Clevelands Town Council

Same topic, different day

The Cleveland Town Council meeting was quietly called to order Monday night. There was moderate attendance of the townspeople, and along with Mayor Larry Longhsore, all council members were present.

Following prayer, councilman Mike Evans began with an estimate from SprayMax for herbicidal treatment along the roadsides. The motion to accept the estimate of $2016 was passed, but all agreed for Evans to try to negotiate a better price.

Evans requested that council members review all claims for their designated departments before they’re paid. He suggested all bills and claims be presented by the clerk to the appointed department heads for approval. Councilman Glenn Puckett reminded Evans of purchase orders that were in place for regular vendors to the town. No motion was made for a change.

In turn, councilman Doug Hill asked to speak. He read what he expressed as “my opinion.” Hill stated, “Things would be much better if the town council spent as much time trying to better (Cleveland) as they spent talking about past and present employees or trying to pass their own personal agendas.”

Hill then went on to say “an oath was made to abide by the law” and that “he personally and respectfully feels that the rules were violated,” particularly in executive sessions. Upon investigation, Hill said, he had found that legally a letter should be presented from the town’s attorney before an executive session. He also found, he said, that only certain topics can be discussed in executive session. “It’s just my opinion,” said Hill, “but I know GeoMet was done illegally without a doubt in my mind.”

The councilman ended by saying that he would like a review by the Ethics Commission and promised he would continue his investigation.

Both Doug Hill and David Grigsby asked to review all matters requiring signatures before their presentation at council meetings. “Things shouldn’t be reviewed at the last minute,” Grigsby said.

Puckett recommended using e-mail for notification. This would allow everyone to study the matters before signing. Grigsby moved to postpone approval of all amendments and ordinances until council had time to review, with a second from Hill.

Tension became evident as the water board budget was reviewed. At present, the water board has a negative balance of over $41,000. Councilwoman Kandy Little replied that this is reasonable since February is the slowest month. “Water sales should go up now that it’s spring,” she said. Reports showed that $26,000 had already been spent, when the board had been budgeted for only $18,000. Puckett asked for clarification of several debits and credits, and again the $4000 settlement to superintendent Wayne Owens was brought to the table.

Town resident Jerry Wayne Thomas said, “I just have a couple of questions.” He first wanted to know if a lawsuit had actually been filed by Mr. Owens.

Mayor Longshore clarified, stating Owens had filed a “claim” and the settlement was an effort to avoid court.

Puckett joined the discussion saying, “but the settlement amount was never discussed.” “The mayor approved it,” Little replied.

Thomas then questioned the dismissal of Jacob Hudson and the rehire of Owens. “Why did we fire Jacob Hudson and put Wayne in his place when Jacob did the same job for threee dollars an hour less?” exclaimed Thomas. “Why?” he asked. “I just want to know why!”

The mayor answered that Hudson had not been “fired” but it was a “reduction in force.” He also reminded that “this is all public record. If anybody wants to come by and read it,” he said, “they can.”

At this point, ex-mayor James Sullivan said, “The new council never asked the old council how things really went.” He said Owens had not been fired but had resigned when he decided to run for mayor, and that following the election, Owens approached him about “getting his job back.”

Sullivan, then mayor, advised Owens to contact water superindendent Steve Pass as soon as possible. “But he didn’t,” alleged Sullivan. “He just went around telling everybody he was fired.”

Mayor Longshore abruptly dismissed the discussion because Sullivan had not been scheduled for Monday night’s agenda.

Wayne Owens had no reply.

Still having the floor, Jerry Wayne Thomas asked, “Why do we pay (our attorney) $750 a month when we only used to pay $100 a month?” “Because,” Mayor Longshore replied, “we used to only get $100 worth of services.”

Closing on a lighter note, discussions began regarding the park and recreation board, particularly a fence needed behind the soccer goal. Longshore stated concerns that someone could be injured chasing a ball that rolled toward the street.

Councilman Puckett had received an estimate of $2700 for permanent fencing but recommended waiting until the park board was in place. “I just don’t want us to pay all that money for something they may not approve,” stated Puckett. Councilman Hill assured that the park board should be in place within the next 30 days, when a final decision could be made.

Resident Jerry Wayne Thomas then said he would donate 50 feet of temporary fencing material if someone would supply the labor. His offer was accepted unanimously.

Cleveland’s next council meeting is scheduled for April 6 at 7 p.m. in the town hall.