Water board makes statement

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 7, 2006

To the Editor:

On behalf of board members, Johnnie M. Leashore, vice-chairman; Bennie Ruth Crenshaw, secretary/treasurer; Samuel L. Randolph, director; and the Rev. Lee Goodwin, director, this statement is issued in an effort to respond to some concerns published in the media about ethics charters being filed against them.

First and foremost, the above named directors have no response to the merits of published reports about a complaint with the Alabama Ethics Commission concerning them as no such complaint has been served upon them, nor has either of them seen any such filing. Suffice it to say, the appropriate action will be taken when necessary.

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The above directors of the board will state that the Water Works and Sewer Board of the City of Selma (Board) is a separate organization from the City of Selma. The Board is organized under laws which make it a public corporation providing water utility service and is governed by a five-member board of directors, of which the above four members serve.

Three members are council members for the city and the Rev. Goodwin is a private citizen.

The fifth member is the chairman, William K. Hicks, who is also a private citizen who has been ill for over 14 months and has not attended the duties of his appointment. The current directors, except Mr. Hicks, have operated the utility service forthright and as faithful, hardworking stewards of the assets and liabilities given to them since November 2004. Neither of the four directors allegedly mentioned in the reported ethics complaint were members on the board when salaries and compensation were set back in 1999 and other times. Such matters were inherited and, in fact, these four directors began investigating the issue in 2005.

The four above directors were made aware of legal opinions by prior board counsel of state law prohibiting the increase or decrease of their salaries during their term. There is a provision which allows certain state employees to voluntarily release some compensation, however, that may not apply to the above since they are not state employees. The board has had the matter researched and brought before the Selma City Council in an effort to ratify, fix and affirm all such salaries and compensation so some action could be taken by the board. The Selma City Council opted not to take action. The Board, after bringing the matter to the Selma City Council but prior to the Council’s decision, also requested an official ruling from the Attorney General’s Office of this state in an effort to resolve any disputes about salaries and compensation. Such ruling is pending and upon receiving the same the Board will act accordingly.

The public display by Mr. Gene Hisel in claiming that he has filed an ethics complaint is late in that the matter has already been turned over to the Attorney General’s Office by the Board. Mr. Hisel’s actions seem to be more of his effort to stay in the limelight for political opportunity in his quest to be mayor; however, his actions are couched in pure racism as he claims to have filed a complaint against the four African American members of the Board who never made any decisions on salary issues, but not against the Caucasian member, Mr. Hicks, who made such decisions during his tenure and term, and receives more salary compensation than any Board member and receives health insurance benefits of which there is no record of any prior Board action and no other Board member presently receives.

The Board issues this statement about these activities to make clear that neither director accused has participated in any action to set their salary, but has taken steps to investigate the matter and will right any wrongs, if any, once official word is received from the Attorney General’s Office, including prosecution of those who are believed to have willfully violated the law.

Johnnie M. Leashore, Bennie Ruth Crenshaw,

Samuel L. Randolph, Lee Goodwin, director