Tears and Laughter: Wilcox didn’t get near first at everything last without poor leadership 

In all of the years I have been writing about Wilcox County I have learned that no matter how low the county ranks or how obvious the ineptness becomes, there will always be somebody wanting to speak in defense of local leadership. Everybody seems to be related, and there may be an unhealthy mix of cronyism. All anyone who is curious needs to do is look around. 

Every school in the county has challenges on some level. Two public school students have taken guns to school in less than a month. A fifth-grader at J.E. Hobbs Elementary threatened to shoot her teacher, and a 17-year-old was arrested for carrying a deadly weapon at Wilcox Central High School – for protection.  

Last week four vehicles were broken into at Roland Cooper Boat Ramp and a bomb squad out of Montgomery was called in to check out a suspicious package in a car parked at a gas pump at the QV. It was not a bomb and the QV did not blow up. It was drugs. Just the week before the QV had its glass doors shattered in the night for a pack of Newport’s. There was also a fatal hit and run in McWilliams, a man found dead beside his car on Highway 5, and two men found dead from gunshot wounds in Pine Hill. 

All this was happening while the entire country was flying flags at half-staff and the Wilcox County courthouse didn’t have one. There was a public outcry and a flag was erected the next day and has flown sporadically since, but leaders in a county where Uncle Sam pays for half of the groceries shouldn’t have to be reminded to fly the flag in front of the courthouse. 

Advanced Disposal is threatening to discontinue garbage pick-up starting next week if the county doesn’t pay the approximate $200,000 owed for services already rendered. There are questions as to where collected funds were distributed if not to Advanced, but even with all of this going on the Wilcox County Commission is yet to meet in October. 

The last meeting was a called meeting held back on September 29 – a Friday – at 5:00 pm, the time set by Chairman John Moton, Jr., who then did not show up. It was a necessary meeting because a county budget had not been a priority, yet had to be passed by the October 1 deadline. 

Three of the four commissioners who did attend the called meeting adopted the same budget as last year, minus the salary for the license inspector. This move eliminated the job held by current Wilcox County coroner, Mark Ramsey. It was a needed position for the county in that one of the responsibilities was to require mobile home owners to purchase current decals, but no citations have been written in over a year. The position held an annual salary of over $40,000 and no money was coming in to offset the cost. Past attempts to fire Ramsey were unsuccessful due to the saving votes of Chairman Moton together with Commissioners Ricky Powell and Charles Lawson. 

A regularly scheduled commission meeting should have been Monday, October 9, but since it was Columbus Day the chairman again changed the meeting to Tuesday at 5:30, and again he was a no show. Powell and Lawson weren’t there either. They are balking. They want the decision to remove the license inspector position reversed. Their absence was no coincidence. It was just another shining example of their poor leadership.

Amanda Walker is a blogger and contributor with AL.com, The Thomasville Times, West Alabama Watchman, and Wilcox Progressive Era. Contact her at walkerworld77@msn.com or athttps://www.facebook.com/AmandaWalker.Columnist

Wilcox County politics: A quagmire of corruption

Impact Wilcox member, Don Donald, making correlations between the three arrests made in Dothan earlier this week for voter fraud and the excessive number of absentee ballots in Wilcox County. "It will take something like this happening, a headline like this, to get it to stop."

Impact Wilcox member, Don Donald, making correlations between the three arrests made in Dothan earlier this week for voter fraud and the excessive number of absentee ballots in Wilcox County. “It will take something like this happening, a headline like this, to get it to stop.”

“As of May 9, in District 3 alone, there were already 198 absentee ballots applied for out of approximately 650 registered voters. That is more than Mobile has in their entire county. If any number over 10 percent is supposed to set off bells and whistles, this should be setting off rockets and cannons and fireworks!”

Jim Emerson, former vice-president of Weyerhaeuser’s pulp and paper mill, spoke for the fact-finding committee of Impact Wilcox – a fast growing grassroots organization committed to stopping the extreme corruption that continues to plague Wilcox County.

A crowd of about 200 concerned citizens gathered Thursday evening, May 15 at the National Guard Armory in Camden offering support and resources. The battle lines are clearly drawn as the June 3 primaries approach.

Wilcox County is commonly known for being one of the poorest counties in the nation and for having the highest unemployment rate in the state, but it is also well known for its checkered past of rampant voter fraud, vote buying and excessive absentee voting.

In the 1994 general election, current Commissioner – as well as a candidate for commissioner in District 4, Reginald Southall, started his political career with a win over then standing Commissioner David Wright by absentee votes.

Only 34 people actually voted for Southall by traveling to the polls, while Wright received 565 votes. But after the absentee votes were tallied, Southall won by 11 votes.

In 2011, Clifford “Big Don” Twilley, then President and now current member of the Wilcox County Board of Education, as well as a candidate for Wilcox County Tax Assessor – was prosecuted for buying votes. “Nolie Prosse,” was filed and granted by the state, meaning in simplest terms, “there was no prosecution.”

Other alleged matters of concern in the county include improper transfer of funds from the Special Capital Fund to the Gasoline Tax Fund to meet payroll, several commissioners having seriously delinquent water bills, commissioners adjusting the water bills of family members in some cases to zero dollars due, and Commission Chairman Michael Saulsberry illegally creating a position for, as well as hiring, Twilley.

The position of License Commissioner was never posted and paid $42,000 annually. There was no job description, no list of duties, no office, and Chairman Saulsberry hand delivered Twilley’s paycheck. This during the same time the county was in such financial stress that hourly employees’ time was cut to a 32-hour workweek and the public library was forced to be open only three days a week.

There is also the matter of land purchased from Twilley for Arlington Park. The effort was led by Commissioner Southall. The land was purchased with “bond money” and there was never an appraisal prior to purchase. The total cost of the 11.3 acres was $101,000. It was later appraised for only $26,400.

Two lawsuits filed against the Wilcox County Commission by attorney Edward Tracey on behalf of Impact Wilcox continue. The first was filed on March 11, under the open records act seeking the release of documents related to public spending and travel records.

The initial lawsuit followed the release of a state audit that confirmed the commissioners have achieved personal gain as public officials by receiving services without payment and by not following proper protocol.

The second lawsuit, filed April 7, seeks restitution with interest as well as punitive damage and legal fees.

Amanda Walker is a columnist with The West Alabama Watchman, Al.com.,and The Wilcox Progressive Era. Follow her at https://www.facebook.com/AmandaWalker.Columnist

Lawsuit filed against Wilcox County Commission…again

Impact Wilcox, a concerned group of citizens working for accountability in Wilcox County government held a rally in front of the Wilcox County Courthouse to detail the evidence of corruption against the Wilcox County Commission.

Impact Wilcox, a concerned group of citizens working for accountability in Wilcox County government held a rally in front of the Wilcox County Courthouse to detail the evidence of corruption against the Wilcox County Commission.

Last Thursday, all residents of Wilcox County along with members of the media were invited to gather at the courthouse square for a rally publicly detailing the evidence of alleged corruption against the Wilcox County Commission.

A lawsuit has been filed against the commission by attorney, Edward F. Tracy, with Southern Legal Group, P.C. on behalf of an organized group of concerned citizens, Impact Wilcox.

Impact Wilcox is working for accountability in Wilcox County government. The lawsuit comes after repeated attempts to obtain public records from the commission have been ignored, refused and denied.

The most current audit report issued by the Alabama Board of Public Examiners was for the year ending Sept. 30, 2012. It exposed a pattern of misuse of public funds and commissioners using their public offices for personal gain.

And this didn’t just start.

Unresolved prior findings prove the patterns are longstanding.

Findings like…transferring $153,700 from the Special Capital Fund to the Gasoline Tax Fund in order to cover payroll and hiring practices that include creating positions.

There are commissioners who are receiving water and garbage services without making payments, who haven’t made payments for years, and commissioners who use their county-issued vehicles for their personal vehicles.

Amanda Walker

Amanda Walker

Some of these same commissions are also using county-issued gas for personal use too.

Chairman Michael Saulsberry filled up 20 times in March 2011. He would had to have driven almost 18 hours a day, every day that month, to use that kind of gas. It would have been the equivalent of starting at 6 a.m. every morning and driving until almost midnight.

And yet onward he drives the Wilcox County Commission, as they purchase land without appraisals, some without any vote from the commission through a “discretionary fund.”

It is clear why the Wilcox County Commission is not willingly releasing their public records. The corruption is extreme. It is documented.

It is understandable why people are gathered at the courthouse square and lawsuits are being filed.

People are hopeful, yet somewhat doubtful, anything will correct the pattern of corruption. After the rally, person after person kept saying how they have seen proof year after year but nothing ever changes.

One problem is that the “voting them out” method does not work because the voting process in Wilcox County is also corrupt.

We have an excess of absentee ballots. So many that the absentee ballots will sometimes swing elections.

We have far too many dead people and felons who vote in Wilcox County. But that’s another column for another day.

Amanda Walker is a columnist with The West Alabama Watchman, AL.com, and the Wilcox Progressive Era. Follow her at https://www.facebook.com/AmandaWalker.Columnist.