Council reinstates city clerk after suspension
by W. Brian Hale
Nov 24, 2010 | 2532 views | 0 0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
CARBON HILL — Tensions between city officials and the Carbon Hill Utility Board took center stage at a called city council meeting on Wednesday.

Carbon Hill Utility Board chairman Jerry Nelson stated that city hall is still considered a hostile and unsafe work environment based upon a series of confrontations that have occurred between city employees and employees of the utility board. Nelson had stated at previous meetings that if actions were not made to rectify the situation, the board would move out of city hall to protect his employees and that an evacuation of city hall by the board would incur financial obligations by the city that is currently being waived for the utility board not being charged for rent.

City council members countered by saying that they had talked to the employees in question and no further incidents had taken place. Council members stated the employees they hired have done a good job and are continuing to perform their duties well. Several of the council members also said that they felt the demands made by the utility board to terminate the city employees in question may open the door for other concessions to have to be granted to the utility board in the future.

Police Chief Heath Allred announced that when incidents began to occur, he contacted the attorney general's office and recommended to the mayor and the council that an outside agency be brought in to investigate the matter. He said also that the matter has impeded the operations of several city departments, including the police department.

City clerk Marilyn Dumpson, one of the city employees named in the issues, spoke on her view of the matter at hand — which resulted in several confrontations between she and utility board employees.

“The situation started when I asked for the back door at city hall to be closed to save the city money on energy,” Dumpson said. “The door remained open. An issue came up where a utility department employee was working as a dispatcher when the fire chief had to leave on a call. The utility board pays that person in this instance, not the city. I mentioned this to the mayor and recommended that either myself or the magistrate do those jobs so a lawsuit does not come up in the future where a utility board employee does city work on utility board time. The Alabama League of Municipalities and the Labor Board said that I was correct in this respect. Nothing happened on that instance. On a later date, a utility board employee came into our office and instigated a verbal confrontation with myself and the magistrate. Shortly after that occurred, I had a physical collision with one of the utility board employees that escalated the situation. In all of these occurrences, the only questioning I have received is from the city council — no one from the utility board has taken.”

Dumpson also said that she has filed two lawsuits with the EEOC against the mayor, with one instance being from Monday when she was incorrectly terminated, which was later changed to a suspension.

“There are several instances that I have seen that could put our municipality in jeopardy of lawsuits, such as inappropriate relationships and other matters which are very damaging,” Dumpson said.

The city council went into a 35 minute executive session and upon return, Hart announced the resumption of Dumpson’s employment effective on Monday.

“Myself and the council will begin to meet next Tuesday to work on these issues that we are facing so that we can all move our city forward,” Hart said.

Dumpson expressed her joy in her reinstatement and said she looks forward to being back at work next week.

“I am happy to be going back to work,” Dumpson said. “I took this job to serve the citizens of Carbon Hill and am glad to have that opportunity to do so again.”

Nelson said the utility board would closely monitor the decisions made by the city council in next week’s meeting to determine the next course of action that would be taken.

“The decision to move out of city hall is still pending,” Nelson said. “The mayor informed me that the meetings next week will take place to work the issues out. Based upon the decisions they make will determine what we will do as a board. We are still looking at buildings and we're going forward with moving if they don't do anything to satisfy us.”