Mayor pro tem James “Jimbo” Bray Jr. made the motion to officially demote Ron Colburn as police chief and place Lt. Jason Richardson as the city’s acting police chief under a six-month probationary period. All council members agreed, with Mayor James “Pee Wee” Richardson abstaining from the vote.
According to council members, several complaints had been made against Colburn, who recently filed lawsuits against the city and three council members. Colburn’s attorney, Ken Guin, had previously said Colburn “was given no due process that’s required by law ... It’s just wrong.”
As head of the police department now, Jason Richardson not only informed council members about what has been taking place in the department, but he also provided each member with printed information on how many arrests, warrants, citations and warnings had been issued since April 8.
He also informed the council on several other items, including the bust of a methamphetamine lab that was discovered with the help of the Walker County Department of Human Resources and the Walker County Sheriff’s Office, a drug awareness program for students at Carbon Hill High School to take place in May, an agreement with the high school’s principal, Gypsy Stovall, where officers will be present at sporting events for the next two years at no cost to the city, a possible community drug awareness and crime prevention program, and mandatory monthly meetings for the police officers and dispatchers.
Richardson also mentioned that the department has been in contact with the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs about seeking different grants. Richardson said he would be attending a meeting with ADECA today in Birmingham.
The council and those in attendance during Wednesday night’s meeting applauded Richardson for the efforts he is making in the department and the community.
In other business, the council:
•heard from the head of the street department, Alan May, who said a culvert on 12th Ave. is falling in and that it would take $1,250 to fix it. May said he spoke with some workers with the county who said they would help.
District 4 council member Mark Chambers also asked May about a road located behind the old junior high school gymnasium that has numerous potholes.
May said he had enough gravel to fill the holes.
•approved allowing male inmates to work with May and/or police officers to pick up trash on the roadsides and to help fix the swimming pool.
•heard from the mayor, who displayed a plaque the city received from AMIC Insurance Company for 25 years of service.
•tabled the city’s updated handbook with the stipulation that it will be discussed at the next council meeting in May.
•heard a report from officials from the Walker County and Winston County libraries.
•heard from Buddy Smith, the city’s fire chief, who said currently things are running smoothly at the fire department, with the exception of one problem.
“We got a problem right now that we haven’t had for 25 years, but we got a problem now that we need to clarify. We’ve always had somebody over there in the utilities office, Mr. Bray or whoever. But if we had a fire or bad wreck or something, for the past 25 years, I’ve been able to leave without any problems,” Smith said. “The utilities department is gone now and if the city clerk or court clerk is gone, they can’t just shut down the front office to come back to dispatch. So, if you got a house fire or a bad wreck, what am I supposed to do?”
Council members then voted to have either the city clerk or magistrate shut the main door and go over to dispatch to handle things until Smith or another firefighter can return.
Smith also informed the council and residents about the department’s results from the ISO report. Their score changed from a 7/9 to a 6/6x.
Smith said the change should go into effect June 1 where a person’s homeowners insurance should decrease a little.
•announced there will be no council meeting next Tuesday night. The council will have its next meeting Tuesday, May 13, at 6 p.m.
•decided to dismiss the city’s current attorney, Charles Stephens Jr. and hire attorney Steven Thomas. Mayor Richardson wanted to put the decision off until the next council meeting, but he went ahead and made the decision at the request of the council to terminate Stephens’ as the city’s attorney and hire Thomas.
•listened to the mayor as he read the resignation letter of District 3 council member Terry Mason.
“This letter is to advise that I am resigning my position as council member for District 3. I cannot serve God and work for the devil. I cannot serve with a mayor who has no morals or spiritual standards,” the letter stated.
“I don’t agree with that, but anyway,” Richardson said.
“This letter serves as notice that this meeting on 4-16-14 is my last. I wish this council success in the future and may the Lord be with you,” the letter concluded.
After the meeting, Mason, who has served on the council since December 2013, said, “In my recent years, I have given my life to God and to Jesus, and the only way that I can stay a good Christian is to take myself away from the evils that have been put in charge of this city. By order of the judge, he [mayor Richardson] has been given total control as mayor. He has already proven that he has no morals, and I cannot serve God and work for the devil.”
In response to Mason’s letter, the mayor said, “I hate to see him go, too. Terry is a good man. There was some stuff that he got mad about. [I] tried to tell him the way it was. He wouldn’t listen to me.
“He had his mind made up and what he said in that resignation, I am deeply hurt about it,” he continued. “... My job is to help our city work together, bring stuff in here, and that’s what I’m going to do. This other stuff will take care of itself.”
•voted to add District 5 council member Suzanne Atkins to sign for city checks in place of Mason’s signature.