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Verbal altercation leads to SPD presence at city hall

The quiet hum of day-to-day activities in city hall, which found employees working at a variety of tasks as citizens trickled in to cast early ballots Monday, was interrupted when a verbal altercation unfolded between Selma City Councilwoman Jannie Thomas and Selma Mayor Darrio Melton’s Chief of Staff, Saprina Simmons.

Thomas was slated to attend a meeting of the Selma City Council’s Public Buildings Committee, which she chairs, at city hall Monday afternoon when she received a text indicating that the meeting had to be cancelled because an employee in the City of Selma Finance Department – housed in city hall – had tested positive for COVID-19.

According to Thomas, she attempted to speak with Melton in an effort to get people out of city hall in light of the positive diagnosis.

As Thomas was discussing the issue with Melton’s secretary, who claimed that the mayor was busy, she claims that Simmons “came out like a stallion” and began shouting obscenities at her and told her to “get out.”

As Thomas was preparing to leave, she said that both Melton and city hall security guard Anthony Shelton had to restrain Simmons, who appeared as if she might attack the councilwoman.

“She was loud and she was ugly,” Thomas said. “We don’t need that.”

Immediately following the incident, Selma police officers, including SPD Chief Kenta Fulford, were on the scene to take a report from Thomas, who was visibly and audibly shaken by the interaction.

“This lady needs to leave city hall immediately,” Thomas said. “City hall don’t need nobody in there like that.”

At least two citizens on hand, working to assist voters on behalf of mayoral candidate Miah Jackson, supported Thomas’ account of the afternoon’s events.

According to a volunteer with Jackson’s campaign, who asked not to be identified, Simmons called Thomas “every nasty word she could call her.”

“She was trying to get everyone out of the building,” the volunteer stated. “She didn’t deserve that.”

The same volunteer noted that, even as she was leaving city hall, Simmons was being restrained by both Shelton and the mayor.

“I don’t think Jannie was doing anything wrong,” she said.

According to Thomas, a volunteer from the campaign of mayoral candidate James Perkins Jr., as well as a number of other citizens, witnessed the incident.

Melton did not respond to a request for comment.