An article published in Wednesday’s edition of the Corridor Messenger quoted Carbon Hill resident Mary Bray, who says she saw council members Jacque Roberson Allred and Chris Pschirer in City Clerk Kim Sides office while absentee ballots were spread out on the front desk.
“I saw what I saw,” the paper quoted Bray as saying, “and there is no doubt about it.”
Sides and Pschirer told the Messenger that the two council members were indeed at the city clerk’s office, but that no absentee ballots were present on any desk.
“This is nothing I am aware of and I was right here when Mary Bray was in the office,” Pschirer told the Messenger.
Though Sides was not present at Thursday’s regular meeting, Assistant City Clerk Denise Clements read a statement concerning the allegations.
Clements said she believes the absentee ballots mentioned in the article were in fact applications for absentee ballots.
She said there are occasion in which she brings the applications to the front desk in order to make phone calls to the Board of Registrars. She said absentee ballots, however, are kept in a locked file cabinet when she is not preparing them to be mailed to voters.
She said applications contain information that, when the application is processed, is made public by a required posting on the wall outside the door of the city clerk’s office.
“I can say with absolute certainty that there have never been any ballots, absentee or regular, on the front desk where I do the majority of my work,” Clements said.
Pschirer, who served as mayor pro tem at the meeting, thanked Clements for explaining the issue.
“Hopefully, some people will have clarification on that issue now,” he said.
In her comments at the end of the council meeting, Allred mentioned the success of this year’s Hillfest celebration. However, she said it is particularly hard to find volunteers for the event because of fears they will be criticized in the Messenger.
The weekly paper recently published an article detailing the publication’s requests for public records associated with the City of Carbon Hill. Particlarly, Messenger staff have requested all documents related to the finances of the Hillfest celebration.
Allred said at the meeting that the account for Hillfest has $3,500 in it, and that it is available to the public. She added that the decisions about Hillfest are made in a monthly meeting, which is open to the public.
After the meeting, Allred said Hillfest organizers have invited the Messenger staff to the planning meetings to view any documents they have for any of past three Hillfest celebrations. She said no one representing the paper has ever attended the meeting since the organization began in 2010.