Terminated employees in Sheriff Department continue to report to work, drive county vehicles

The Greene County Commission held its regular monthly meeting, Tuesday, October 13, 2020, since Monday, October, 12 was a federal holiday. Early in the commission’s meeting, Commissioner Lester Brown again stated his concerns regarding the employees from the Sheriff’s Department, who were layed-off on September 30, 2020 and continue to report to work and drive county vehicles. Reportedly, through various written and verbal communications, the Commission had informed Sheriff Jonathan Benison that his additional employees, supported by bingo funds, would be layed-off unless the Sheriff provided the necessary payroll payments at the beginning of each quarter of 2020-2021, as well as reimburse the county the back pay due for the same employees.
“We are allowing the sheriff to put the county in danger, as well as giving those employees false hope that they are still employed,” Brown stated.
At the commission’s work session held October 7, several commissioners raised those same concerns regarding the terminated employees continuing to report to work in the Sheriff’s Department. At Commissioner Chairman Allen Turner’s request for guidance, Attorney Hank Sanders, advised that the commission should consider taking appropriate steps of informing the county’s insurance agency that letters have been sent to the terminated employees regarding their last day of employment; and that letters have been sent informing these former employees that they must not drive county vehicles.
The commission approved a contract adjustment for CFO, Macaroy Underwood. Underwood’s contract provided for a monthly compensation of $7,000 beginning with the fiscal year of 2020-2021.
In other business, the commission acted on the following:
Received the financial report presented by Mrs. Brenda Burke and approved the payment of claims.
Approved a resolution for spreading and/or grading material for Greene County Volunteer Fire Departments.
Approved the 2020-2021 bid tabulations for treated timber, metal pipe, plastic pipe, petroleum products and aggregates.
Approved roofing repair from Holland Roofing.
Approved contracts for Digital Information System; Delta Computer Systems, Inc.; Alabama Computer Systems, Inc.
Approved travel for employees.

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

Continuous rain heightens damages to county roads and bridges

Following its monthly meeting, March 9, 2020, the Greene County Commission heard from residents from two areas of the county seeking assistance for roads and bridges that have been compromised by the excessive rains in the past few months. Residents of Mantua expressed their concerns of damage on County Road 60 as well as a cross drain pipe that was damaged by flood waters.
The second group of residents from Flag Road, off of US Highway 11 North, were concerned about a posted bridge (3tons) and the road on both sides of the bridge damaged by excessive rain as well.
Commissioner Lester Brown, of District 1 and County Engineer Willie Branch, met with the respective groups to discuss possible remedies amid limited county resources. The residents of Flag Road said they came to ask how can they help. Brown advised them that federal resources would be needed to rebuild that bridge. He asked them to assist in contacting US Senator Richard Shelby and request such resources.
In both situations, Commissioner Brown and Engineer Branch stated that little could be done in repairs until the ground dries, but committed to continue to monitor their road and bridge conditions.
In both situations, Commissioner Brown and Engineer Branch stated that little could be done in repairs until the ground dries, but committed to continue to monitor their road and bridge situations.
In other business, the commission acted on the following:
Approved payment of claims.
Approved foregoing financial audits for all unaudited fiscal years except 2019.
Approved Engineer to reissue garbage carts to residents who were affected by flooding and seek reimbursement from federal and state funds.
Approved Engineer to solicit proposals for preparation and implementation of a Community Development Block Grant.
Approved salary adjustments for two employees.
Approved reappointment of Joyce Pham to Housing Authority of Greene County Board, District 5.
Tabled consideration of appointments to Housing Authority Board from Districts 3 and 2.
Approved travel for Safety Director and Assistant Engineer, in Prattville, March 12, 2020.
Heard presentation on local Census activity by Greene County Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.

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.

Greene County Alabama New South Coalition donates $5,000 to Greene County Health System

Shown in photo: (L.to R.) are ANSC members: John Zippert (who also serves on the GCHS Board of Directors), Sarah Duncan, Commissioner Lester Brown, Daisy Hutton, Judge Lillie Osborne, Elzora Fluker, GCHS CEO- Dr. Marcia Pugh, Carol P. Zippert, Leo Branch and Spiver W. Gordon.

The Greene County Chapter of the Alabama New South Coalition donated $5,000 raised at its recent ‘Black and White Heritage Ball ’ and related grassroots fundraising to the Greene County Health System.
Carol P. Zippert, ANSC Chapter President said, “ This donation is in keeping with our ANSC motto, ‘A Change for the Better in Our Lifetime’ and we hope this will encourage other community organizations, businesses and institutions to support the hospital and help to keep it open for the use of Greene County residents.”
Dr. Pugh, GCHS CEO said, “ We really appreciate this contribution from ANSC and will put it to good use in improving our health services.”

Board members recognized for School Board Appreciation Month; public challenges criticism of superintendent and school system

Robert Brown Middle School students demonstrate walking and dancing robots they created.

In keeping with recognizing January as School Board Appreciation Month, each of the Greene County schools honored the local school board members with special accolades at the monthly meeting held Tuesday, January 22, 2019. Eutaw Primary students Ja’Siyah Spencer and London Gould, under the direction of 3rd grade teacher, Mrs. Keisha Williams, rendered a poem. Principal Barbara Martin invited board members to a special luncheon.
Robert Brown Middle School Students Jami Williams, Omar Elnaham, Kailee Coleman, Jocelyn Pelt and Anthony McMillian, Jr., under the direction of 7th & 8th grade teacher, Ms. Janice Jeames, demonstrated the walking and dancing robots they created in science class.

The group presented board members with sweets and certificates of appreciation.
Representing Greene County High School, Mr. Alphonzo Morton, III, science/biology teacher and Mr. Siegfried Williams, Choir Director, rendered a poem and song and presented board members with bags of sweets and certificates of appreciation.
Superintendent Dr. James Carter, Sr., representing the Central office staff, presented board members certificates of appreciation and fruit baskets.
Phillis Belcher, Executive Director of the Greene County Industrial Development Authority, also recognized the school board members with bags of healthy treats and copies of the spiritual guide, Chicken Soup for the Soul.
Returning to its regular order of business, the board acted on the following personnel recommendations of the superintendent.
Approved resignations of Sondra Green, Health Science Instructor, Greene County Career Center, effective January 15, 2019; Lesley Carlisle, Maintenance Supervisor, effective January 31, 2018.
Approved catastrophic leave for Tyreice Mack, 5th grade Teacher, Robert Brown Middle School.
Approved employment of Derrick Williams, Bus Driver, Department of Transportation.
Approved salary adjustment for Accounts Payable Clerk, for duties outside regular duties.
Approved supplemental contracts for Shayla McCray, Charlayne Jordan-Riley, and Angelia Hood for duties performed outside regular contract.
Approved supplemental contract for Fredrick Square as School Safety Coordinator.
Approved supplemental contract for Alfonzo Noland, for duties outside regular duties.
The board also approved Dr. Carter’s recommendation that supplemental contracts for coaches remain as is with the caveat that coaches be given extra pay consideration upon completion of annual evaluation, number of students who earn scholarships, won and lost record, practice schedule, and morale of students and coaches within the program.
CSFO LaVonda Blair presented a financial snapshot for the period ending November 2018:
General Fund Balance – $659,662.79 (reconciles to the summary cash report); Check Register Accountability Report – $486,097.48; Payroll register – $898,072.90; Combined Fund Balance – $2,950,901; Local Revenue for the month included property taxes – $202,633.59 and bingo collections – $58,620. Statement ending balance in Merchants & Farmers Bank – $592,538.82 with ending book balance at $659,662.679. The School system’s reserved fund balance is $2,950,901.15
Morgan attempts to buy-out superintendent’s contract
When the board members returned from executive session, board member William Morgan offered a motion which in effect would buy-out Superintendent Carter’s contract and end his services in the system as of Feb. 1, 2019. In the December board meeting, the majority of the board voted to non-renew Dr. Carter’s contract when it ends in June, 2019. Morgan’s motion was deemed out of order, since discussion of the superintendent’s contract was not on the agenda and to add it would required unanimous consent of all board members. Morgan proceeded to expound on the reasons for his motion. He stated that the school system is in great disarray; teachers do not get support they need; principals don’t do their jobs; students don’t get resources needed and all this, according to Morgan, is failure of the superintendent to do his job. Morgan made several disparaging statements against the superintendent, implying the system needed someone new immediately before everything just fell apart. Mr. Leo Branch, board president, had to resort to gaveling Morgan back to order, with the latter insisting he had the floor.
Superintendent Carter followed with his own remarks, refuting Morgans statements of how bad the school system is. Carter pointed to the new and continuing initiatives and the progressive work going on in the system.
Board member Carol Zippert indicated that she wanted clarity that Morgan did not represent her views on the school system. She said that are lots of good things going on in our schools and problems and issues cannot be corrected overnight. It takes a process for progress to continue, with everyone playing a part. She stated that the system is continuing to improve.
During public comments, several members of the audience, including Ms. Hattie Edwards, former Mayor or Eutaw, District Judge Lillie Jones Osborne, Commissioner Lester Brown, community leader Spiver Gordon and retired teacher Mary Otieno, challenged the statements made by Morgan and noted specifics of how they viewed progress in the school system. Each speaker indicated that many entities are responsible for students’ success, including parents, teachers, administrators, the community and students themselves. They all said it is not entirely up to the superintendent. One speaker urged the board to find a way to work together for the students.

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.