Jefferson County Commission

Move to Up Anti-Bingo Efforts in JeffCo Squelched as Questions About Proposal Still Unanswered

Former Bingo hall near Warrior

Jimmie Stephens had hoped to leave Thursday’s meeting of the Jefferson County Commission with the county fully armed in its efforts to squelch illegal bingo in unincorporated Jefferson County.

Instead, the commission president left the meeting disappointed after the resolution failed on a 2-2 vote.

As in Tuesday’s committee meeting of the commission, Stephens would not discuss specifics of how the resolution would help the county crack down on bingo operations.

The resolution states only: “Therefore, be it resolved by the Jefferson County Commission that the resolution directing the County Attorney to pursue and initiate all legal actions.”

Stephens said the resolution called for no new ordinances to have been passed today. “It was the enforcement of the existing ordinances to be uniform and the enforcement of all of our zoning ordinances,” Stephens said after the meeting. “That did not occur today, and I am disappointed.”

A nearly two-hour meeting that included a 32-minute executive session to discuss pending litigation concluded with that resolution failing. Stephens and Joe Knight voted in favor while Lashunda Scales and Sheila Tyson voted against it.

Questioned later, Tyson said the matter has been explained as a zoning matter. She said her no vote came down to money, or a lack of explanation about it.

“Who would go and arrest the people?” Tyson asked. “Where would the bingo machines go? Who would get arrested? Will it be the owner? Will it be the people that are in the establishment? Will it be the people at work? Then how would you go by storing the bingo machines? Where would they go?”

Jefferson County Commissioners Joe Knight and Lashunda Scales confer with County Attorney Theo Lawson. 7-28-2022 (Photo by Solomon Crenshaw Jr.)

Tyson pondered whether the Sheriff’s Department would be called upon to arrest people involved in bingo. She also asked how much that would cost the county and from where that money would come.

“They couldn’t answer none of that,” she said. “They couldn’t tell me nothing about no money. All that stuff costs money. If you want to raid a place, that’s going to take police officers and it’s gonna take money and all that. And they couldn’t put a dollar amount behind it.”

Scales declined to discuss her reasons for voting against the resolution.

Commissioner Steve Ammons was again absent, attending The World Police and Fire Games 2022 in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. The international sports event for first responders from around the world will be in metro Birmingham in 2025.

Stephens cited 12 cases that took up the majority of the meeting, including. a property that previously was used as an illegal bingo hall on Warrior Jasper Road in the Warrior area.

The building now on that property brandishes a large “Bingo” sign. A representative of the owner said the building will be demolished to make way for a gas station and convenience store.

Stephens suggested that failure to pass the resolution leaves open the door for some in the county to choose to not follow the law.

“If anyone now chooses to not obey that zoning ordinance, we have examples throughout the county where they’re doing the same,” he said. “You’re not obeying our orders and if it’s not being enforced, we’re not uniformly applying that law.”

As he recessed Thursday’s meeting, Stephens said he appreciated the participation of the commission.

“We always participate in the electorate process, the due process to make sure that the voices are heard and the citizens are well represented,” he said. “I feel like the voice of each district was heard today and will continue to be heard.”

There also was a matter of new business as commissioners changed the date and time of their second meeting in August to dodge a conflict with a meeting of the Association of County Commissions of Alabama. Rather than meeting on Aug. 25 as currently scheduled, commissioners will assemble at 9 a.m. on Aug. 18 with the commission meeting immediately following.