During an Aug. 23 work session, however, Day said he was informed that the change in meeting time was done illegally, so he motioned to change the meeting time to Monday, Aug. 30, beginning at 10 a.m.
“It was announced by myself in a previous meeting,” said Day during the Aug. 23 meeting or “non-meeting.” “However, since it was not made into a resolution and signed by all the members, then we cannot conduct the county commission meeting tonight. Given that, the county commission meeting will be held to conduct official business at 10 a.m. Monday, Aug. 30. I’m sorry for your inconvenience.”
The real “fireworks” occurred during the work session prior to the meeting, Day said. He explained the events that transpired in a prepared statement.
The commission, Day said, conducts a planning meeting an hour before the regular meeting. Attending the Aug. 23 work session were Sheriff Larry Wilson, Chief Deputy Tim Hays, Wade Sprouse, Elbert St. Clair, County Engineer Roger Hall, Commissioner Kathryn Black’s daughter, Elizabeth Stafford, County Administrator Tim Burgess, County Attorney Bill Hawkins, the four commissioners and Day.
“At the beginning, Commissioner Earl Westbrook stated that the change in meeting time announced at the end of the Aug. 9 commission meeting was done illegally,” said Day. “I want to explain to the citizens how that time was set. In the last planning meeting, I expressed to the commissioners my desire to change the time of the commission meetings so that citizens could attend. I told them that many of you out there wanted this and I had pledged to do so. All the commissioners agreed. When I asked them what time they would prefer, the commissioners told me to set the time. I asked if 5:30 p.m. was acceptable and they all agreed. So at the end of the Aug. 9 meeting, I announced to the public that the new meeting time would be 5:30 p.m. with a 4:30 p.m. planning meeting. At that time, no commissioners voiced any concern or any disagreement.”
During the Aug. 23 work session, however, Commissioner Westbrook said he felt that the new time for the meetings was wrong and voiced his concerns that 10 a.m. was appropriate because it would allow those working second and third shifts to attend. Westbrook went on to say that the 5:30 p.m. time would put undue hardships on county employees who would have to stay until after the 5:30 p.m. meeting was over. As an example, he cited County Engineer Roger Hall, who works long hours and then must drive to his home near Birmingham every day.
“Well Mr. Commissioner, I’m sorry,” said Day. “We are servants of the people and we serve at their convenience. If that means a little extra work two evenings a month, well so be it. County officials are there for the people’s convenience-not our own.”
According to Day, the law in Alabama states that the meeting day for a county commission meeting can only be changed by a resolution of the county commission. “Commissioner Westbrook felt that since there was no resolution passed starting the new time, we were meeting illegally,” said Day. “My point is that we are not changing the date, just the time for the meeting. One of our three county attorneys on retain, Mr. Bill Hawkins, opinioned that the law was clear about changing the day, but unclear about changing the time. He expressed that since the minutes from the last meeting contained the time change that if they were approved, then that would suffice as a resolution and we could conduct business.”
“Mr. Hawkins said that since I announced the 5:30 p.m. two weeks prior, that this could be considered a special meeting and county business could be done,” said Day. “Commissioner Westbrook again objected. He stated that the meeting was advertised as a regular meeting and not a special meeting. It was at this point that I announced to the public that no meeting would be held. I then announced a special meeting to be held at 10 a.m. Monday, Aug. 30. But this morning, I have to check with the lawyers to see of the require five days notice is five days or five business days, is it five days from the time the newspaper runs it or what. It goes on and on, citizens.”
Westbrook accused Day of turning this issue into a democrat/republican issue, Day said. “Citizens, that is the first time that political parties had been mentioned by anyone in a commission gathering since I took office,” said Day. “I don’t mention parties in commission business because party politics has no place here. We are there to do the people’s business-period. I want to applaud Commissioner Harold Woodall for stating that he was happy with the new 5:30 p.m. meeting time. But I can understand why a body so used to doing business in the shadows would want it to remain there. Citizens, I fully intend to ask for that resolution of a 5:30 p.m. meeting time so that the maximum number of citizens can attend. If you feel that a 5:30 meeting time is wrong, then let me know. Call the probate judge’s office and tell me. Or, call your commissioners and tell them.”
Day also reported that the official transfer of the Tahoe to the sheriff’s department has been delayed. “Commissioner Dale Welsh informed me that I had no authority to give it to the sheriff’s department,” said Day. “Commissioner Welsh stated to me and to all present that that vehicle belonged to the county commission and not the probate judge. Again, without a resolution. I had no authority to transfer it.”
“I am pleased that after so long, that our commissioners now want to exercise some restraint over their probate judge,” said Day. “At any time, the commission could have disapproved the purchase of a luxury SUV to be solely used by the probate judge. At any time, they could have said No. I am glad that they have learned to say the word.”
Until a resolution is adopted, Day said, the sheriff’s department will continue to use the vehicle on a day to day basis. “I have no need of a luxury SUV and I refuse to let it sit in the parking lot when it can be used to serve the citizens of the county.”
Day stressed that he has nothing but respect for all county commissioners.
“These disagreements happen-that’s life in government,” said Day. “As long as we all want to serve the people, we can overcome these differences and work together.