EMA director accused of wrongdoing
by Chris Norwood
TALLADEGA COUNTY — County Commissioner John Luker publicly accused EMA Director Deborah Gaither of falsifying her time cards and called for a criminal investigation, charges which Gaither herself vehemently denied.

The exchange took place during a commission work session Tuesday evening. Luker said he had been informed in November that Gaither had put herself down for having worked an eight-hour day when in fact she had been at a doctor’s appointment all that day. He said he knew of several other occasions where this had happened, eventually setting the figure at 31 days since March of last year.

When Commissioner Jackie Swinford asked who had told Luker about the “red flags,” Luker said he preferred not to say. Swinford said he was not comfortable with relying on anonymous sources for so serious a charge.

“But the red flag is there,” Luker said.

“I am satisfied with the job she’s done,” Swinford said. “She’s on call 24 hours per day, and I’m confident that she puts in at least 40 hours per week. If she works over, she gets comp time.”

Gaither said she had “plenty of time working from a hospital bed or while getting an IV infusion that I have not billed the county for, and I have never put down that I worked eight hours when I didn’t.”

In response to a question from Commission Chairman Kelvin Cunningham, Gaither explained that if she worked over until say, 10 p.m. during a weather event and had a doctor’s appointment or needed to be in the hospital that week, the extra five hours would go on her time sheet as work.

“And I have not missed 31 days since I have worked for this commission,” she added.

“I feel you have betrayed the trust of the citizens of this county,” Luker said. “I feel that a crime has been committed, and this needs to be presented to the District Attorney’s Office.”

Cunningham immediately shut down the discussion when the legal issue was raised.

Also Tuesday, the commission:

• Agreed to hold one work session per month, and discussed the possibility of holding the second regular meeting of each month in Sylacauga.

• Discussed pursuing additional funds through the Alabama Transportation Rehabilitation Improvement Program for several bridge replacement projects, especially one on Allison Mill Road that will not support the weight of a school bus. The problem would be securing the matching funds.

• Heard Commissioner Greg Atkinson say he had discussed a bridge between Talladega and Shelby counties with commissioners there, who suggested moving it two or three miles north of the current location. Public meetings were also discussed with local chambers and businesses in the area.

Contact Chris Norwood at cnorwood@dailyhome.com

© 2013