Depositions taken in suit agains city

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 21, 2005

The Selma Times-Journal

Depositions ended Oct. 13 in a whistleblower lawsuit against the city of

Selma and Mayor James Perkins Jr.

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Former finance director Robert L. Sanders filed the lawsuit in November 2004 alleging he was terminated from that position in retaliation for his pointing out accounting irregularities and his opposition to the mayor’s plan to annex the Valley Grande area into the city.

“He duped the citizens of Selma by hiding certain information,” Sanders said. “One of the reasons this suit needs to get to court is because it exposes these cover-ups.”

Lawyers for Perkins filed a summary judgment in U.S. District Court in Mobile Monday asking the lawsuit to be dismissed, claiming there is not sufficient evidence to pursue the case.

City Attorney Jimmy Nunn said they are not commenting on the case. He said attorneys with the Alabama Municipal Insurance Company are handling the case.

According to published reports, Perkins claims he did not terminate Sanders, it was the city council that did not re-appoint him.

Sanders became the finance director for the city in April 2001. He claims that within months of his employment, Perkins began meetings on annexing areas within seven miles of the city, including the Valley Grande area. Sanders says the plan was to go through the legislature, denying the people an opportunity to vote on the issue.

“I told the mayor

that was a dead horse,” Sanders said. “The people in Valley Grande were not interested in annexation.”

In fact, Sanders claims he told the mayor Valley Grande residents had plans to incorporate if the issue of annexation was ever brought up again.

As to the issue of annexation, Sanders says, “my job was to shut up and do my job. And I did.”

But, Sanders says the straw that broke the camel’s back came in August 2002. According to the lawsuit, “On or about Aug. 8, 2002, Mayor Perkins instructed the newest employee of the finance department to change some entries in the accounting records of the city of Selma. The changes were made, generating errors in the end of month reports. As a result of compromising the accounting system, Sanders could no longer attest that the financial records of the city of Selma were accurate or reliable.”

According to Sanders, the errors were corrected, a report filed with the city’s auditors, and the matter would have stayed private as far as he was concerned, if not for the termination of his appointment by the Selma City Council.

“He (Perkins) was moving money around to circumvent the council’s budget. He was caught,” Sanders said. “That was the beginning of the end.”

On Oct. 24, 2002, the council re-appointed Sanders to position of finance director. “On Nov. 25, 2002, they came back and un-reappointed me. I was terminated at that time. I thought the council was aware that the mayor had meddled in the books.”

However, since that time and after talking with several council members, Sanders is now convinced they had no knowledge of the incident.

“I was fired because I told the truth and I told it to the person who I should have told it to,” Sanders said.