City deserves more than shenanigans

Shenanigans:  secret or dishonest activity or maneuvering. Shenanigans:  the word best suited to characterize the exploits of the most talked about and, arguably, most dysfunctional city council in Demopolis history.

Thursday night, Councilman Jack Cooley introduced discussion regarding the Demopolis City Schools Board of Education seat currently held by Bobby Armstead, whose second appointment to the board has been expired for months. The understanding of the council as of its June 21 meeting was that the issue would be tabled until a consensus of some sort could be reached.

For months, the council had deadlocked at 3-3 over whether to appoint Conrad Murdock or Freddie Armstead Jr. to the seat. Rather than belabor the point further, it was tabled indefinitely.

Thursday, the first meeting after this current conglomeration of councilmen officially became a “lame duck” entity, Cooley saw an opening with the absence of Melvin Yelverton and raised the issue. Shenanigans.

Sensing he and Thomas Moore, who have both long been firmly entrenched in the pro Freddie Armstead Jr. camp, would be force fed a board member they did not want, Mitchell Congress objected to the council bringing up the issue in Yelverton’s absence.

Congress knew that without Yelverton, Murdock would win the appointment because Cooley, Mayor Mike Grayson and Councilman Bill Meador would vote in favor of Murdock.

So Congress rightly called to everyone’s attention that this process had always seen the council do nominations at one meeting and vote at another. The intention of that pattern was to properly study and vet the nominees. But the pattern persisted over the course of the late spring and the entirety of the summer despite the fact that the council had “vetted” Murdock and Armstead Jr. ad nauseam.

Congress also rightly recalled that at a previous meeting he motioned the council proceed with nominations and voting in the same night. He wrongly recalled that Grayson denied his request.

The truth is that Congress made that motion June 21. And Grayson deferred to the pleasure of the council. The council left Congress’ motion hanging and it died with no second.

Thursday night, three of the five council members in the room were eager to vote on the issue. Shenanigans.

So Moore and Congress offered up the ultimate power play. The got up from the table and walked away. That took the council’s quorum away. That rendered any business conducted after their walkout completely void. And it kept the embarrassing saga of the board of education seat on the agenda for at least a little while longer.

Were Congress and Moore within their right to walk out? Absolutely. But what was it? Shenanigans.

And, while two wrongs certainly do not make a right, the council members who remained for the duration of Thursday night’s meeting learned firsthand about forcing the council’s hand in the absence of one of its members.

Aug. 18, 2011. Cooley was not at that meeting. But he remembers that date. Why? Shenanigans.

At that time, the city council had long been deadlocked 3-3 on a vote over whether or not to approve the renovation of Fire Station No. 2. The renovation in question was a key component holding up the city budget and was no small matter in that it called for something in the neighborhood of $750,000.

When the council reached that portion of the agenda, Grayson requested it not vote on the matter in Cooley’s absence.

Congress unceremoniously ignored Grayson’s request to table the vote, himself motioning to approve $750,000 for the building and furnishing of Fire Station No. 2. Moore seconded the motion. Congress, Moore and Yelverton each voted in favor of the measure. Shenanigans.

It took him more than a year, but Cooley appeared to finally find a way to gain some measure of perceived retribution for the shenanigans that took place in his absence last August. He offered his own shenanigans. And Moore and Congress walked away, taking the cards out of everyone’s hands.

There have probably been days where Grayson and Meador felt they should have walked away during that meeting in August 2011.

Now, all the city can hope is that the councilmen that will take over in November are eager to avoid the childish antics of their predecessors. Whether well intentioned or otherwise, we have all seen enough shenanigans to last our city for quite some time.

Hopefully, the incoming councilmen will have the wherewithal to work together, compromise and keep sitting at the table no matter the outcome of the vote.

Demopolis deserves its elected officials to do what is best for the city itself rather than focusing on how to hoodwink three men with a dissenting opinion.

And if we cannot get that out of all six of our city councilmen, it is probably better that they all just walk away.

DCS board passes employee conduct policy

The Demopolis City Schools Board of Education approved a new employee conduct policy Monday during its regularly scheduled meeting.
The policy is similar in many ways to standards governing the conduct of employees in other school systems. However, the new policy features the inclusion of two paragraphs that speak to employee ethics and loyalty.

“Further, it is the belief and expectation of the Demopolis City Board of Education that educators have and employ ethical behavior, and as such, have devotion to your job, your position, your students, other employees and to your school system as a whole,” Policy 6.29 reads. “All employees should feel a drive and expectation to further the education of all students and to put their well being above all else. Employees are expected to maintain a sense of neutrality and fairness in their endeavors as educators. Certainly, employees have their own opinions, but must be careful and allow students to form their own conclusions and opinions.”

“It’s just a standard policy that a lot of school systems have. Our policy point of contact just gave us a draft that another school system had adopted. We passed it back and forth between the board members and the board attorney accordingly,” Demopolis City Schools Superintendent Dr. Al Griffin said. “We really wanted to reference the Alabama educator code of ethics. We had training last Wednesday with our teachers. Dr. John Bell from our state department came and worked with our staff on it. That way we made sure we were all on the same page.”

While the policy seems innocuous, some individuals have questioned the timing of its passage and the rhetoric utilized in the wake of events last spring that saw a contract dispute between one of the school system’s principals and the board of education spiral into public outcry that included student protests during school hours.
The policy is included below in its entirety.

Employee Code of Conduct – 6.29

Demopolis City School System personnel are employed for the express purpose of contributing in a positive way to the education of the youth of the community. The community expects School System employees to provide an environment that will foster a well-rounded educational program and a safe and conscientious place for children to learn.

In order to provide such educational program and school environments in the respective schools of the School System, all employees of the Board are expected to abide by (1) all federal and state laws, (2) all State Board of Education policies, (3) all local ordinances, (4) all local Board policies; and to adopt and follow ethical and professional codes of conduct that reflect favorably upon the School System, and (5) The Alabama Educator Code of Ethics. Failure to comply with the above-noted expectations may result in disciplinary actions.

Further, it is the belief and expectation of the Demopolis City Board of Education that educators have and employ ethical behavior, and as such, have devotion to your job, your position, your students, other employees and to your school system as a whole All employees should feel a drive and expectation to further the education of all students and to put their well being above all else.

Employees are expected to maintain a sense of neutrality and fairness in their endeavors as educators. Certainly, employees have their own opinions, but must be careful and allow students to form their own conclusions and opinions