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City Council looks to clear sewer board hire controversy

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Council looks to heal rift created by recent hire of a sewer department employee.

Red Bay | City Council members and Mayor Charlene Fancher agreed at the close of Monday night’s City Council meeting to meet in executive session soon to clear the air over the recent hiring of a sewer department employee.

Another thing they all agreed on Monday was a desire to work together in harmony and not relive the city’s contentious meetings of a decade ago.

The issue stems from the Sewer Board’s hiring of Todd James. The Council agreed the issue didn’t involve James himself, but the way he was hired. The hire had been tabled by the City Council pending some questions about the pay structure, but the Sewer Board approved his hire after Mayor Fancher said state law established that it was the sewer board’s responsibility to make the hire. In an April 3 work session with the city’s Sewer Board, Council members Brad Bolton and Mike Kennedy clashed with Fancher over the hiring of the employee, arguing that the Council felt they had been circumvented in the process. Fancher stated that though the Council had discussed the hire, it was ultimately up to the Sewer Board to make that decision, which they did. She said her concern was that city and board follow state code in properly making the hire.

Bolton addressed one of the questions over the hire Monday when he said he nor any other council member had received information they had previously requested on whether James would qualify for overtime pay.

“I just want something put on the record so this council won’t be facing something three years down the road that we should have paid him overtime and this is the amount of money it’s going to take,” Bolton said. “I’m not seeking controversy.”

Council member Jason Vinson said he believed that even when the code is followed, communication should be of the utmost importance to alleviate concerns and foster harmony, a point Fancher agreed with. However, she said she had a problem with the way it had been handled by the Council.

Fancher defended the hire, stating that she and the board followed Alabama code in making the decision. She said she had total respect for each council member, and that the decision wasn’t an effort to circumvent the Council, but to follow state law.

“I’ve tried to be as professional about this as I can be,” Fancher said. “Giving directions and asking questions are two different things.”