White Hall hires police officer, Walker blocks action to reinstate White as clerk

Published 2:17 pm Friday, July 8, 2016

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By Fred Guarino

The Lowndes Signal

The White Hall Town Council approved the employment of an additional police officer for the town, Thursday night, but Mayor James Walker blocked council efforts to reinstate former Town Clerk Bertha White.

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In addition, the mayor and council agreed to hold a special called council meeting to discuss water system issues with the town’s water system technician and to discuss a settlement agreement with former Town Clerk Shanavia Sellers  in connection with a civil action between the mayor and council.

With Council member Eli Seaborn abstained, the council approved the hiring of Alvetta Coates of Selma to serve as an additional police officer along with current Acting Police Chief Johnny Sanders, also of Selma.

In council discussion of funding sources for the employment of an additional police officer, Seaborn said, “I don’t want White Hall to be known as a ticket giving town.”

Sanders told the council, however, “Nobody is out there just making out tickets. If you ride in that vehicle with me, you will see I will not give a ticket out there under 77 (miles per hours) and you will see that most of the tickets that I write are 80 (mph) and above.”

Walker also stated, “The primary objective of the White Hall Police Department is not just to go write tickets… even though we are in an area that people ignore the speed limit.”

And Council member Ceodis Baker pointed out the town needed someone to patrol the community.

Walker said the town has made application for a new grant that would pay for an additional police officer for three years of a four-year employment.

In addition, Walker said he would write a policy for the hiring of police officers for approval by the council at the next meeting.

Under the heading of town clerk, Council member Joyce Barnfield made a motion to reinstate former Town Clerk Bertha White as town clerk, which was seconded by Baker.

White served as town clerk for White Hall prior to Sellers.

However, Walker said he had problem with reinstating White because he said she resigned and filed a lawsuit.

He said he would table the motion by Barnfield. He also said with the town about to hold an election for mayor and council, “Whoever comes in will have the opportunity to elect their town clerk.”

Seaborn questioned Walker’s power to table Barnfield’s motion. But Walker said it was the mayor’s responsibility to make recommendations for the employment of town clerk, police chief and town attorney and stated that he was not making a recommendation.

He also questioned the legality of a Dec. 29, 2015 meeting at which White was previously hired by the council as town clerk prior to a civil action between the mayor and council that led to stipulations, mediation and court orders.

Walker said, “I’m not going to entertaining anything if it’s pertaining to hiring a police chief, a city attorney or clerk. That is my responsibility to present to the council, and I have not presented it to the council. So, I will not entertain that tonight.”

He also said he would not debate powers of the mayor and council.

Regarding the water system, issues discussed included the status of a backup power generator and a chlorination system.

Walker said the generator needs a battery. And he said the council needs to approve a company to maintain the chlorination system.

Seaborn said, “Of all the things we do here, I think water is probably the most important thing we do… There should be no doubt that we are doing all of the things necessary to make sure our water is safe and is available to everybody.”

Walker said, “I’m thinking we actually need to put a water board together to rectify these situations.”

He asked the town’s temporary Town Clerk Felicia Perry to contact the town’s water system technician regarding his appearing at a planned special called meeting.

Walker also ask council members to recommend new water board members at the next meeting.

Regarding the employment of a maintenance person, Walker asked Perry to interview applicants prior to submitting them to him.

The council voted unanimously that Perry make application to be bonded to handle the money for the town.

The council agreed to honor retired Detroit Pistons NBA player Ben Wallace, a native of White Hall, on Aug. 13 with a plaque and resolution of appreciation.

And the council approved the minutes of its June 2 meeting with Seaborn abstained. He said he had not seen the minutes until Thursday night.