By Nathan Prewett For La Tribune
LEEDS – In a meeting on Monday, November 15, Leeds City Council passed a resolution to reserve support in allowing Priority Soldier, Inc. to place a veterans counseling service at the Moton Center due to concerns about the Moton Education Foundation’s requirements for its board members.
During the meeting, council also heard from several citizens regarding an anonymous letter sent to residents which detailed criticism against several city employees and accusations of ethics violations.
Councilor Kenneth Washington served as mayor pro tempore, with Mayor David Miller on vacation. The first item the council took action on was the resolution regarding the Moton Center Veterans Counseling Project.
The resolution states that the board of directors of the Moton Education Foundation is “improperly composed of members who are not citizens of the City of Leeds” as required by the articles of incorporation when the property was transferred to the foundation in 2012 .
The resolution also states that the council will reserve its support for the project “until such council is properly constituted and established as a council composed of citizen members of the City of Leeds, as originally planned …”
Full resolution can be seen on the City of Leeds website.
Council allowed those present at the meeting to speak, one of them being Betty Middlebrooks, who said she owned property near the center. She asked if any changes had been made to the articles, to which Washington replied that it did not believe there were but was studying. City attorney Scott Barnett said he was not aware of any formal changes.
Moton Center director Gloria Haynes was present and spoke, saying some of the original members have left the board and are trying to get Leeds citizens to join the board. She also said that changes had been made to the articles and that she was willing to bring the minutes of the meetings where they were taken to the city.
Haynes requested a meeting where she said she would bring papers to the board and that current board members could also be in attendance. The next board meeting on December 6 has been determined for this to take place.
During public comments, former board member Susan Carswell spoke about the letter and package which detailed the concerns of city employees, including Glen Williams of the Inspections Department, Director of Development Services Brad Watson and a man named Lee Barnes whom the package claimed not to live in Leeds.
The letter alleges Barnes is running a racketeering plot, raised concerns about employee wages and non-compliance with bidding laws, and influenced those who work for the city to cooperate with him. It includes statements about fees allegedly levied by Barnes and his associates for city projects, including the one in Buc-ee.
The package contained documents about Watson being the subject of several bankruptcy actions, requiring a financial management course, and questioning him about financial management. In addition, he criticizes Williams for being allowed to use a city vehicle despite an arrest for drunk driving before working for Leeds. The letter provided the arrest report.
Carswell said that despite some of the allegations, she did not believe the council was aware of the alleged activities, but suggested that an independent investigator be brought in. Although the letter has no signatures, she urged the council not to ignore it.
“I just feel like it hurts us and it hurts potential people who come to this community,” she said. “And since people don’t put their name on it, it could be that they’re afraid of retaliation.”
Carswell later said she would provide copies to the board. Other residents spoke, including Scott Chambers, who asked what the council would do if a signature was put on.
A discussion ensued on whether the information could be sent to the Alabama Ethics Commission if it was signed. Chambers said he did not send the letter but may be willing to endorse his name with other residents to send it to the commission.
“For me it has to be a partnership,” he said. “It doesn’t have to be individuals against city council, city council against individuals. It must be a fair, transparent and direct approach.
City Councilor DeVoris Ragland-Pierce said it would be acceptable to citizens. Barnett said he would be prepared to send the letter to the commission himself. Washington echoed Ragland-Pierce’s suggestion that the letter could be sent to the commission, but stressed that it would have to be signed for them to take it seriously.
In other cases, the council,
- Removed an agenda item regarding a Rock Hampton LLC Fire Suppression System Donation Proposal to consider other options,
- Approved the donation of a surplus truck to the Dunnavant Volunteer Fire Department,
- Approved a grant consultancy service for the fire department, and
- Entered an executive session at the end of the meeting with the subject of the good reputation and reputation of a resident.
Meetings are held the first and third Monday of each month at City Hall at 1400 9th Street Northeast. Agenda packages can be viewed online at Leeds City website.