Wade, Fowlkes battle at city hall

Published 3:01 pm Thursday, June 27, 2019

On Thursday morning, Selma Police Department (SPD) Cpt. Natasha Fowlkes arrived at Selma City Hall to confront Selma City Treasurer Ronita Wade over a salary dispute, which resulted from Wade taking action to stop salary payments to the three employees now in positions defunded by the Selma City Council last year.

Per the council’s vote, Fowlkes’ promotion to captain would be revoked, as would any increase in pay as a result of that promotion, as would the Chief of Staff position held by Saprina Simmons and the Recreation Department Director position held by Sean VanDiver.

Fowlkes arrived at city hall to discuss the issue and, in the course of that discussion, referenced a June 11 email that Wade sent out to council members, the Alabama League of Municipalities, Wade’s attorney, Julian McPhillips, and others that contained Fowlkes’ personal information, including her social security number and address.

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When Wade told Fowlkes that she should speak with McPhillips in regard to the matter, Fowlkes intimated that she planned to file charges against Wade and SPD officers were on hand to take her statement and Wade’s information.

A recording of the incident confirms this timeline of events.

“The city treasurer took it upon herself not to pay me and it’s personal,” Fowlkes said, adding that she was not notified beforehand that payments would stop. “I’m not leaving here today until I receive my check. This is my livelihood. This is how I take care of my family.”

Wade insists that all of the employees were notified, which jibes with the fact that a memorandum instructing Wade not to revoke the employees’ salaries was sent out by Selma Mayor Darrio Melton Thursday morning.

The memorandum accused Wade of violating the employees’ rights under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments and said the action “supersedes” her “legal authority as treasurer.”

“As mayor, I am hereby giving you a directive to add Saprina Simmons and Sean VanDiver back to the payroll system, cut a check for the 80 hours both employees worked over the past two weeks and to restore Natasha Fowlkes salary back to the captain position and cut a check for the differential of wages no later than 12:00 p.m. today,” the memorandum concluded.

Despite Fowlkes’ assertion that Wade unilaterally took action to halt the payments, Selma City Councilwoman Jannie Thomas stated that the council instructed Wade to take the action.

“They shouldn’t come after Ronita Wade, they should come after the city council,” Thomas said. “She’s doing what we asked her to do. This is an ethics violation.”

Selma City Councilman Sam Randolph, who was at city hall as the scene was unfolding, agreed.

“This is just harassment,” Randolph said. “She’s just doing her job. The council, we need to have a serious talk with the mayor because this harassment has to stop.”

Randolph affirmed that Wade had taken the action at the council’s urging, calling the payments made to the defunded positions over the past several months “illegal.”

As the morning wore on, Melton was meeting with employees and officers behind closed doors and Wade was back behind her desk in city hall.

“If anything happens to me, look at Mayor Darrio Melton, Sean VanDiver, Saprina Simmons and the Selma Police Department,” Wade said.

According to McPhillips, Wade is caught in the middle of a dispute between Melton and the Selma City Council – McPhillips stated that if anything happened to Wade, they would be back in court.

Melton, VanDiver and Simmons could not be reached for comment.

James Jones contributed to this article.