Jefferson County Commission

Ammons Fails in Move for More Discussion of Jeffco Budget

Jefferson County Commissioner Steve Ammons (Source: Solomon Crenshaw Jr.)

Commissioner Steve Ammons took one last shot Thusday at conducting more discussion concerning adjustments to the recently passed Jefferson County budget for fiscal year 2020.

Ammons moved that the resolution approving amendments to the budget be set aside from the other 51 resolutions for separate consideration.

Commissioner Lashunda Scales offered a counter motion that all of the resolutions be considered as presented. The counter motion was passed on a 3-2 vote with Scales, Sheila Tyson and Joe Knight voting in favor; Ammons and Commission President Jimmie Stephens voted no.

Speaking later, Ammons repeated his concern that budget adjustments are coming a very short time after the budget was adopted in early August.

“The ink is not even dry yet,” he said. “I just wanted to vote my conscience because there are still items there that weren’t discussed.”

Ammons said his motion would not have automatically sent the budget amendments back to committee. It would have passed, he said, because the votes needed for passage were there.

“It was more a way for me to show I did not agree with what the process was,” he said. “It’s not that I did not agree with some of the items. I wanted to discuss the items thoroughly.”

Among the matters approved by the commission was an extension to the county’s agreement with Siena Consulting, which is helping in the hiring of a replacement for former human resources director Michelle Rodrigues, who was fired in late June.

Commissioners were told that the process to replace Rodrigues is coming to an end. Scales asked County Manager Tony Petelos if the candidate for the job will meet with the commission. Petelos said no.

“I was asking for the commission to at least have some conversation with the new HR director,” Scales said later. “Not that we would determine who they are but at least allow us the opportunity to know who is going to be managing the employees of the county. Under the County Manager Act, we can at least make that request of the county manager.

“We don’t give directives,” Scales continued, “but we do hold the county manager accountable for making sure who the department heads – who are functioning and operating on our behalf – who they are.”

During the meeting, Sheila Tyson urged Petelos to keep the door of communication open between his office and commission members.

Lashunda Scales (Source: Solomon Crenshaw Jr.)

“We just want to be informed,” she said. “It feels like you’re hiding something. When you don’t inform us, we’re going to end up in a big mess.”

Speaking later with Birmingham Watch, Petelos said there were a lot of “shenanigans” in the past involving hiring by the county. A lawsuit was filed by the NAACP in 1974.  The county agreed to a consent decree in 1982, he said, and for three decades the county did nothing about it.

“The county was finally held in contempt of court and now we’re finally about to exit the consent decree,” the county manager said. “The County Manager Act that was passed by the Legislature gives the county manager the authority to run the day-to-day operations of the county, including hiring, firing, discipline and all that. With all that said, no, we don’t try to keep them in the dark. We try to keep the commissioners informed.”

Petelos said a hiring process is in place that meets the consent of the court.

“We continue to operate under that same process that (Federal District Judge Lynwood) Smith has allowed us operate under.”

The county’s next hearing before Judge Smith is Oct. 31.

The commission meeting included a presentation from Tyson to the Community Affairs Committee, which annually puts on the Martin Luther King Unity Breakfast. Leaders of the organization led people attending the commission meeting in reciting the Birmingham Pledge.

Scales then invited all to attend the breakfast, which will be January 20, 2020. The recently passed budget allots $15,000 to the event.

“If God created you, we want everyone to be there,” she said. “This is the only way that you’re going to solve what’s happening in our country.”

Alice Westery of the Community Affairs Committee speaks at Jeffrson County Commission meeting. (Source: Solomon Crenshaw Jr.)