Heated meeting draws large crowdPublished 12:31pm Thursday, November 15, 2012
Dadeville City Council meeting Tuesday dissolved into a shouting match of questions and accusations as more than 75 people piled into city hall to voice their support for Mayor Joe Smith.
A main point of contention was the stripping of the mayor’s appointing powers, which was instituted by Ordinance 481, passed by the council and former mayor Mike Ingram in a special called meeting Oct. 29.
That change in city government became quickly relevant with the main agenda item of appointing city officers.
“I’ve been here 22 years,” Smith said. “But they passed an ordinance saying I didn’t have any say-so except voting as one councilman.”
Smith and the council voted to appoint David Barbour police chief. Then came the vote for fire chief.
“Kenny Thompson has been our chief for a long, long time, and I think we’ve got one of the best volunteer fire departments in the state of Alabama,” Smith said, drawing applause and amens from the crowd.
Smith moved to reappoint Thompson and Councilman Mickey Tarpley seconded it. The other four council members did not vote for Thompson.
That’s when the crowd erupted.
“Three months shy of retirement,” one shouted.
“You ought not do that to him,” another added.
The appointment of a fire chief was then tabled.
That was only the first time criticisms, demands and questions were shouted from outside the council meeting room.
Citizens also took issue with the council’s attempt to appoint Ingram as superintendent of utilities, arguing against the water and sewage board.
“Since we formed the water and sewer board – and we’ve always had the gas board – each one functions as its own entity,” said Councilman Randy Foster. “The attorney general’s office told the mayor and the council that it would be better if they went out and formed their own board for the utilities of the sewage and the water.
Smith spoke out against the water and sewer board, to the approval of the crowd, saying he had also once approached with the idea of a water and sewage board when he was mayor. He said he wanted to keep the utility powers with the city, in order to remain accountable to the people.
Smith wanted to table the appointment of people to be the city attorney and city clerk. The council moved to reappoint Robin Reynolds city attorney and Sharon Harrelson city clerk, despite Smith’s opinion that those appointments be tabled.
“They’re just going over him every which way they turn around,” said one person. “It’s not right.”
Smith said he thought Harrelson had been rude, hadn’t provided the minutes in what he considered a timely manner and had also told him that she didn’t work for him – problems which arose when The Record requested information about the Oct. 29 special called meeting.
“We need a new clerk,” came the opinion from the entryway, which was met by applause.
Harrelson said she was good at what she did and disagreed with Smith’s assessment.
“The little girl from the paper – after the last regular council meeting – Randy Foster and I both told (her) that the minutes were not available until they were approved at the next council meeting,” Harrelson said. “So I don’t understand why (she) came back wanting the minutes. The council has to approve the minutes … I cannot release them until they are approved.”
After also reappointing the current city inspector, Michael Richardson, the council moved to table two resolutions regarding a grant agreement for a generator. Smith argued that the city should not have to provide the matching funds required by the resolutions – that the water and sewage board should pay it. He requested more information from Reynolds.
After discussion about providing Smith with gas money for his personal vehicle, meetings to begin looking at the renovation of the McKelvey building, a garbage reimbursement request from a citizen, rewiring the city to make it possible to put up Christmas lights and getting a computer in Smith’s office, Smith then opened the floor up to anyone who wanted to speak.
“You can see tonight that these people are not going to work with this man,” said Laeman Butcher of Dadeville, who also said the council members were rude to the mayor during his swearing in. “They have made a pact that they are going to run him crazy and get him out of here. We need to stand up to this city council and let them know, one way or another, that we are not going to put up with this.”
Several council members took issue with Butcher’s accusation that they were rude to Smith.
“I was not rude to the mayor last week,” Councilwoman Patricia Potts said. “I am never rude … He cannot tell you that I was rude to him. I don’t know what you saw, but I know me, and I know who I am, and I know for a fact that I was not rude to the mayor last week.”
One person questioned why the ordinance removing the mayor’s appointing powers was proposed in the first place.
“It was before Mayor Smith took office,” Potts said. “At that time, Mike Ingram was the mayor … We made decisions with the mayor that was mayor at the time.”
No one explained the reasoning behind the ordinance.
The attending citizens brought up everything from former Mayor Mike Ingram’s continued hold on the city, to what Smith is allowed to do, to water rates, to accommodations at and legality of the new city hall being renovated at the McKelvey building.
“Who does the council answer to, if Joe won’t have any authority?” one attendee shouted. “That’s what (Reynolds) said.”
Reynolds and Foster said Smith is in charge of the day-to-day operations of the city, including supervising city employees.
“I never told him he had no power,” Reynolds said.
“Well he doesn’t,” someone else retorted.
John Marcell of Dadeville asked the council about what he saw as a “shadow government.”
“(It’s) been set up with this sewage and water board with the hiring of Mike Ingram,” Marcel said. “The power has been pulled from the mayor’s office and given to the sewage and water board. That’s what it appears to be to me. I think that oughta be addressed.”
Another person chimed in, “Anything from the day Joe Smith won ought to be reversed in a new vote,” which drew cheers from the crowd.
Council members did not comment.
The council also:
- determined that Smith cannot sign checks to pay the bills with a stamp
- explained to the citizens why Dadeville has no animal control laws – because there is nowhere to take captured animals
- changed the date of council meetings from second and fourth Tuesdays to first and third Tuesdays, effective in December