By Butch Lee
Guest Writer 

Mayor is getting it wrong


September 12, 2019

Mr. Editor

In response to your article and opinion on the issue I brought forward at the council meeting, I wanted to elaborate a little on the reasoning behind why this was important. I guess I spent many years knowing and believing that no one person was above any other when it came to the laws which govern municipalities within the state. Well, much to my surprise, it is everywhere else except here. Apparently, it is ok for an elected official to make purchases from his business using municipal funds. Apparently, it is ok to miss direct payments from the general fund account to a payroll account in which the council wasn’t even aware of. And remember, this was when this account was discovered it had a surplus of $600,000. While we, when I was on the council, were having to borrow money from the water department and everywhere else just to pay the bills.

See, approximately 7 years ago, give or take a little time as memory serves, I had a conversation with the mayor after a year or so before the Town of Flomaton requested an Attorney General opinion regarding the mayor purchasing supplies and hardware from his store with town money to be utilize by the town. The opinion is searchable on the Alabama Attorney General website and you can read it for yourself. The opinion in part stated that unless the business is domicile, located within this town limits, then it was the opinion of the AG’s office that it violated state ethics law. Just as I was told by you sir, it is just an opinion and is not legally binding. Well, I would think a three-year-old could see that using town money to purchase from their business would have some implications of the appearance of unfairness. Good Lord let’s get real. We shouldn’t even have to think this one through.

When I was on the council and checked into the findings of the AG’s Office, it was at that point that I refused and stated to the mayor that I would not support the paying of bills to his company. The bill for a specific month was paid, without council knowledge and I at that point filed a complaint with the ethics commission who found cause that in fact it did violate the state ethics law and the commission held a hearing on the matter and sanctions were imposed for the violation.

Now a couple of months ago, because I put a question on my face book page regarding a call of a trespasser, it was then copied onto the town’s website so that it would prohibit me from making any comments or exercising my freedom of speech.

I talked to the mayor as I had retracted my comment after less than 45 minutes, I felt that it would be appropriate to move on and let’s try to work together. A phone call with the mayor revealed the justice behind what transpired. His comment to me was that “you have ruined this town”. “What are you talking about” was my reply. “By not allowing us to buy from my store and having to go to Atmore or Brewton to buy supplies.” My reply was simple. Do I run for office if I owned a retail store which provides service to the town and can generate $15,000 or more per year or do, I want to be mayor for $300 per month? To me it would be an easy choice. So, to be fair since the town must go to Brewton or Atmore because of me reporting a violation of the ethics law then I as well have begun to do the same.

So, you would think that it would be over with, right? Not hardly. You see my sister in law, Lynn Baxter, who worked for the SAIL center for 14 years was fired from the town of Flomaton for no cause. Attached is a copy of the writeup as I have her permission to use it in this article. As you look at the write up you will find these two things.

First, Lynn was asked by the Town Clerk to fill out a grant that is normally filled out by the town clerk. Lynn did take it by to her supervisor, but her supervisor was unaware of the grant and didn’t know how it needed to be done. Lynn then brought it by my house to ask me what she should do. I told her to take it back to city hall and see the grant from last year that should be on file and following the same answers which were filed last year and just readjust numbers needed to bring it up to date. She did go to city hall and told the town clerk that “I” told her to come by and see if there was a copy to go by.

So Butch Lee’s name is mentioned and then the town clerk goes off. As you can see from the write up, they claimed that it was private or confidential information. Although you can go the South Alabama Regional Planning Commission website and download the same form she had.

It is funding for 2019-2020 and is public information. I did talk with the mayor after all this, he told that he showed Heath Jackson, the sheriff, who looked over the write up and told him it all looked good. He also said the town attorney looked over it. Well, number one, why is Heath Jackson looking at personnel write ups on an employee with the town of Flomaton? I thought it was confidential? Second, if you are so sure you did the right thing why would you need to talk to someone?

There are two standards of fairness. There are those who matter and those who don’t. There are those with prestige and those without. There are ones who are exempt from the process of fairness and the legal aspects we require out of all elected officials and work as a one ruler form of government. It is up to the town council to dictate what is provided by law under an ordinance to prevent this from happening to someone else. I know two of them agree that an employee should be treated fairly without fear of punishment because of their belief, association with someone or because of politics.

But you see, as it states in the write up, a party can be terminated without cause. Basically, it would be up to the people of this town to call your elected official and prompt them to take action on this matter and protect the employees of this town by giving them an avenue to address a grievance and no longer have a one ruler form of government and take back the hiring process to where it must be approved by council.

Mr. Editor you mentioned a town charter. You thought that it was in the town charter. This I never heard of. If there was a town charter, and Lord knows who wrote it or when it was written, then you would see that a town, even a small town so far away from Montgomery that you would think they couldn’t see you, passed a constitution that says in part that a town can not pass anything that is contrary to state law. Ok, so that excuse is out.

We have so much indebtedness in this town that we couldn’t even see the light of day for years to come. Bills can’t be paid and as one business person told me, they received a call from the town wanting them to put off their bill they owe for a little while until they could pay. Really?

We are increasing the rates of water and sewer and now the garbage in order to pay for general fund expenditures. So, who is to blame? Me. The voter, the one who didn’t require more out of my elected representative and move forward with an avenue to change what is going on. There are a couple of council people that believe action needs to be taken. I hope my representative Mr. Rearden knows that I for one am not on board with a $5.00 per month increase. Give me a break.

You guys are using every fund to pay for the town’s bills because you are not following your own budget. You can’t overestimate a budget and expect to have enough money to fund the town. The point of all this is that the council passes a budget and the meetings on Monday nights, once a month right now, is nothing more than a show. The town never needed approval to pay bills they had, once they passed the budget. Second, as you set in luxury and know that you don’t have to smell a sewer logon at your back door, yes can you imagine? A sewer logon. And yet you guys are spending money out of these accounts to pay general fund expenses. You know that it will one day have to be replaced. Oh, I guess you can always borrow more money. But I think if you look closely you will find that even the state of Alabama has restricted borrowing of municpalities to protect towns from having to go bankrupt. In other words, they, by law and constitution, have set in place an avenue of limitation on how much can be borrowed. And by the way, we are well past that in indebtedness.

Butch Lee

Flomaton Resident


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