Council spars over financial action

Published 7:31 pm Monday, October 21, 2019

During Monday’s Selma City Council work session, council members again found themselves at odds with one another over a proposal from Selma City Councilwoman Miah Jackson that the panel should be consistently voting to approve expenditures made beyond payroll, a move she believes could have caught shoddy contracts and missed payments.

“What we should have is a plan in place,” Jackson said. “You shouldn’t be able to walk in…and say I need a check and get it immediately.”

Despite the fact that Jackson noted that the move was described as a requirement by the Alabama League of Municipalities, Selma City Councilman John Leashore immediately raised concerns that the process would impeded day-to-day operations.

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Selma City Councilwoman Susan Youngblood agreed and recommended that the proposal be tabled until public examiners have finished their investigation.

“I wouldn’t push this if I didn’t feel like we were being derelict in our duties,” Jackson said. “All I’m asking is that we approve or deny payments. We don’t have any internal controls.”

For their parts, Selma City Council President Corey Bowie and Selma City Councilman Carl Bowline expressed support for the measure, though Selma City Councilwoman Angela Benjamin expressed concern that it would create unneeded oversight of discretionary spending.

In the end, Jackson stated that she would strive to send the League’s recommendations to council members Tuesday, with an eye toward bringing the proposal to a vote.

Elsewhere in the meeting, Selma Police Department (SPD) Interim Chief Robert Green brought three items before the council – first, he described difficulties he has faced in drafting a contract for a retired officer to come on board as a firearms instructor; second, Green described a program for running down people with warrants that is costing the city over $16,000 annually; third, he informed the council that “Weed and Seed” grant money, to the tune of nearly $330,000 was now available and would be used to purchase equipment for the SPD’s tactical unit.

As far as the contract to bring a retired officer on board for firearms training, Green said he “ran into trouble” with the mayor’s office and has since passed the contract along to Selma City Attorney Woodruff Jones, who was not present for Monday’s meeting.

In terms of the warrant program contract, Green stated that, short of “extenuating circumstances,” there was little the city could do to get out from under the agreement.

However, the fact that former SPD Chief Spencer Collier singularly signed off on the contract, ignoring city protocol that contracts receive a signature from the department head and the executive branch, might give the city an opportunity to cancel the deal.

Elsewhere in the meeting, the council agreed to place a request from Judge Bob Armstrong on Tuesday’s consent agenda.

Armstrong is asking that his Hope Academy program be housed in the Dallas Academy building once the heating and air conditioning units have been installed at the location.