Board discusses allegations in executive session
by Chris Norwood
TALLADEGA —The TOP Trails Board of Directors spent just under an hour in executive session Tuesday morning to discuss an allegation of “harassment and workplace bullying” made by an employee against a board member. No action was taken on the allegation after the public meeting reconvened.

Aside from the board members, the only other person allowed in the closed door meeting was Sonya Jacks of SK Services. SK is the company the board leases it’s employees from.

Jacks was called in about halfway through the executive session and remained there for the rest of it.

Earlier during the same meeting, the board had tabled a recommendation from the CD Roberts and Associates, their professional services group, that the board adopt a policy of board members having no contact with employees, leaving all board/employee relations to be conducted by the PSG.

In explaining the policy request, the PSG said, “In the year or so that the public park authority has existed, it has employed six employees, whether leased or temporary, current or previous to date. The PSG has received informal verbal complaints of various natures from three of these employees regarding contact made by with the employees by members of the board. The PSG was verbally and formally notified today by SK Services that one of these employees has filed a formal complaint in regard to such board member/employee contact.”

“We are appointed to work with these people,” board member Ray Miller said. “And you’re recommending that we not speak with them?”

“I am opposed to that,” Board Chairman Tommy Spears added.

Board member Gary Steed said, “It’s a fine line. Sometimes it seems like we’ve got too many chiefs and not enough Indians. We may have questions, but I don’t think we need to be directing employees.”

“I’ve been accused of directing employees, but I’ve never done it,” Miller said. “We can’t meet directly with the PSG (because Chuck Roberts is a former board chairman), who is sent a list of recommendations to the manager and the board chairman to forward on to the PSG. I never ordered anybody to do anything.”

“I categorically reject the policy,” Spears said. “We could operate by the city rules, where there are no direct or indirect orders, but we can ask them about equipment and their opinions.”

City Manager Brian Muenger was present for the first part of the meeting and said under the state law that covers Talladega’s government, only the manager can direct an employee and is the only person the council can direct to do anything. He said he would provide the board with a copy of the relevant law.

“We pay the bills,” Miller said. “They may work for SK or the PSG, but we pay them.”

Spears said the board would “monitor the situation” for the next month or so before taking any action.

When Jacks made a similar recommendation just before the executive session, Spears said “We’ve already rejected that.”

Jacks added that the employee was a member of a protected age class, and litigation could get very expensive.

Also Tuesday, the board:

• Held a work session to discuss a request for qualifications for the Alabama Shooting Complex.

• Agreed to return a Bobcat that wasn’t working properly.

• Agreed to set up a table at the block party Friday, and agreed to order a table cover and standup displays for future events.

• Agreed to make accountant Richard Naff a contract employee.

• Approved the travel policies required by the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs.

• Discussed the upcoming budget. Spears said the park was costing $7,500 per week to operate, but board member Mack Ferguson pointed out that while the park was in development much of the funding was reimbursable under various grants.

• Discussed the fact that funding from timber cutting would only be available for the first three years of the park’s development.

• Heard Spears ask if the board’s work with forester James Greer could be on an as needed basis. The answer was not entirely clear.

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© 2012