Evans’ powers in question

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 12, 2004

After spending the first meeting trying to maintain an air of civility, the gloves came off Monday night as the Selma City Council had it out over an ordinance to remove committee appointment powers from President George Evans and give them to the city council as a whole.

The ordinance, which was introduced along with several others during City Attorney Jimmy Nunn’s time to address the council, seemed to catch Evans off guard.

“I beg your pardon?” Evans asked. “This is an ordinance to take the powers away from me to appoint standing committees?”

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“This is an ordinance that was requested by several city council members,” Nunn replied.

“Something is really wrong with this when you’re going to circumvent me again,” Evans said.

The issue was first raised when Evans announced his selections for various committees and committee chairs during last week’s special called meeting.

Apparently some members of the council wanted newly elected Ward 8 representative Jannie Venter to head the Public Safety committee. Evans selected freshman Reid Cain for the seat.

“I appointed five committees and I placed certain people over as chairpersons and now the council is going to take that back because I didn’t put who they wanted in place,” Evans said. “Because I put Mr. Reid Cain over there, they don’t want him and that’s a fact.

It’s wrong. It’s wrong to circumvent me as president.

You give the mayor his power back but strip the president of one of those powers of appointment. There’s something wrong with that.”

Later Evans said, “I don’t know why he’s not good enough to be chairperson of a committee.”

Cain added that he had tried to call two meetings of the committee, but so far neither of the other two members had attended.

Though the committees have no actual power, are advisors, and serve for one year and control no money, the appointments quickly became a sore spot.

“We had a good meeting and did some really positive things and all of a sudden this came up and really these people only serve one year and they’re advisement,” Evans said after the meeting.

Evans initially appointed councilwoman Bennie Ruth Crenshaw to the seat, but Crenshaw declined in favor of the newly created finance committee chair.

Freshman councilman Johnnie Leashore said the ordinance wasn’t a matter of circumventing Evans’ power, it was merely exercising the right of the council.

Leashore countered by saying the only power the chair has is what the council has invested in it.

He said whatever power Evans has is invested (by) this council

“If this council wants to differ from previous years, and we’re going to do that Mr. Chairman I want to go up front,” Leashore said. “This council is going exercise all the functions that we’re capable. That’s what this ordinance is about.”

“You have just come on the council and I have been here four years and all of a sudden you have all of the answers,” Evans told Leashore. “I will not sit silent.

Treat people like you want to be treated.”

“We’re not saying you’re not worthy,” Leashore said. “What we’re trying to do is exercise our rights.”

Crenshaw then brought into the discussion the council retreat before they were sworn in, last week.

Apparently, many of these issues were discussed and Crenshaw claimed five of the council members told Evans they did not trust him.

Evans said four members told him that.

“Don’t assume that these people can’t think for themselves and feel for themselves,” Crenshaw said.

Evans added that he had also been told that he was the “white people’s candidate.”

“I’m not going to change. Believe what you believe and do what you want to do,” he said. “I was voted here by the majority of the people.

I’m the peoples’ candidate. The people put me here, I won’t quit.”

Crenshaw later clarified that Evans had been told that the perception is that he was the white people’s candidate.

The council met early Monday morning with the mayor and the various department heads.

Crenshaw complained that she had seen Cain speaking with a department head against the instructions of the mayor.

“When you did that, I came back to the group and said he may not be worthy,” she said.

Cain said the conversation was small talk and not out of line.

He called Crenshaw’s statement against him a false statement.

“I told the police chief I was looking forward to working with him as public safety chair,” Cain said.

As the meeting came to a close, Crenshaw said that she might support Cain as Public Safety chair.

“As long as we follow what was presented to us today by the mayor I just want to publicly say to Mr. Cain that possibly I will (support you).

You need to understand if you step out of bounds I would definitely like to see a change,” Crenshaw said. “I think the public safety commission has been the cause of total chaos in the city. I really don’t want to see the same thing happen again.”

Councilwoman Jean Martin stepped to Cain’s defense and pointed out that Venter appeared to have a similar conversation with a department head as well.

It took Dr. Geraldine Allen to bring the discussion back to business.

She made a motion to table the ordinance and move forward with the agenda.

It passed with an 8-1 vote; Leashore was the only dissenting vote.

After the meeting Allen said she wasn’t disappointed by the tone of the meeting.

“Not really,” she said. “I think we did very well. I think it will take time. Remember we are a neophyte council. As we go along it will get better.”

The discussion of the ordinance to remove Evans’ power wasn’t the only time circumventing the president was discussed.

An ordinance was introduced to repeal outgoing councilman James Durry’s ordinance stipulating that his leftover monies be dedicated only for a recreation area near the fishpond in Ward 8.

Durry introduced the ordinance, which can only be repealed by a council member who voted yes on the original, in the last meeting of the previous council.

The new ordinance would give control of the monies to current Ward 8 councilwoman Venter.

“That’s wrong as far as I’m concerned,” Evans said.

Evans said it is standard practice for outgoing council members to dictate how they want leftover discretionary money spent.

Crenshaw countered by saying Durry had inherited much of the money from former Ward 8 Councilman Yusef Salaam and he should have passed it on to Venter.

Because councilman Sam Randolph and Crenshaw voted against the ordinance the first time, only Evans or Martin could offer a motion to accept the ordinance to repeal.

Evans declined but after some deliberation Martin moved to repeal.

“I will vote to repeal. I had a problem, although Mr. Durry had done a great job, with it even though I voted for it,” Martin said.

Martin said she was against the original ordinance because it allocated the money to the children of Ward 8, rather than the entire city.

Leashore seconded the motion to repeal and it passed 6-3 with Evans, Cecil Williamson and Cain voting against.

The resolution to repeal is pending a ruling on whether or not the second had to come from a councilman that had voted yes originally. If that is the case, Evans will not give his second, effectively killing the ordinance, at least temporarily.

“We’re just going to have to find some other way to circumvent you,” Crenshaw told him.

“Make sure you do it right,” Evans said.