Headley urges council to consider city official salaries

Published 12:30 pm Wednesday, January 15, 2020

The ceiling above the front row in the council chambers at Selma City Hall dripped water as the Selma City Council voted to relaunch its meeting following an executive session that lasted more than an hour.

The first order of business was to approve the night’s consent agenda, which consisted of three items – replacing a heating unit for $2,000, allowing Selma City Council members Angela Benjamin and Sam Randolph to spend $42,350 of oil lease and gas tax funds to repair potholes in their wards and approval of a resolution to officially name Kenta Fulford Chief of the Selma Police Department (SPD) and Chris Graham Chief of the Selma Fire Department (SFD).

The council unanimously approved all three items and moved directly into announcements, with Selma City Councilman John Leashore announcing that he had received a petition from residents of Cole Street to rename the street for Selma’s first black police chief, Ernest Tate.

Leashore noted that Tate, who served for more than three decades, was “very deserving” of such an accolade and announced his intention to hold a public hearing prior to the next council meeting on Jan. 28.

Selma City Councilwoman lent a vote of support to the motion, adding that the council should either waive or pay the $1,000 fee for renaming a street.

“Chief Tate was everybody’s friend and he was my friend too,” Youngblood said.

Youngblood also brought forth a plan, known as the Municipal Improvement Act, which would give the council the authority to take action against what Youngblood called “absentee landlord,” or property owners not properly caring for their holdings.

“Because we do need to clean up this town and hold absentee landlords accountable,” Youngblood said. We need to make this town livable, make people want to live here and develop here.”

Following council announcements, Tom Headley addressed the council regarding the upcoming deadline for municipalities to address elected officials’ salary, an issue he said has thrown the town of Fairhope into a “little civil war” over a plan to increase the mayor’s pay by $50,000.

At the center of Headley’s comments was the notion that a change in pay, which the council is only allowed to take up every four years, might be in order as council members are expected to do more than they were the last time the issue was taken up.

“Things have changed in the last four years that y’all haven’t noticed,” Headley said. “Y’all are taking on duties that the mayor no longer does.”

Headley noted that work sessions are held more frequently, more appointments are required, there are now 11 standing committees and constant court hearings – all things previous councils did not have to deal with.

For his part, however, Leashore considered a pay raise out of the question.

“I think, at this juncture, because of the financial situation we find ourselves in…maybe there needs to be some decrease in our salaries,” Leashore said. “But at no point would I support an increase. I think we all have made a conscious effort to be good stewards…good leaders…but I do think any attempt to increase salaries will fall on deaf ears.”

Headley was followed by Rev. Michael Bowman, who was rallying support for the 17th annual “Stop the Violence” March to be held on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

According to Bowman, the group has not yet received a permit from the SPD.

“I don’t understand the delay, but we are still waiting on the permit so we can have this march,” Bowman said.

Bowman’s concerns were largely allayed when SPD Capt. Johnny King announced that he would ensure the permit moves forward in the coming days.

According to Selma City Treasurer Ronita Wade, the city collected more than $877,500 in sales tax revenue during December, a more than $75,000 increase over last year’s numbers, more than $26,600 in lodging tax revenues, nearly $15,000 in tobacco tax revenue, over $11,800 in lodging surcharge revenue, $110,939 in half-cent sales tax revenue and more than $53,800 in simplified sellers use tax revenue.

Upon a question from Benjamin, Wade confirmed that multiple defunded positions are still being paid and stated that the mayor has “usurped” the council and the treasurer’s authority to ensure that those positions continue to receive a check.