CH council members, mayor pro tem offer resignations during heated meeting
by Briana Webster
Oct 11, 2013 | 2910 views | 0 0 comments | 38 38 recommendations | email to a friend | print
CARBON HILL — The Carbon Hill City Council met Thursday night without the return of Mayor James “Pee Wee” Richardson, and council members were prepared to turn in their resignations from the council.

Council members said Richardson, who was recently released from jail after being arrested on charges of sexual misconduct, was out on sick leave. Mayor Pro Tem Terry Mason conducted the meeting and followed protocol with the regular agenda. However, the calmness didn’t last long as the tension rose between council member James Pendley and Carbon Hill’s Police Chief Ron Colburn.

Colburn responded to Mason when he asked about department reports, saying “arrests have been slow. We got five in jail right now.”

“You’re saying that we’re making fewer arrests. Does that mean the crime rate is lower?” Pendley asked. After Colburn answered no, Pendley added, “Then are we making fewer arrests? ... If you’re not making any arrests and the crime rate is not down, then somebody is not doing their job.” 

“One reason, I’ll tell you why, is because y’all cut us back to one [officer] per shift,” Colburn said. To which Pendley said the city couldn’t afford to pay more officers.

During that heated debate, Carbon Hill Utility Board member Ronnie O’Rear, who was reinstated to the board at the first of the meeting, spoke out and said, “Well, we’re paying the guy to sit up on the hill to be the mayor. Everybody knows it.” Pendley had Colburn escort O’Rear from the meeting.

Soon after the interruption, Mason announced that he was handing over his duty as mayor pro tem to District 6 council member Jimbo Bray. Mason said Bray will be the interim mayor pro tem until the council can find a full-time mayor pro tem. Mason further explained that his decision stemmed from his wife’s issues with her health.

Then, after a motion was made to make Bray interim mayor pro tem, District 2 council member Anthony Hammond told the audience that he was turning in his letter of resignation because of his health issues.

“We started out saying that we were about building Carbon Hill. Let’s stay on that. Still hold those standards,” Hammond said. “... I just cannot give you what you need in that form. It’s about my health.”

Members of the audience also learned during the meeting that District 4 member Ken “Sarge” Blankensopp had recently turned in his resignation as well. All members were ready to give their letters of resignation Thursday night but decided against it. District 1 council member Sandra Garrison and Mason told the crowd that there were going to be council seats available and for people who want to give their opinion and their community a voice to come by and fill out an application.

The next person to speak on the agenda was Alfred Eugene Matthieu, who moved to the small “Christian” town eight years ago.

“I’m not a native of Carbon Hill. I live in Carbon Hill because I want to live in Carbon Hill. I like this little town,” Matthieu said. “... The last meeting night, I think you shirked your duties, each and every one of ya’. You had the opportunity while all the media was here to tell them what kind of town we live in. You’ve had a bigger crowd than the eight years that I’ve lived and been a resident of Carbon Hill, and y’all flubbed it.” 

“May I ask you a question? Are you going to fill out an application for a position?” Pendley asked Matthieu, who replied, “I don’t know that I will Mr. Pendley. I’m 82 years old.” 

“I’m 63 and I’ve had three bypass surgeries. He’s got his problems. You can’t be in perfect health and do what it takes to do this job because everybody else works, so don’t let that be an excuse to help us,” Pendley said. “... Do you know the rules about being in the dispatch office in the jail? Then, why were you there Monday, because it’s against the law for you to be there.” 

“I’m going to tell you exactly why. When Buddy Smith went on that fire call I was sitting outside and he said, ‘Gene come in here and answer that phone until we can get Kim over here.’ You’re right Mr. Pendley, I overstayed my welcome in there,” Matthieu said.

Mason banged the gavel on the podium to end the quarrel, but Pendley thought otherwise.

“Wait just a minute. No, I’m going to get my part in here first. Now we have all been told that we were never to go in that dispatch office, and certainly not back in the jail, and when someone did it, you all know what happened,” Pendley interjected. “So, my question is, Buddy Smith and Ron Colburn, why are you allowing people back there?” 

Colburn told Pendley that Matthieu visits the inmates on Sundays with his church, to which Pendley acknowledged and replied with “that’s good.” The crowd applauded Colburn for his remarks. Pendley later apologized for losing his temper during the meeting.

In other business, the council: 

•approved the minutes of the Sept. 26 meeting.

•tabled the decision to hire Josh Lucas as a police officer.

•announced that brick sales for the coal miner monument will end Oct. 14.

•approved the purchase of a computer for the city clerk to replace the one that had crashed.

•told the audience they will be taking applications until Oct. 24 to fill Doris Stephens’ position on the Housing Authority Board.

•restricted checks written by Richardson to just $100, which raised questions from Hammond, members of the audience and the media asking why Richardson should even be writing checks in the first place because of his arrest last month.

•heard reports from the different city department heads.

The next scheduled city council meeting is set for Oct. 24 at 6 p.m.