Greene County EMS ambulance services to continue

At a special called meeting of the Board of the Greene County Emergency Medical Service on Monday, May 23, 2022, Board Chair Joe Lee Powell announced, “ We are committed to keep the ambulance service open and running for the people of Greene County. We will work with the County Commission, municipalities, major employers and anyone else who wants to work with us to maintain and improve the service.”

Powell also announced the resignation of acting director Zack Bolding from his position and the appointment of Chris Jones, as Acting Supervisor of the GCEMS. Jones is an advanced EMT on the staff, which will allow the service to retain its ALS-1 rating and provide full services.

Dr. Marcia Pugh, CEO of the Greene County Health System, who is Vice-Chair of the ambulance board, said that Bolding had never been authorized to send a letter to the state Office of EMS, dated May 16, 2022, that said the Greene County EMS was scheduled to suspend operations, effective May 20, 2022 at 1800 hours. This information was broadcast over many local TV stations.

“We did not suspend operations last Friday and we are still operating now,” said Powell. He indicated that the Board had support to make payroll for staff on that date but that Bolding had not submitted the employee data necessary to make the payroll.

Bolding presented Powell with bank statements from the EMS operating account in Merchants and Farmers Bank but he whited out all the payees on the checks to make them worthless as records for any kind of investigation or audit. “We will have to get another set of records from the bank, to get the information we need,” said Powell.

This incident highlights a problem facing the Board for the past two years since Bennie Abrams and Stanley Lucious retired from the GCEMS. All monies earned by the system from ambulance services go into the operating account which was not controlled by the Board. Abrams. Lucious and others controlled and signed on this checking account. The Board tried to get control of this account but were blocked by the bank due a disagreement over the Federal EIN number used to establish the account.

The GCEMS Board opened a separate account to deposit and spend funds they raised to support the operations and purchase of new equipment for the system. The staff directors, first Nick Wilson and then Zack Bolding, did not assist the Board in unifying the funding control of the service. Because of this divide, it has been difficult for the Board to establish financial direction and control of the service. The Board had difficulty in answering financial operating questions about the services to agencies, like the Greene County Commission and various municipalities, like Forkland, Union, Boligee and Eutaw that wanted to help.

“Hopefully we will be able to correct these and other problems affecting the system, now that we have a new director and some better grasp of our finances,” said Dr. Pugh.

Powell announced that the GCEMS Board has received new donations from various sources including $5,000 from WestRock, $1,000 from the First Responders Committee of Greene County, $10,000 from TSP Support League, to add to $50,000 from the Sheriff’s bingo discretionary fund, $30,000 from Greenetrack, $5,000 from the Town of Boligee and other donations previously reported. Some of these funds are for general operations and other funds are for specific equipment needs. The County Commission has agreed to fund a $100,000 retrofit of an ambulance box on a new truck chassis, which is planned for this summer. The City of Eutaw purchased major life-saving equipment for the service in the past year.

The GCEMS Board will be meeting with the Greene County Commission on June 1, in their scheduled work session, to discuss future operating support for the ambulance system. The Commission and municipalities are expecting a second injection of funding from the American Rescue Plan, which can be used to help with the ambulance service and other pressing problems.

The City of Eutaw is planning a benefit basketball tournament, this weekend at the old Carver Gym to benefit the ambulance service.

“We are developing an immediate crisis plan to keep the service going while we make a longer-range plan for its continuing operation and survival,” said Powell.

Sheriff Jonathan Benison seeks re-election to office


Friends, family, and neighbors, let me start by acknowledging how trying the last couple of years has been for so many of us fighting through this pandemic and everything that has come with it. My team and I have been on the front-line and working behind the scenes: giving personal protective equipment to those without, escorting funeral services for our citizens that fell victim to COVID-19, and putting stringent protocols in place to ensure the safety of deputies, staff, inmates, and the overall public while we continued to serve and protect.
In 1982, I began my law enforcement career. I have worked as a Deputy right here in Greene County and went on to serve 24 years as an Alabama State Trooper before I was elected by the great citizens of Greene County to become your Sheriff in June 2010. I was officially appointed by the Governor to begin my term in December 2010. I am as proud and honored to be your Sheriff today as when I first swore the oath in front of friends and family.
During my tenure, I have invested tremendously in the Sheriff’s office and Jail Annex, implemented community programs and participated in large-scale law enforcement efforts aimed at lowering crime and keeping the citizens in our communities safe. For me, serving and protecting is first and foremost; however, as Sheriff, I am also tasked with promulgating the rules and regulations of the operation of electronic bingo through Amendment 743, which was voted upon by the citizens of Greene County. With much transparency, millions of dollars have been dispersed to the benefit of the municipalities of Boligee, Union, Eutaw and Forkland, the Greene County Hospital, Greene County Board of Education, Greene County Commission, Greene County Sheriff’s Office, and numerous other sub-charities and local organizations.
With everything that has happened lately, I know that life has been a series of non-stop decisions, a lot of which have been the hardest we have ever been faced with, but I am asking you to make another decision, a decision for yourself, a decision for your family, a decision for the future safety and well-being of our home, Greene County. I am asking you to head out to the polls on May 24th and make the decision to keep your sheriff! Vote Jonathan “Joe” Benison as Sheriff of Greene County. God bless us all.

 

LaPorsha Brown takes her father’s seat on County Commission; Chairman signs Greenetrack Settlement Resolution; approves ARPA funds allocation

LaPorsha Brown, her daugther Peyton Brown and District Judge Lillie Jones Osborne
Linette Brown, LaPorsha Brown, her daugther Peyton Brown and District Judge Lillie Jones Osborne

The Greene County Commission opened its March 14, 2022 meeting with newly sworn-in Commissioner LaPorsha Brown representing District 1. Ms. Brown was appointed by Alabama Governor Kay Ivey to fill the unexpired tern of the late Mr. Lester Brown, LaPorsha’s father. LaPorsha was sworn in Friday, March 11 by Greene County District Judge Lillie Jones Osborne, and will serve until the new commissioner for District 1 is selected in the General Election in November.
Ms. Brown also followed in her Father’s role as she was selected to serve as Vice Chairperson of the Commission. She received three votes for vice chair and Commissioner Roshanda Summerville received two votes.
The commission approved option one relative to the Greenetrack settlement on past due rent to the county for use of its share of Greenetrack property. The settlement resolution calls for $800,000 to be paid to the county by Greenetrack in five annual installments of $160,000. The specific payment plan requires an annual payment of $260,000 with $160,000 toward repayment of past rent and $100,000 in current rent payment. This rental settlement is for two years followed by a renegotiation of the current rental payment amount only. The commissioners approved the settlement on a four to one vote with Commissioner Corey Cockrell voting no.
Commission Chairperson, Allen Turner, stated that he has signed the Resolution agreement and now Greenetrack’s CEO and President, Luther Winn, must sign for it to go into effect.
The county’s Roads Department capital funding project received unanimous approval by the commissioners as well as the Franchise Agreement with Charter Communications regarding broadband services in the county. At the work session held March 9, the commission was informed by Robert Smith Charter Communications that the federal government is financing the broad band in specific areas of Greene County. The franchise agreement is needed for the right-of-way, which will provide a 5% feee to the county when the project is operating. Once the network is in, it will be possible to extend the service to other areas of the county.
The commission approved a Positive Pay arrangement for all bank accounts assuring that only listed checks will be paid.
An Employee Association bank account, which was dormant with a minimal balance, will be closed with the funds to be deposited in the general fund account.
The commission approved establishing a rainy day fund and a public works fund with $500,000 from bingo monies allocated to each fund. The commission also adopted a Fund Balance Policy requiring reserve funds. This policy was approved with four votes for; commissioner Corey Cockrell voted no.
In the commission’s recent work session the county’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds were discussed, noting that the county has $204,646.78 remaining and an additional $787,733.50 allocated. The commission approved a plan for expending these funds which include the following: Each commission district would be allocated up to $100,000 for qualified ARPA projects; $300,000 to the Highway Department; $150,000 for Essential Worker Pay; approximately $5,000 each to the Activity Center and the Highway Department for multi media upgrades; Approximately $10,000 each for Courthouse and Activity Center bathroom renovations. Remaining funds to be allocated later.
The commission approved a request from the Greene County Board of Education for an agreement that the county will turn over to the board moneys from millage taxes already prescribed to the board.
CSFO, Macaroy Underwood presented the commission an update on FY 2022 refunding bonds cited below.

County Refunds Bonds, Saving $336,000
Greene County Commission approved its Series 2022 Refunding Bonds in the par amount of $3,655,000 to refund its Series 2007 Bonds generating a savings of $336,316.81 or 8.72% savings. Several weeks ago, the county authorized Piper Sandler & Co. and finance to review current market conditions to determine if the county’s outstanding debt could be refunded (refinanced) at a lower interest rate to save more than 3%. This process is similar to refinancing your home mortgage and it leads to issuance of the County’s Series 2022 Refunding bonds reducing the county’s annual debt service payments by $50,000 per year from 2023 through 2037 (over the remaining life of the bonds). The annual debt service payments are secured by Road & Bridge Ad Valorem Tax and Capital Improvement fund revenue; therefore, the county will have additional funds for road projects over the next 14 years.

Greene County Commission approves $10 million budget; approves $150,000 for purchase of new ambulance

At its regular October meeting on Tuesday afternoon, the Greene County Commission approved a $10 million dollar operating budget for the fiscal year beginning October 1, 2021 through September 30, 2022.

This budget includes $3.4 million dollar General Fund, which covers most expenses of the county. It also includes a $2.5 million Gasoline Fund and other special funds which support the Highway Department and maintenance of roads and bridges in the county. It also includes funds to satisfy bond issues for the courthouse and jail construction.

The Commission also approved a supplementary budget for additional positions in the Sheriff’s Department including School Resource Officers and additional deputies and jail positions. This budget also includes payment of a vehicle lease for new cars and vans.

Agreements have been worked out between the Commission and the Board of Education for the payment for the resource officers. A separate agreement has been worked out with Sheriff Jonathan Benison for payment
of the other additional personnel and an addition $75,000 a month ($900,000) a year for the Commission in funding from electronic bingo, for the general use of the county and to help with new capital expenditures or matching Federal funds for special projects.

Under these agreements, the Board of Education and Sheriff’s Department must advance three months payment for staffing and the Sheriff must provide the $75,000 payment by the fifth of the month. The Sheriff provided a check for $163,000, which included the $88,000 advance and $75,000 for the month of September, however, the Sheriff still owes the $75,000 for October.

Commissioners Lester Brown and Tennyson Smith pointed out that the Sheriff also has not returned vehicles he promised to return to the county, after the Commission agreed to lease new ones. Brown also said the Sheriff receives funds from the jail telephone and commissary which he does not report or give to the county General Fund. The Commission agreed to write the Sheriff to return the cars by Friday Noon and pay the $75,000 in bingo funds for October.

The County Attorney pointed out that if the Sheriff or the Board of Education does not honor its payments under the agreements that the County Commission will not be obligated to pay the supplementary staff on these budgets.

Macaroy Underwood, County CFO reported that $381,781 in bills had been paid for September and an additional $76,012 in electronic payments had been made. He also asked the Commission to approve two budget amendments for payments made to staff for extra service during the pandemic.

The Commission approved an allocation of $150,000 for a new ambulance for the Greene County EMS, from the county’s $787,0000 allocation from the American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds. This will be a truck mounted ambulance that can be used for wrecks on the Interstate and other tasks in rural areas of the county. The Commission had previously approved $90,000 in ARP funds for an ambulance but this will only support a van type ambulance, which is not suitable for all tasks. The new ambulance will not be available until July 2022, but the Greene County EMS may be able to get a loaner model until the new ambulance is delivered.

In other actions, The Greene County Commission:

• Approved a resolution for Workmen’s Compensation for employees.

• Approved a Weather Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday for February 25-27, 2022.

• Approved advertising for a full-time worker for the Solid Waste Department.

• Approved continuation of the CIMS contract, for computer maintenance; and purchased an ice machine for the Highway Department.

• Approved an incentive payment of $3,000 for full time employees and $1,500 for part time employees of the county, for pandemic service, to be paid out of ARP funds.

Sheriff reports $500,813.23 in bingo gaming distribution for May from four licensed facilities

On Tuesday, June 29, 2021, Greene County Sheriff’s Department issued a listing of the distributions for May, 2021, totaling $500,813,28 from four bingo gaming facilities licensed by Greene County Sheriff Jonathan Benison.  The May distribution reported by the sheriff does not include the additional $71,000 from Greenetrack, Inc., which distributes to the same recipients, independent of the sheriff. The bingo facilities distributing through the sheriff include Frontier, River’s Edge, Palace, Bama Bingo. A distribution for May from the recently licensed Marvel City Bingo was not included in the Sheriff’s report.  The recipients of the May distributions from bingo gaming include the Greene County Commission, Greene County Sheriff’s Department, the cities of Eutaw, Forkland, Union, Boligee, the Greene County Board of Education and the Greene County Hospital (Health System).    Sub charities include Children’s Policy Council, Guadalupan Multicultural Services, Greene County Golf Course, Branch Heights Housing Authority, Department of Human Resources and the Greene County Library. Bama Bingo gave a total of $114,990 to the following: Greene County Commission, $30,570; Greene County Sheriff’s $33,750; City of Eutaw, $9,250; and the Towns of Forkland, Union and Boligee each, $3,875; Greene County Board of Education, $10,500, and the Greene County Health System,  $12,500. Sub Charities, each received $1,132.50     Frontier (Dream, Inc.) gave a total of $114,990 to the following: Greene County Commission, $30,570; Greene County Sheriff’s Department, $33,750; City of Eutaw, $9,250; and the Towns of Forkland, Union and Boligee each, $3,875; Greene County Board  of Education, $10,500; Greene County Health System, $12,500. Sub Charities each, $1,132.50. River’s Edge (Next Level Leaders and Tishabee Community Center Tutorial Program) gave a total of $114,994.98 to the following:  Greene County Commission, $30,570; Greene County Sheriff’s Department, $33,750; City of Eutaw, $9,250; and the Towns of Forkland, Union and Boligee  each, $3,875; Greene County Board of Education, $10,500; Greene County Health System, $12,500. Sub Charities each, $1,333.33.     Palace (TS Police Support League) gave a total of $155,838.30 to the following: Greene County Commission, $41,358; Greene County Sheriff’s Department, $45,765; City of Eutaw, $12,543; and the Towns of Forkland, Union and Boligee each, $5,254.50; Greene County Board of Education, $14,238 and the Greene County Health System, $16,950; Sub Charities each, 1,536.80.  

Lottery-Gambling Bills leave many unresolved questions for Greene County

News Analysis by John Zippert, Co-Publisher

The Lottery-Gambling Bill which passed the Alabama State Senate failed in the Alabama House of Representatives on the last day of the session. The bill as passed by the Senate created an Alabama Lottery with most proceeds going to higher education scholarships and established casino gambling at six designated locations in the state, with proceeds going to the state’s general fund for broadband expansion, rural health care support and other priorities. The bill provided for casino gambling with slot machines and table games, such as Blackjack, Roulette and others, at places in the state that previously had dog racing and some new locations. Casino gaming was specifically provided at Greenetrack in Greene County, Mobile, Birmingham, Shorter (Victoryland in Macon County), Dothan and a new facility in the northeast corner of the state (near Chattanooga, TN.). The lottery and gaming regulation was placed under the control of a statewide commission and tax revenues flowed to the state. There was also a provision that some portion of the taxes would be returned to the local jurisdictions where gaming facilities were located. The Porch Creek Band of Choctaw Indians that own and operate electronic bingo gambling, on tribal land, at Atmore, Wetumpka and Montgomery would be allowed to upgrade their gambling operations to table games, under Federal regulations. The Porch Creek interests were allowed to compete for the new location in NE Alabama. There were also provisions allowing a compact between the State of Alabama and the Porch Creek Band relative to revenues from gambling. There were many groups and interests in Greene County who opposed the bill because it did not answer some issues and questions they had. Greene County voters overwhelming approved Constitutional Amendment 743, in November 2003, which allowed electronic bingo in the county. The licensing and payment of monthly fees and charitable contributions is governed by the Sheriff of Greene County. Currently there are six licensed bingo operations in Greene County – Greenetrack, Bama Bingo, Frontier, River’s Edge, Palace and Marvel City. There were five operating bingo enterprises during the last legislative session. These bingo operations employ 300 to 500 persons in their operations, most of whom are Greene County residents. Greenetrack is responsible for approximately 100 of the employed positions. For the month of April 2021, the five bingo operations contributed $600,948.87, based on fees per machine, to the Greene County Commission, Greene County Board of Education, Greene County Health System, Greene County Sheriff’s Department, the cities of Eutaw, Forkland, Union and Boligee, as well as a group of non-profit charitable organizations. Greenetrack provided $71,000 to the same government and municipal agencies. These agencies receive over $7 million a year in revenues from the bingo operations. The heads of these agencies are quick to say without these bingo revenues they would have a difficult time in providing necessary services to the residents of Greene County. The major unresolved questions in the effort to create statewide lottery and casino gambling were what happens to the other bingo operations in Greene County, if Greenetrack becomes the only officially designated gambling site in Greene County. What happens to the other bingo halls in Greene County? Will they have to close? Will they have to lay off their employees? What guarantees are there to the county agencies, including the schools, health system and municipal governments, that receive $7 million a year in revenues from bingo, that these funds will be continued or replaced with other funds? The lottery/gambling bill died in the legislature this session but it will surely be revived again in a future special or regular legislative session. The questions we have raised in this article and that are on the minds of Greene County residents remain unresolved. Greene County is a special case, we and Lowndes County, already have an established electronic bingo industry, which was not taken into consideration in the debate on the lottery/gambling bill in this year’s session. We must take actions to assure our interests and concerns are considered in future discussions of gambling in Alabama. The Democrat will stay on top of this issue and welcomes letters and comments from our readers.

Marvel City Bingo, latest bingo facility licensed by Sheriff Benison Bingo gaming distributes $600,948.87 for month of April

 On Monday, May 24, 2021, Greene County Sheriff’s Department issued a listing of the distributions for April, 2021, totaling $600,948.87 from four bingo gaming facilities, including Marvel City Bingo, the latest facility licensed by Greene County Sheriff Jonathan Benison. The April distribution reported by the sheriff does not include the additional $71,000 from Greenetrack, Inc., which distributes to the same recipients, independent of the sheriff. The bingo facilities distributing through the sheriff include Frontier, River’s Edge, Palace, Bama Bingo and the latest Marvel City Bingo.  The recipients of the April distributions from bingo gaming include the Greene County Commission, Greene County Sheriff’s Department, the cities of Eutaw, Forkland, Union, Boligee, the Greene County Board of Education and the Greene County Hospital (Health System).      Sub charities include Children’s Policy Council, Guadalupan Multicultural Services, Greene County Golf Course, Branch Heights Housing Authority, Department of Human Resources and the Greene County Library.   Bama Bingo gave a total of $114,990 to the following: Greene County Commission, $30,570; Greene County Sheriff’s $33,750; City of Eutaw, $9,250; and the Towns of Forkland, Union and Boligee each, $3,875; Greene County Board of Education, $10,500, and the Greene County Health System,  $12,500. Sub Charities, each received $1,132.50 Frontier (Dream, Inc.) gave a total of $114,990 to the following: Greene County Commission, $30,570; Greene County Sheriff’s Department, $33,750; City of Eutaw, $9,250; and the Towns of Forkland, Union and Boligee each, $3,875; Greene County Board  of Education, $10,500; Greene County Health System, $12,500. Sub Charities each, $1,132.50.   River’s Edge (Next Level Leaders and Tishabee Community Center Tutorial Program) gave a total of $114,994.98 to the following:  Greene County Commission, $30,570; Greene County Sheriff’s Department, $33,750; City of Eutaw, $9,250; and the Towns of Forkland, Union and Boligee  each, $3,875; Greene County Board of Education, $10,500; Greene County Health System, $12,500. Sub Charities each, $1,333.33.     Palace (TS Police Support League) gave a total of $140,983.89 to the following: Greene County Commission, $37,478.82; Greene County Sheriff’s Department, $41,377.50; City of Eutaw, $11,340.50; and the Towns of Forkland, Union and Boligee each, $4,750.75; Greene County Board of Education, $12,873 and the Greene County Health System, $15,325; Sub Charities each, 1,389.47. Marvel City Bingo gave a total of $114,990 to the following: Greene County Commission, $30,570; Greene County Sheriff’s $33,750; City of Eutaw, $9,250; and the Towns of Forkland, Union and Boligee each, $3,875; Greene County Board of Education, $10,500, and the Greene County Health System,  $12,500. Sub Charities, each received $1,132.50

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. 

Bingo facilities contribute $485,958.87 for the month of March

On Wednesday, April 21, 2021, Greene County Sheriff’s Department reported a total distribution of $485,958.87 for the month of February from four licensed bingo gaming operations in the county. The bingo distributions were contributed by Frontier, River’s Edge, Palace and Bama Bingo. Greenetrack distributed an additional $71,000. The recipients of the February distributions from bingo gaming include the Greene County Commission, Greene County Sheriff’s Department, the cities of Eutaw, Forkland, Union, Boligee, the Greene County Board of Education and the Greene County Hospital (Health System). Sub charities include Children’s Policy Council, Guadalupan Multicultural Services, Greene County Golf Course, Branch Heights Housing Authority, Department of Human Resources and the Greene County Library. Bama Bingo gave a total of $114,990.90 to the following: Greene County Commission, $30,570; Greene County Sheriff’s $33,750; City of Eutaw, $9,250; and the Towns of Forkland, Union and Boligee each, $3,875; Greene County Board of Education, $10,500, and the Greene County Health System, $12,500. Sub Charities, each received $1,132.50. Frontier (Dream, Inc.) gave a total of $114,990.00 to the following: Greene County Commission, $30,570; Greene County Sheriff’s Department, $33,750; City of Eutaw, $9,250; and the Towns of Forkland, Union and Boligee each, $3,875; Greene County Board of Education, $10,500; Greene County Health System, $12,500. Sub Charities each, $1,132.50. River’s Edge (Next Level Leaders and Tishabee Community Center Tutorial Program) gave a total of $114,994.98 to the following: Greene County Commission, $30,570; Greene County Sheriff’s Department, $33,750; City of Eutaw, $9,250; and the Towns of Forkland, Union and Boligee each, $3,875; Greene County Board of Education, $10,500; Greene County Health System, $12,500. Sub Charities each, $1,333.33. Palace (TS Police Support League) gave a total of $140,983.89 to the following: Greene County Commission, $37,478.82; Greene County Sheriff’s Department, $41,377.50; City of Eutaw, $11,340.50; and the Towns of Forkland, Union and Boligee each, $4,750.75; Greene County Board of Education, $12,873 and the Greene County Health System, $15,325; Sub Charities each, 1,389.47.

Commission dismisses Hank Sanders as county attorney after 25+ years of service; hires white Birmingham law firm

Attorney Mark Parnell
Senator Hank Sanders

At its regular meeting, held Monday, April 12, 2021, the Greene County Commission selected a new attorney to serve as its legal representative. Attorney Mark Parnell, of Parnell and Thompson of Birmingham, was hired on the vote of three commissioners, Chairperson Roshanda Summerville, Commissioners Cory Cockrell and Allen Turner, Jr. At the opening of the commission’s meeting, before the printed agenda was voted on, Commissioner Corey Cockrell stated he had two items to add to the agenda: Building storm shelters with bingo funds; and Hiring an Attorney. The item on hiring an attorney had not been discussed at the previous work session. The agenda was adopted with the additions. Following a lengthly executive session, the commission acted on the original items on the agenda and approved the added item concerning building storm shelters with bingo funds. No additional information was presented regarding the storm shelters. The final item on the agenda related to hiring an attorney. Chairperson Summerville called for a vote on Candidate 1 (the candidate’s name was not stated). Commissioner Cockrell offered a motion to approved Candidate 1; Turner seconded the motion and Summerville voted with Cockrell and Turner. The chair declared that Candidate 1 was selected, then called for a motion to adjourn the meeting. Two other candidates the commission had considered, Attorney Hank Sanders and Attorney Prince Chestnut, were not presented for a vote. Reportedly, the Commission Chairperson selected a committee to interview applicants for the attorney’s position. Seemingly, this committee was composed of Chairperson Summerville, Commissioner Cockrell, and staff Brenda Burke. Burke later acknowledge that the extent of her role was to prepare the advertisements and set up the interviews for Mark Parnell and Prince Chestnut. CFO Macaroy Underwood was invited to sit in when the applicants were interviewed. Senator Hank Sanders stated that he did submit an application but did not receive a notice regarding an interview. According to Sanders, following the commission’s work session on Wednesday, April 7, he was asked to come to the commission’s office to discuss a financial matter with Underwood, Summerville and Cockrell. Sanders said that at the close of that meeting, Commissioner Cockrell asked him to discuss his “strong points.” At no point during the commission’s meeting or immediately following the meeting, did the commission offer any additional information to the public regarding the change in attorneys. When Chairperson Summerville was asked, following Monday’s meeting, who was Candidate 1, she deferred to Ms. Brenda Burke, who responded that she did not know. Burke indicated she had nothing to do with this. Commissioner Turner was asked who was Candidate 1, and he referred this to the Chairperson. Ms. Summerville was cautioned that this was public information and she had an obligation to tell the community who had just been hired as the Commission’s attorney. At that point, Ms. Summerville revealed the name of Attorney Mark Parnell. In separate follow-up discussions with Commissioners Smith, Brown and Turner, all three emphatically stated that they did not know Attorney Parnell, had never met him or spoken with him. Smith and Brown did not vote to hire Parnell, but Turner did. In later attempts to seek further comments from the Commission Chairperson, she only replied with no comment, and with the statement, “You must ask this of the whole commission.” In its September, 14, 2020 meeting, the Greene County Commission, through an added on agenda item, agreed to advertise for an attorney. At that time Commission Chairperson Allen Turner, Jr. stated that the current attorney, Senator Hank Sanders, was serving without a contract. He stated the contract had expired. At that same meeting, Commissioner Lester Brown offered a motion to provide a contract for the attorney and this was adopted. Brown stated at that time that his motion was intended to replace the agenda item to advertise for an attorney. Chairman Turner disagreed. Nothing else was made known about an attorney’s search until the April 12, 2021 commission meeting. At press time, Brenda Burke submitted the following statement: After completing the process, the Greene County Commission hired Parnell and Thompson as legal counsel.  Chairman Summerville stated: “Our decision is in the best interest of Greene County and the residents we serve.  We would like to thank Attorney Sanders for his years of service.” Other Business of the Commission The Commission acted on the following items: Adopted the Division C Regional Hazard Mitigation Plan. *Approved $15,000 for new control panel for jail lights from Capital Improvement. *Ratified $6,412 for new computer for Probate Judge’s Office from Capital Improvement. *Approved Amended lease agreement for the Greene County Sheriff Department. *Adopted the resolution regarding the Citizen Participation Plan (CDBG Grant). Adopted the resolution for Fair Housing (CDBG Grant) *Adopted resolutions regarding Standards of Conduct, Procurement Methods, Minimizing Displacement and Section 504 Transition Plan (CDBG Grant). *Authorize the Engineer to order three dump trucks and bodies, totaling $462,603. *Approved proposal from JM Wood Auction for the sale of existing dump trucks in June with a guarantee net of $457,560 and declare trucks as surplus. *Approved proposal from Jackson Security for camera surveillance equipment in area near old shop at cost of $13,313.75. *Approved proposal from Premier Electric to provide power for surveillance equipment in area near old shop at cost of $2,140. *Approved bid from ST Bunn for resurfacing and striping of CR 133 from 131 to the interstate 20/59 for cost of $268,526. *Approved proposal for Dynamic Civil Solution, Inc. for Hydrologic and Hydraulic Study for Miller Road, for 2020 FEMA Storm Event at cost of $11,250. *Approved proposal for Dynamic Civil Solution, Inc. for Hydrologic and Hydraulic Study for CR 97 for 2020 FEM A Storm Event at cost of $11,250. *Approved Brandy Eubanks as District 3 PARA Board Member. *Approved Gavin Edgars as District 2 E 9-11 Board Member. *Approved financial report and payment of claims as presented by CFO, Mac Underwood. Underwood reported the following claims paid in March 2021: Accounts Payable – $267,120.14; Payroll Transfer – $230.052.50; Fiduciary – $195,910.29 totaling $693,082.93. Electronic claims paid totaled $75,093.69. Underwood reported the following bank totals; Citizen Trust Bank – $4,486,650; Merchant & Farmers Bank – $3,551,307.69; Bond Sinking Funds – $1,085,793; Bank of New York – $715,920.40.