Calls for the resignation of Blount County District 3 commissioner Dean Calvert continue because of Calvert’s racially derogatory and misogynistic comments captured on a dash cam recording. They can be seen and heard on social media, in letters to the editor in The Blount Countian, from speakers at commission meetings, and from the statements of multiple elected officials in the county including commission chairman and probate judge Chris Green, commissioners Allen Armstrong and Nick Washburn, Blount County Sheriff Mark Moon, and Circuit Judge Steven King. In the recording, Calvert referred to a local African-American contractor using the N-word and made sexist remarks about women.
Calvert remains defiant per one of his most recent Facebook posts stating he has no intention of resigning and only the voters of District 3 can remove him from office. Calvert does not face reelection until 2022.
Calvert’s recorded statements caught the attention of the Birmingham Water Works Board, which has an agreement with many Blount County Sheriff’s deputies to provide security at Inland Lake, one of the major reservoirs of that utility. The board members voted on Sept. 23 to end the arrangement within 60 days because of Calvert’s racial remark. Deputies provide around-the-clock security at the lake as an extra job. As currently structured, two deputies work six shifts per day at the lake year-round. Sheriff Mark Moon has said the extra job is crucial for his deputies as a revenue source, and he also uses it as a recruiting tool. A deputy can earn almost $1,500 per month if they work the maximum number of shifts. In 2019, the BWWB paid $551,000 for security at the lake.
At the BWWB meeting last week, Moon affirmed his office is for racial equality and asserted the department is striving to be better. Asked about diversity training, Moon said the department’s training officer is working on implementing that training. He also said the department actively recruits African-Americans, but acknowledged it is difficult because of a lack of diversity in Blount County. Members of the board encouraged him to seek employees outside the county, particulary at colleges with a high African-American student body. He agreed to do so.
Moon explained the county cannot pay deputies at the “rate they deserve,” and many are dependent on the extra job. He said that before becoming sheriff, he, too, relied on the job at the lake to pay his mortgage and help with other expenses. He closed by saying, “I hope we can mend this relationship, both for your benefit and ours.”
Green also spoke at the same meeting and talked about the long, positive relationship between the BWWB and the BCSO, which dates back to just after 9/11. He also noted the significance of the extra jobs, not only to the deputies and their families, but to the economic health of the county as well. “It’s multiplied over and over within our community, so it means a lot to us.” He also said, “I am committed to do anything within my power to restore the relationship we have enjoyed for so many years.”
Board director William Muhammad asked Green if Calvert’s prejudicial remarks were representative of the people in District 3.Green answered, “Absolutely not.” Muhammad went on to add that since Calvert is not up for re-election until 2022, the Board might revisit and resume its relationship with the sheriff’s office once it has seen if the voters do support Calvert. He called Blount County part of the BWWB family and said, “We cannot be in a family with people who are racist.”
Green and Moon were asked later about their meeting at the BWWB. Green said he remains optimistic that a solution can be found. He has confidence “we will work through it. We’re not there yet, but we are not giving up.” Moon was a little less optimistic, but has vowed to do what he can to support the deputies in his department.
Dean is not without some supporters. Everett Smith spoke at the commission’s work session on Oct. 14 and rhetorically asked if anyone in the room, including the audience, had ever made a statement in private that they would never want recorded and released. Smith said most people, if not all, had made such a statement and should be more forgiving.
Brandon Gallups responded to Smith by agreeing that probably everyone has said something they would not want to be made public, but added people in public office are held to a higher standard.
Clarence Muhammad (no known relation to BWWB’s director William Muhammad) spoke to the commission on Oct. 19 and again called for Calvert to resign. He said people can be forgiven, but sometimes they must also suffer the consequences of their actions.
Calvert was not present for the commission meetings on Oct. 14 and 19.
The complete recording of Calvert’s statements can be found on YouTube at www.youtube.com/watch?v=9AzP7SIBM40. Please use discretion because the language is graphic and profane.