate the amount of the payment that each eligible unit of local government will receive.”
Due to insufficient appropriations for 2015–2017, PILT recipients did not receive the full amount to which they were entitled under the PILT statute based on the Department of the Interior’s full payment calculation.
As a result, Kane County, Utah filed a lawsuit in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims in June 2017, seeking to recover its own underpayments and the underpayments of all other PILT recipients nationwide for the period 2015 -2017.
To participate in the class action lawsuit and collect possible amounts due them, each underpaid PILT recipient had to complete and submit a form “opting into” the lawsuit. If a county does not elect to join the class, they will not be included in the class action lawsuit—and will not receive any recovered funds. Counties will have until mid-September to opt into the class.
In other business the County Commission approved Commissioner Allen Turner’s re-appointment of Ms. Shirley Scott Isaac to the Greene County Health Services Board for District 3, as well as Commissioner Corey Cockrell’s appointment of Jonathan Woodruff to the E-911 Board for District 3. Commissioner Smith did not have an appointment from District 2 to the E-911 Board.
The commission also took action on the following:
* Approved Gas Tax Revenue Enhancement Agreement, authorizing chairman to sign all necessary documents.
* Approved Chairman Smith’s appointment to the Association of County Commissioners Legislative Committee.
* Approved budget amendments and payment of claims.
* Approved travel for one employee to the Alabama Association of Assessing Officials conference in Orange Beach, August 7-10, 2018.
Bank balances as of June 18, 2018, reported by the CFO Paula Bird, were as follows:
Citizen Trust bank – $2,610,588.56; Merchants & Farmers Bank – $4,677341.42; investment funds in CD’s – $806,571.43; Bank of New York – $918,088.04.

County will sell surplus land to WestRock; addresses redistricting in Greene County

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Greene County Commission shown with two new vehicles for the County Highway Department. The vehicles are two 2018 F150 Crew Cabs 4×4 at purchase price of $28,650 each. Shown L to R: Commissioners Michael Williams, Tennyson Smith, Allen Turner, Jr.,and Lester Brown; County Engineer Willie Branch and Assistant Engineer John Ensley.

At its regular meeting held Jan. 8, 2018, the Greene County Commission agreed to sell a portion of surplus land to WestRock box plant in Eutaw. The commission is asking $30.000 for approximately 2.7 acres of land adjacent to the current WestRock property on Finches Ferry Road in Eutaw.
In an original plan, the County Commission deeded that parcel of land to the Greene County Industrial Board with the understanding that the IDA would lease the property to West Rock. Subsequently, West Rock determined that it was interested in purchasing same property to accommodate its expansion plans. The county’s plan to sell the property to West Rock will proceed once the IDA transfers the deed back to the county.
The commission voted to approve the County Registrars duties regarding the state’s redistricting and voter reassignment process for areas and voters affected by the new state legislative district lines. District lines are redrawn every 10 years following completion of the United States Census. The Alabama State Legislature is responsible for drawing both congressional and state legislative district lines.
On May 24, 2012, the Republican-controlled legislature approved state legislative redistricting maps. Maps for both chambers were passed during a special session. It next went to Gov. Robert Bentley (R) for his signature, then to the U.S. Department of Justice for preclearance. The Justice Department cleared the state legislative maps on October 5, 2012. Various statewide organizations challenged the state’s redistricting lines up to the U.S. Supreme Court, but were unsuccessful.
According to the current legislative map, Greene County will fall in two State House Districts: D 71, Northwestern part of the county, (Rep. Artis McCampbell) and D 72, all other areas of the county (Rep. Ralph Howard). Greene County falls in only one State Senate District, D 24 (Senator Bobby Singleton).
Alabama’s House of Representatives is made up of 105 districts; Alabama’s State Senate is made up of 35 districts.
In other business the commission approved the following:
* Filling two employee positions in the Highway Department
* Accepting the resignation of one equipment operator and authorizing advertising to fill the position of Equipment operator.
* Travel request for employees as specified.
The Commission approved the various Committee Chair appointments as follows:
* Finance and Public Safety, Commissioner Tennyson Smith.
* Public Works and Health, Commissioner Michael Williams.
* Education and Social Concerns, Commissioner Lester Brown.
* Jobs and Industries, Commissioner Allen Turner, Jr.
* Personnel, Commissioner Corey Cockrell.
CFO, Paula Bird provided the following financial summaries as of December 17, 2017.
Total funds in Citizen Trust Bank was $2,476,161.54; total funds in Merchants & Farmers Bank was $1,961,067.02. Bond investments totaled $800,989.79, Bank of New holds $358,718.17

County Commission approves submitting proposal to purchase Carver School facility

At the regular monthly meeting of the Greene County Commission, held Monday, December 11, 2017, the body voted 3-2 to authorize the chairman to negotiate details of an offer to purchase the former Carver School property from the Greene County Board of Education.
The first dissenting voice came from Commissioner Corey Cockrell who questioned why would the commission want to consider purchasing Carver School now. According to Cockrell, the commission had had previous discussions on the property but had taken no action toward purchase.
Commissioner Allen Turner stated that the county had a long list of projects and needs that should be addressed instead of purchasing a building that brings with it additional obligations. Both Cockrell and Turner stated that the City of Eutaw has submitted a request with a plan to purchase Carver and it seems that the county is trying to undercut the city.
Commissioner Lester Brown spoke in support of the county’s securing Carver School. He stated that there are numerous projects that the county could house in that facility including Parks & Recreation, Senior Citizens Programs, Summer Feeding, Veterans Programs and others.
Commissioner Michael Williams, who also supported the county’s move to acquire Carver, noted that the Carver facility could allow the county to sponsor various training programs and workshops that would benefit employees and the community.
Rev. Michael Barton, pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Forkland, was present and seemed to be the spokesperson for many in the audience who opposed the County Commission’s efforts to acquire Carver Middle School. Many of those in the audience were among his parishioners.
It should also be noted that Mayor Raymond Steele of Eutaw, proposed Rev. Barton to be employed by the City as Recreational Coordinator, if the City’s proposal for the school facilities is accepted by the Board of Education. Steele proposed employing Rev. Barton at the November 14 City Council meeting but withdrew the proposal before a vote since Eutaw Council members were reluctant to vote on staffing before the facilities had been secured.

Many in the audience echoed the sentiments of Commissioners Cockrell and Turner which were in favor of Eutaw purchasing Carver School, however Carl Davis suggested that the county and city come together and devise a plan for joint purchase.
It should be noted that a purchase by the city is for the city; whereas the county would be obligated to serve all of Greene County.
The commission voted to allow the Coroner to establish an office in the space above the Law Library, where the Society of Folk Arts & Culture currently stores it equipment and artifacts related to the production of the annual Black Belt Folk Roots Festival. The county is obligated to provide suitable work space for the Coroner.
In a previous conversation, Commission Chairperson Tennyson Smith stated he would work with the Society in securing suitable space for the festival equipment.
In other business the commission acted on the following:
* Approved RDS to collect lodging taxes and authorize chairman to sign necessary documents.
* Approved vacating un-named road off CR 203 with attorney filing necessary papers with Judge of Probate.
* Approved to consider agreement with JM Woods for sale of three dump trucks for June action.
* Tabled filling two vacant equipment operator positions.
* Approved joining lawsuit in regards to the Opioid epidemic and authorize Chairman to sign all necessary documents.

Approved travel for Probate Judge, Chief Clerk – Jan 16-19 in Montgomery.
Approved financial report and payment of claims as presented by CFO Paula Bird.
The CFO’s financial report included the following:Total Fund Balance as of Nov. 17, 2017, was $2,191,254.71. Total funds in banks – $4,061,096.44; total investments – $800,180.54; total ion Bank of New York – $358,521.42. Accounts payable totaled $500,574.95; Payroll Transfers totaled $242,520.89; Other Transfers totaled $71,398.97; Fiduciary $144,908; Total – $959,402.81.