Mayor, council discuss access to department leaders

Published 8:36 pm Thursday, August 10, 2017

The Selma City Council and Mayor Darrio Melton discussed at length Tuesday what access council members have to city department heads.

The issue has repeatedly been discussed this summer and culminated with Council President Corey Bowie asking Melton if the council needed to put a request in writing to speak with a department head.

“We don’t have to put it in writing just to talk with department heads, am I correct?” Bowie asked the mayor.

Melton said council members had the same right as any citizen to discuss issues concerning them, but he would like to know anytime the operation of a department is talked about.

“If it’s anything dealing with the operation of the department, just let me know. I think it’s only fair for me to be aware that you’re meeting,” Melton said.

Melton gave an example of one council member talking with a department head about amending a budget, which he found out about after the fact.

“That’s totally unacceptable,” Melton said.

Access to and the appointment of department heads have been discussed at length this year.

The council has considered the need for the mayor to have a chief of staff and considered defunding that position in April.

The council has also had city attorney Jimmy Nunn research what positions the body has the ability to appoint. The mayor currently appoints key positions like police chief, fire chief, and other department heads.

The council, like all in Alabama, has the power to appoint the city clerk and city treasurer.

However, Nunn has advised the council it could change ordinances and use municipal code to appoint just about any department head if the majority wanted to do so.

Over the years, the Selma mayor and council have gone back and forth with who can appoint key positions like police and fire chief.

Adding to some council members’ frustration is the fact that Melton and department heads have chosen not to attend most council meetings.

However, Melton’s chief of staff Ollie Davison has been at most meetings this summer.

Melton did a mayor’s report at Tuesday’s meeting and was given a loud applause from Councilman Sam Randolph.

“I’m glad to see you, mayor. Man, I love this,” Randolph said, to which Melton responded, “It’s always good to see you too, sir.”

Among the first things council members asked him about was access to his department heads. Councilwoman Angela Benjamin said she had repeatedly attempted to meet with police chief Spencer Collier without any success and asked what the best time to meet with him would be.

Collier told Benjamin that he would adjust his schedule for a meeting if she called in advanced and added, “We have had multiple scheduled meetings, and you didn’t show up.”

Benjamin disagreed with that and said Collier had multiple canceled meetings.

“No, no, no. I think you had pneumonia once and a family emergency once — no,” Benjamin said.

Collier answered: “I will be as professional as possible — they are all documented. I’ll send over the meetings off of my schedule.”

Benjamin told him that wasn’t necessary, and she had all the information in her texts.

“But the question is when is the best time to come see you?” Benjamin asked.

Collier repeated that he would work his schedule around a time convenient for Benjamin.

“Ma’am at the end of this, if you want to tell me what day works for you, I can’t say it any clearer — I will make my schedule work,” Collier said.

Collier then went further, “I also have a boss,” to which Benjamin added, “Yes, the people of Selma.”

Collier, a former state legislator and head of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, said he reports directly to the mayor of the city.

“I report directly to the chief executive of the city. I’m not going to speak for the mayor, but I don’t think he has a problem with you or I meeting. I just don’t want to make a blanket statement when I have a boss.”