“If I were on the board, I’d certainly want to know why he was dismissed,” said Barry Landers, who requested the current board motion to investigate the issue.
New board member Ross Blocker, who began his term March 1, addressed the concern brought forth by Landers.
“All I can really say to you is read the minutes and I think you’ll understand why the decision was made,” Blocker said. “I had nothing to do with his dismissal. The authority does not make those kinds of decisions.”
Gale Ezekiel, Landers’ sister and concerned citizen, also showed her support for the motion.
“Are you trying to say we don’t have a right to ask these questions?” Ezekiel said. “We can propose and ask that our water board initiate looking into the legal or not legal reasons Doug was dismissed. That’s all we’re asking.”
This initial burst proved to be the eye of the proverbial storm as the meeting became increasingly more volatile and hostile.
When the board initially failed to second a motion on the issue voiced by Landers, the group metaphorically held the meeting hostage with repeated outbursts and disparaging remarks regarding the qualifications and purpose for newest board member Adria Bryars, who was appointed by District 4 Commissioner Jimmy Roberson in March.
Karen Tubbs, wife of Johnny Tubbs, alleged a personal vendetta existed between Bryars and Tubbs because of an incident happening several years ago. Tubbs shot and killed a dog belonging to Bryars because the dog had gotten loose and killed some of his chickens.
“She’s been on a witch hunt ever since then,” Karen said. “And you appointed her to the board? Why? She’s not even qualified. She’s just a housewife.”
Post-meeting, Karen Tubbs continued to verbally accost Bryars.
Bryars wasn’t the only one drawing verbal fire. Tubbs’ sister-in-law, Jennifer Maddox, launched into a tirade with Oak Grove Feed and Seed manager India Cabaniss, who she blamed for the cause of the authority’s problems after Cabaniss was one of several residents who complained about unlawful charges she received after moving into a foreclosed home.
“It’s your fault, too, (expletive deleted),” Maddox said in passing, causing a near 10-minute delay in the proceedings before a motion on Landers’ proposal was approved 3-2.
Fayetteville Water Authority has been no stranger to controversy in the past 16 months as Blair presided over the board during a wave of controversial decisions.
“This all started when the previous water board drafted a resolution asking for raises in pay per meeting Dec. 14, 2011,” said Jimmy Roberson, District 4 Commissioner in Talladega County. “At the time, their salaries were $50 a meeting for a board member and $125 a meeting for the chairman. They requested an increase to $400 a meeting per board member and $600 a meeting per chairman.”
This proposal prompted Roberson to do some research, where he discovered some of the benefits the four full-time employees received.
“They get 15 paid holidays with an additional four personal days for a total of 19 paid days per year,” Roberson said. “The authority’s employees do not pay any of the family covered Blue Cross insurance. The authority pays 100 percent of the insurance costs. Their office is open to the public from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. with employees’ lunch hours paid as well for eight hours pay.”
Roberson compared his findings to similar numbers from county employees.
“The county gets 13 paid holidays and employees pay approximately $430 per month for family insurance coverage, with office hours from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. with an unpaid lunch hour for a total of eight hours pay,” Roberson said. “My concern is numerous citizens in the Fayetteville community are on a fixed income and the benefits the previous board allowed shouldn’t be coming out of these citizens’ pockets.”
The final straw came when the authority held a surplus property auction, where the board awarded Josh Tubbs, Johnny Tubbs’ son, the bid on a 2007 Ford truck by $1.
“I’m extremely disturbed a board with as much experience on it awarded those bids and created such a negative perception in the process,” Roberson said. “The Kelley Blue Book value for the truck was conservatively set at $9,500 and allegations soon arose after the property was awarded that he sold the truck for $9,000.”
Roberson brought in Blocker and Bryars to help right the ship at the authority.
“I want to make an effort to restore communications between our water authority and its customers,” Roberson said.
Bryars said there has been no ill will between the families regarding the dog issue and she initially became involved in the authority after reading about these issues in the newspaper.
While more discussion occurred than action, Bryars asserted she wants to do things by the book and her actions showed it when she motioned for an article in the authority bylaws allowing personal use of company vehicles be rescinded. The motion passed unanimously.
“I have been at meetings and I have done my research,” Bryars said. “The authority hasn’t been run in the best interests of the customers. We want to do things legally and ethically moving forward.”
Contact Shane Dunaway at firstname.lastname@example.org