Council votes to bring back workers, fails to approve ‘no confidence’ vote

Published 7:48 pm Tuesday, July 9, 2019

During it’s meeting Tuesday, the Selma City Council wasted no time tackling controversial topics – a proposal from Selma City Councilman Sam Randolph to log a vote of “no confidence” against Selma Mayor Darrio Melton was taken up as part of the night’s consent agenda and immediately split the council.

“Taking this vote here – I don’t agree with a lot that the mayor does, but I have to separate myself and focus on the bigger picture,” said Selma City Councilman Corey Bowie after abstaining on the measure, saying that he was advised by leaders of the “Weed and Seed” program that such a vote would taint the “atmosphere” of the city.

Randolph took exception, claiming that Melton has already damaged the atmosphere by allowing the city to fall into disrepair and laying off scores of workers.

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In the end four council members voted in favor of the measure – Randolph and Selma City Councilwomen Angela Benjamin, Jannie Thomas and Miah Jackson – while four others either abstained or passed on the vote – Bowie and Selma City Councilmen John Leashore, Carl Bowline and Michael Johnson.

Elsewhere in the meeting, Johnson brought forth a proposal recommended by Melton to reopen the city’s Recreation Department.

The proposal called for the Recreation Department to merge with the Cemeteries Department and the Public Works Department under the leadership of Sean VanDiver, who would serve as Director of Public Services.

“That way we can at least get some of the workers back,” Johnson said. “That’s a start. Our city is in a hot mess. We need to start somewhere.”

Amid the grumbles from the large audience gathered, council members began punching holes in the proposal.

“What this looks like is a quid pro quo,” Benjamin said. “This shuffling around is irrelevant. Why can’t we just bring the workers back?”

“I got a problem,” Randolph said. “The employees he laid-off were laid-off because of lies. These folks need to come back without stipulation.”

Randolph turned his gaze to Selma City Treasurer Ronita Wade.

“Do we have the money?” Randolph asked.

“Yes,” Wade replied.

“Do we have the money?” Randolph asked again, louder.

“Yes,” Wade responded as the audience resounded with applause.

At that point, Benjamin called for a “symbolic” vote to bring back all of the workers laid-off last year – “symbolic” because, according to Benjamin, the council approved having the workers employed when it approved last year’s budget.

Leashore lamented that every previous effort to bring back some of the workers had failed.

“We’re damned if we do and damned if we don’t,” Leashore said.

Jackson asserted that the only reason the workers were laid-off to begin with was because the council failed to meet Melton’s “conditions” – his budget and proposed tax hikes.

“It’s like ‘The Godfather,’” Jackson said. “I’ll make you an offer you can’t refuse. We will not be bullied.”

“I believe that…we can bring them all back,” Thomas said. “They should have the opportunity to come back, every last one of them.”

“It’s a Mexican standoff,” Leashore said of the situation. “We can take this road, [but] it’s a ceremonial vote.”

In the end, the council voted unanimously to bring all of the workers back, though none seemed confident that the mayor would actually call the workers back to their posts.

During her report, Wade stated that the cost of paying vacation time to the laid-off workers eligible to receive it, approximately 55 former employees, would cost the city just over $22,000.

“I think we’ll be okay…paying the full amount,” Wade said. “I stand behind that.”

The council unanimously approved paying the workers for their accrued vacation time, possibly as early as Friday.