Selma Council splits on pro tem decisionPublished 12:27am Wednesday, November 7, 2012
A standing room only crowd was on hand Monday evening at the George Patrick Evans Reception Hall, as each of the nine members of the Selma City Council and Selma Mayor George Evans took the oath of office.
For the most part, each of the officials took to the microphone, thanked the members of the community for electing them and made a commitment to work together the next four years.
That commitment did not come to reality, as just moments later, the new council, lead by council president Corey Bowie, appeared bitterly divided over basic procedures, primarily the election of the council president pro tem position.
Four years ago, during a similar council organizational meeting, Cecil Williamson — then serving as Ward 1 councilmember — was named the council president pro tem. At that meeting, the most experienced councilmember, Ward 7 councilmember Bennie Ruth Crenshaw was not in attendance.
Shortly into their new terms, Dr. Geraldine Allen, who had been elected in 2008 as council president, died, leaving Williamson to serve out the remaining years of the term as council president. At that point, then Ward 8 councilmember Bowie was named council president pro tem.
Fast forward to Monday evening. With Crenshaw in attendance, and remaining the most experienced member of the council, the council took up the nomination process.
Ward 5 councilmember Sam Randolph nominated Crenshaw, while Ward 2 councilmember Susan Keith nominated Williamson. Ward 4 councilmember Angela Benjamin nominated herself.
In the end, five members of the council — which included Williamson, Keith, Ward 3 councilmember Greg Bjelke, Ward 6 councilmember B.L. Tucker and Bowie — each voted for Williamson, leaving Benjamin with one vote and Crenshaw with two.
Crenshaw herself abstained.
Following the vote, Randoph protested the vote, saying Williamson should not have cast a vote in the matter, as the pro tem position comes with additional salary.
City attorney Jimmy Nunn provided council members evidence from the League of Municipalities that Williamson could in fact vote for himself as long as he had agreed to not take the additional earnings, a point that Williamson confirmed Monday evening.
Before the votes – of even nominations — Crenshaw had an idea such a matter was about to happen as she said the council used to have an unwritten rule when it came to the council president pro tem position.
“It had always gone to the councilmember with the most experience — the most years in service,” Crenshaw said. “I remember that at the beginning of one term, I had five votes for the position, but on the council was Jean Martin, who had been on the council longer than me. I made sure my votes went to her.
“I was following protocol then, had thought protocol would have been followed four years ago.”
The council also adopted new rules and procedures, approved the use of local banks for city funds and reappointed city clerk Ivy Harrison and city treasurer Cynthia Mitchell.
The council will have their first, regular scheduled meeting Tuesday, Nov. 13 at the Selma City Hall beginning at 5 p.m.