The Birmingham Water Works Board of Directors has signaled it has no intention of allowing the racial insult of a local African-American contractor by District 3 Blount County Commissioner Dean Calvert to stand without taking action. The directors voted last week to end the arrangement with Blount County Sheriff deputies who provide security at Inland Lake. The action was taken in response to Calvert’s use of the N-word in describing the contractor. The slur was captured in a recording.
Director William Muhammad made the motion at the Sept.23 meeting of the BWWB.He proposed a resolution “that the BWWB discontinue employing Blount County Sheriff deputies to work security at and around Inland Lake, and that the motion take effect 60 days after it is passed.”
Muhammad went on to make an impassioned plea to the other directors, “I don’t want people in 2020 to think we go along with racism. I know the sheriff didn’t have anything to do with it, but the commissioner is the commissioner over the county.” The resolution passed on a 6-3 vote.
The following day, the Blount County Commission met in a special called budget meeting, and although the issue was not on the agenda, the commission spent a good bit of time discussing Calvert’s statements.Calvert was not present.
Sheriff Mark Moon said one of the perceived problems was a lack of direct condemnation of Calvert’s words by “county leaders.” For his part, Moon said, “I was appalled, not just by the racist comment, but all the other garbage” referring to sexist, derogatory comments about women.
Moon told the commissioners again about the importance of the extra jobs at the lake to his deputies. He said it is a recruiting tool and the loss of the jobs will result in some deputies leaving to find higher paying jobs.
The BWWB pays two deputies $30 per hour to work around-the-clock every day of the year at the lake, which is a major reservoir for the utility. Moon says deputies can earn almost $1,500 a month to supplement their salaries. In 2019, the BWWB paid $551,000 for security at Inland Lake.
Yesterday, Moon posted the following on Facebook, “I met with the security manager and the assistant general manager for the BWWB yesterday. We’ve got a lot of work to do to try and get that contract back. I’m not giving up; my guys are worth every effort to restore that relationship.
“I am going to have multiple meetings in the next few weeks with every one of the board members individually. I am also on the agenda to speak at their next board meeting to address them collectively.A few things must happen before they will consider a full reinstatement, so pray that those things happen. Thank you for all your prayers and support; keep them coming because they are felt and appreciated.”
Commissioners Nick Washburn and Mike Painter said they have talked with Calvert privately about the issue. Washburn said he recently posted on Facebook a statement saying he suggested Calvert resign, but he also pointed out that the commission is powerless to force him to do so. Painter agreed with the latter.
Commission chairman Chris Green said he had a meeting at BWWB later in the day to discuss the issue. Asked after that meeting, Green said he had nothing new to report.
Kris Murphy, a Blount County resident who was part of a protest outside the courthouse prior to the meeting demanding Calvert’s resignation, spoke to the commission and asked what actions they planned to take regarding Calvert. He said he wanted to know where each commissioner stood on the issue of resignation. Other than Washburn’s previous statement suggesting Calvert step down, none responded.
The complete recording can be found on YouTube at www.youtube.com/watch?v=9AzP7SIBM40. Use discretion; language is graphic and profane.