Embattled District 3 county commissioner Dean Calvert took to Facebook last week and made defiant posts asserting that “I have at this time no intentions of resigning, unless my district speaks.” Calvert is now into a weeks-long campaign to try and stay in office after a dash cam video surfaced that recorded Calvert in a telephone conversation making a racial slur about a local African-American contractor, as well as misogynistic and sexist remarks. He is facing increasing calls to step down, which includes a majority of the county commission, in addition to other county officials.
The Birmingham Water Works Board met Sept. 23 and director William Muhammad proposed a resolution “that the BWWB discontinue employing Blount County Sheriff’s deputies to work security at and around Inland Lake, and that the motion take effect 60 days after it is passed.” Muhammad then made a fervent appeal 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.
In his latest posts, Calvert attacks the BWWB, claiming it has “bullied” Blount County, using its agreement with the Blount County Sheriff’s Office to provide security at Inland Lake to “push us around for years.” The lake is a major reservoir owned by the utility, and sheriff’s deputies have been providing security as an extra job there since shortly after 9/11. There are two deputies working for extra pay at $30 an hour around-the-clock, every day of the year. In 2019, BWWB paid $551,000 for security at Inland Lake. Sheriff Mark Moon has said many of his deputies depend on the extra job to pay bills and that his department uses it as a recruiting tool.
Calvert also asserted he will try to find a way to raise the deputies’ pay so they do not have to rely on any extra jobs.
Commission chairman and probate judge Chris Green spoke with The Blount Countian last Friday after Calvert’s Facebook posts were made. He said he met with Calvert the previous day and told him, “I think for the greater good of Blount County, you need to resign. The only way to resolve the conflict [with the BWWB and the community] is for you to resign.” According to Green, Calvert told him he had no intention of doing so. Green has previously condemned the remarks made by Calvert.
Green also addressed the issue of the BWWB and the economic impact it has on the county. He said the $500,000 the utility pays to deputies is largely spent here in the county and suggested the half-million dollars equates to several times that amount in terms of impact. “A dollar that comes into the county is spent over and over.” He also said the relationship between the BCSO and the BWWB has been in existence for almost 20 years and, “To my knowledge, this is the first bump in the road. I do believe it is something we can work through.”
Green was asked about the possibility of raising pay for deputies in case the BWWB does sever ties. Green noted that the commission has worked for the last few years to bring their pay up to a somewhat comparable level with other counties the size of Blount, but to increase salaries to the level of what the deputies are making through the extra job at the lake would not be feasible. “We don’t have an extra revenue source to fund that idea. The county would not be able to afford to unless we went back and made very substantial cuts to a budget we just have adopted.”
District 4 commissioner Allen Armstrong spoke with TBC last Friday also. He said he asked for Calvert’s resignation through a Facebook post. “I did ask him to step down because it is hurting our county.” Armstrong said he does not condone Calvert’s use of the N-word and sexist remarks. “They have no place in today’s world.” As for raising the deputies’ salaries as suggested by Calvert, Armstrong said, “I don’t know where the money is going to come from.”
Green and Armstrong both agreed that Calvert’s assertion that he will only respond to District 3 voters ignores the fact that all of the commissioners represent the entire county.
Messages left for commissioners Nick Washburn and Mike Painter went unanswered; however, Washburn stated at the last commission meeting he had asked Calvert to step down. At the same meeting, Painter said he had spoken with Calvert privately about the issue, but did not disclose what was said, leaving him as the lone commissioner to not make his view about resignation public.
Sheriff Moon has been very vocal about the harm Calvert is doing to the county and the BCSO, repeatedly calling for his resignation. TBC has obtained a letter to Green from Blount County Circuit Judge Steven King that asserts, Calvert’s “language and content of the conversation [in the recording] are racist and offensive. It is inappropriate for any elected official to engage in such conversation.” King called for Calvert’s resignation.
The complete recording can be found on YouTube at www.youtube.com/watch?v=9AzP7SIBM40. Please use discretion.