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Committee recommends sticking with COVID spending process

For the past two weeks, the Selma City Council and Selma Mayor James Perkins Jr. have debated what to do regarding the city’s process for spending coronavirus relief funds handed down by the state.

Controversy has swirled about the nature of the process, which was laid out in an email distributed by former Selma City Councilwoman Angela Benjamin following a June 30 meeting – Perkins has asserted that the process is illegal, while Benjamin claimed in a recent council meeting that the informal notes were supposed to be compiled into a formal document by Selma City Clerk Ivy Harrison and Selma City Attorney Major Madison.

During a meeting last week, the council rejected a motion from Selma City Councilwoman Jannie Thomas to officially adopt the informal process and passed the buck for adopting a process to the council’s Administrative Committee, chaired by Selma City Councilwoman Christie Thomas.

Christie Thomas wasted little time addressing the issue during Wednesday’s committee meeting, noting right away that the city had only 27 days left to spend the money allocated for pandemic relief, a short time frame in which to draft, adopt and implement a new spending process.

“I know that there was an issue with the process and the way it has been done,” Christie Thomas said. “My recommendation is to keep it the way it has been.”

Christie Thomas noted that the process has thus far functioned properly, with the city receiving reimbursements on time and Selma City Treasurer Ronita Wade running point on dealing with the state, and said that a special called meeting could be scheduled to approve any pressing requests from the mayor, who has asserted that the provision requiring council approval of expenditures is an unnecessary burden on his office.

When Christie Thomas asked the mayor his opinion on the recommendation, Perkins responded that he was “not in a position to debate it.”

Christie Thomas opined that the city could possibly use some of the remaining relief funds to provide another round of supplemental pay to public safety workers, leading Selma City Councilwoman Lesia James to raise concerns about other departments not receiving such additional benefits.

“They’re out there all the time, in the public, they’re dealing with the public at all times,” Christie Thomas said. “That’s just a thought.”

“We just have to be mindful of what others might say,” James replied.

Selma City Councilman Clay Carmichael agreed, stating that any supplemental pay bumps should be “fair and equal to all employees.”