By Cady Inabinett, Managing editor of content
The Montevallo City Council responded to claims of wrongdoing by the previous City Council administration at their March 13 meeting. This conversation was spurred by claims of wrongdoing presented by Montevallo resident Rod MacPherson.
MacPherson, who presented the council with a five-page packet of issues he wanted to see the council address at their Feb. 27 meeting, and asked again for the council to investigate these issues—many of which he claims occurred under the previous city council administration.
Issues MacPherson mentioned in his address to the council included employees stealing gasoline from the city, city credit card abuse, misuse of city equipment, “signature stamping used— may have been forgery and fraud,” illegal issuing of bonuses, firing city employees and volunteers, “millions of dollars given to the University of Montevallo,” and internal financial problems, “based on your own auditor’s reports.”
Council members seemed confused by MacPherson’s claims along with residents in attendance. Montevallo resident Bobby C.P. Pierson addressed the council after MacPherson, responding to his claims by pointing out that city audits haven’t shown any wrongdoings occurring and asking, “If the audits was clean, what’s left to investigate?”
MacPherson would respond to this question later in the meeting, saying that investigation is necessary to, “try and find out where the taxpayer money is being stolen, by whom, how it’s being stolen.”
“Unless we have an investigation, people are going to continue stealing from the city and that’s taxpayers’ money being ripped off,” he said.
This prompted response by councilmembers. Council members Kenny Dukes and Sonya Swords both said they did not believe it was the current council’s responsibility to investigate issues that may have occurred under the previous administration. Dukes even said that these alleged wrongdoings, “didn’t even happen in the past.”
Mayor Rusty Nix, the only member of the current city council who served on the previous council, responded by saying, “My concern is with this administration here.”
City clerk Steve Gilbert said he has responded to MacPherson’s emails about these claims multiple times in the past and would be happy to provide him with documents refuting his claims, but MacPherson interrupted Gilbert to speak on stolen gasoline—saying that he has, “heard an employee who has been bragging for a while about how much gasoline he has stolen.”
Gilbert responded to this statement by explaining how the city handles purchasing gas for city vehicles, saying each vehicle has an assigned credit card that must be used when purchasing gas and that the gas pump at the city shop is kept under lock and key.
After this explanation, MacPherson responded by asking if the city could provide a value of the amount of gas stolen, prompting Gilbert to respond by saying, “I don’t understand, sir. I don’t have a record of any gasoline being stolen. Our accountants even go so far as to stick the tank twice a year.”
MacPherson once again asked if the council was planning on investigating any possible wrongdoing under the previous administration.
Council member Leila Mitchell responded by saying that the audit that was conducted when the new council took office should suffice as an investigation.
Dukes responded more harshly by saying that he would not be in favor of the council investigating MacPhersons’s claims and that he found the allegations disrespectful.
“I don’t know if the allegations are even worthy of us spending our time even discussing them because I think when you make allegations against people, especially us sitting up here, it is, I feel, a level of disrespect to call us thieves or even supporting something that’s disrespectful,” said Dukes.
Montevallo Police Chief Jeremey Littleton told the council in his report that Alabama Senator Tommy Tuberville has opened requests for congressional directed spending for law enforcement. Littleton said Montevallo Police Department was planning to request funding to purchase two trucks for Montevallo’s school resource officers, estimated to cost $100,000.
Littleton asked the council to approve matching 25% of the grant funds if the department is approved for the funding. He said this amount would still be within the police department’s budget.
Later in the meeting, the council unanimously approved this measure—agreeing to match 25% of the funds received up to $30,000.
Also approved at the meeting were several street closures for events throughout the city in upcoming months. This included voting to close Island Street from North Boundary Street to Park Drive on April 8 from 5 a.m. to 6 p.m. for a BBQ Cookoff benefitting the Boys and Girls Club and closing the same portion of that street, on April 22 from 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. for the 2nd Annual Spring Fling Family Food Truck Fest.
The other approved street closure closes the same portion of North Boundary Street on June 2 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. for Parnell Memorial Library’s Summer Reading Program Kick-Off Event.
Several board nominations were approved by the council at the meeting as well. Nominations included Courtney Bentley to the Parks and Recreation Board, Sharon Williams to the Arbor and Beautification Board and James Salter to the Historic Preservation Commission.
Williams’s and Salter’s nominations were approved unanimously. Council member Martha Eisenberg opposed Bentley’s nomination but did not explain why.
Montevallo Police Officer Cade Dorough was recognized at the meeting. Dorough aided in apprehending a suspect after three people were shot at a Calera gas station on Feb. 25.
Calera Chief of Police David Hyche was present at the meeting to read a letter of commendation praising Dorough for his actions and cooperation and collaboration with the Calera Police Department.
“We’ll never know what might’ve happened if Officer Dorough had not acted proactively and stopped the suspect. We do know that no additional citizens were harmed that night after the initial shootings. We also know that our efforts could focus on caring for the victims and the investigation, and not on a search for an armed and dangerous suspect,” said Hyche.
The council heard from Janelle Sierra, Executive Director of SafeHouse of Shelby County. SafeHouse is a nonprofit that provides free services for people fleeing domestic and sexual violence.
Sierra thanked the council for their annual financial contribution to SafeHouse, saying that their contribution helps provide services such as emergency residential shelter, case management counseling and employment to SafeHouse’s clients at no charge.
Sierra also pointed out that SafeHouse served 69 clients from Montevallo last year and thanked the council, saying, “On their behalf, thank you for helping us continue to exist and we’re excited and privileged to continue to serve the citizens of Montevallo.”
In the final minutes of the meeting, Eisenberg requested that the city waits to give land to Cobblestone Hotels for the development of a hotel, “due to the economic situation and factors going on in our country.”
Eisenberg was referring to the panic that arose following the collapse of two banks after a bank run, reminiscent of the bank collapses that marked the 2008 recession.
“Due to that, I think we should stop doing anything where we’re going to be spending a lot of money,” Eisenberg concluded.
Swords pointed out that giving the land to the developer was not costing the city any money, and that the only money the city was spending on the project was for the Alabama Department of Environmental Management to inspect the land.
Dukes also argued against Eisenberg’s request saying, “They’re investing $17 million into the City of Montevallo to give us a service that we think in this time is needed, so we’re coming out on top one way or another.”
The next city council meeting will be held Monday, March 27, at 6 p.m. The meeting will be held at City Hall and livestreamed on the city’s Facebook page.
Cady Inabinett is the managing editor of content for The Alabamian. She’s majoring in English and double-minoring in political science and peace and justice studies. She enjoys reading, watching movies and generally just being pretentious in her free time.