Wade’s Attorney calls case ‘a travesty of injustice’

Published 5:29 pm Wednesday, September 12, 2018

The attorney for City of Selma Finance Director Ronita Wade calls the alleged criminal misconduct allegations against his client a “travesty of injustice.’’

The case went from a possible ethics violation to alleged criminal misconduct and was taken over by the attorney general’s office six weeks ago. Selma Police Chief Spencer Collier said he turned over the case to the attorney general’s office because the Selma Police Department lacked the technology to handle these kinds of investigations.

McPhillips said neither he nor Wade have received notification the case had switched to AG Steve Marshall’s office. By state law, no action could be taken against Wade without her receiving notice no less than 45 days prior to any hearing before the commission.

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Joy Patterson, Public Information Officer in the AG office, said the office’s policy is not to comment on a pending investigation.

“We do not make any confirmation or comment about if we might be investigating a particular matter,” Patterson said.

McPhillips said there is no basis to the allegations, calling it a case of jealousy and accusing Selma Mayor Darrio Melton of trying to undermine Wade as she helped the city council work on the 2018-2019 fiscal budget.

“I think the whole thing is a huge travesty of injustice,” McPhillips said. “Mayor Melton is trying to exercise his political might over the city treasurer. He’s the one totally behind it.”

“It’s just another useless attempt to distract from focusing on what’s really important and that is being fiscally responsible with the taxpayers dollars and getting a balance budget passed,” Wade said.

When Wade was suspended at the end of last year, Collier said the interim finance director contacted him after discovering what he felt to believe something improper on a city owned computer that had previously been assigned to her.

Collier said he discovered more invoices.

“I found additional invoices for a real company that does business with the city,” Collier said. “However, I discovered multiple invoices created on behalf of this company that were created on her city issued computer. A hard drive search revealed this was made during city time, and these invoices were submitted and cut for check and paid. On at least two occasions on invoices she created … she took custody of the check after it was issued.”

Wade said the claims have been ongoing for a year.

“My computer was supposedly confiscated in September 2017 by Collier and these claims have been made since my public hearing in February for reinstatement,” Wade said. “This allegation made during my hearing was an attempt to sway Council votes and destroy my credibility.”

McPhillips said the case against Wade wouldn’t reach a grand jury. But if it did, he said, “We have a defense.”

Multiple calls were placed to Melton and he did not respond.

The Wade and Melton dilemma began last September when Melton placed her on administrative leave. Melton said Wade was insubordinate and tried to undermine him during a Sept. 19, 2017 budget hearing. She was then fired on Sept. 27, 2017. She was reinstated 10 days later after the council voted to bring her back on board. Two days later, she returned to work and was placed on administrative leave.

Wade remained on leave until Dec. 22, 2017 when Melton sent a certified letter of termination to McPhillips. Wade was terminated for her accounting and management practices, which allegedly led to a series of missteps, miscalculations and inappropriate activities. She was eventually reinstated by the City Council on Feb. 6.

“The retaliatory actions and bully like behavior of this Administration have been consistent across the board with elected officials,” Wade said. “These allegations stem as retaliations for bringing to unusual request by certain members in the police department as well questionable reimbursements from the Mayor’s office.”