Closed session reveals little about missing vehicle

Published 12:21 am Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A surprise closed-door session during the Selma City Council meeting left angry expressions on some faces and cryptic comments from others.

The executive session was requested near the end of the marathon open meeting by Council member Susan Keith, who said she wanted to discuss “good name and character” and “possible litigation.”

The Alabama Open Meetings Act allows for a public body to go into executive or closed-door session for nine statutory reasons. Among those are job performance, general reputation and character, physical condition, professional competence and mental health. The Manual for Alabama Public Officials says discussions concerning an individual’s “general reputation and character” are subject to executive session for all individuals — except when the discussion concerns an individual’s “job performance of certain high level public employees and officials.”

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Tuesday night, those included in the executive session were Selma Police Chief William Riley III, Mayor George Evans and City Attorney Jimmy Nunn. All council members except Bennie Ruth Crenshaw went into the session. Crenshaw left council chambers after the remainder of the council excused themselves and went into their offices behind chambers. Council member Sam Randolph did not attend the open meeting.

Keith brought up the issue shortly after Council member Cecil Williamson asked the mayor for a copy of the state attorney general’s report on an investigation into missing cars and money from the police department.

In April Evans said he, Riley and Nunn held a conference call with Gene Sisson, division chief of investigations for the attorney general’s office, to find out what happened to thousands of dollars and several cars that went missing as evidence from the Selma Police Department more than 1 1/2 years ago.

Evans said at the time the attorney general’s office received a file to investigate the missing money from the police department Jan. 10,2008. At the time then-police chief Jimmy Martin reported the money missing. Mayor James Perkins Jr., who was in office at the time, reported that the case had been turned over to the attorney general’s office, but investigators could not get any cooperation.

That case and the probe into two missing cars that cost the police department $8,600 to settle are still open, according to Evans.

“The investigator said he couldn’t put anything in writing because the case is still open,” the mayor told the council Tuesday night.

Evans added the investigator said the case was left open in case something developed.

All this started several weeks ago after Williamson asked about a missing Cadillac during an open council meeting. At the time, Riley told the council the Cadillac was not missing.

But an investigation by a reporter for The Selma Times-Journal revealed the 1991 Cadillac was missing after it was taken into evidence in 2006, similar to the other cars. Williamson confirmed the Cadillac and what would be done about it was part of the closed-door session.

“They say it’s not missing,” Williamson said. “He doesn’t know because the record keeping was so sloppy when the Cadillac went missing.”

Williamson said the missing vehicles and money are issues because the statute of limitations has not run out on theft. He added that the executive session was warranted because Keith mentioned names.

At one point during the executive session, the voices of Keith and Riley could be heard outside the meeting room. When asked about it, Riley declined to answer specifically.

“We’re just trying to find out if anything is missing,” the police chief said. “We’re just trying to find out what’s going on. That’s all.”