Payne protests Road Dept. policies

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 6, 2003

Alfred Payne’s unhappiness over the Butler County Road Department’s hiring and promotion policies, spurned him to protest on Wednesday.

Payne, a mechanic, believes department officials unfairly passed him over for promotion to shop foreman at the department’s facilities on Pettibone Road.

He spent the day walking up and down the intersection at Ala. Highway 31 and County Road 30 in front of his workplace. He carried a sign denouncing the department’s hiring and promotion practices.

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His main gripe was centered on his boss, Butler County Chief Engineer Dennis McCall, whom he claimed was guilty of favoritism.

&uot;McCall has been very unfair to the employees of the road department,&uot; Payne said. &uot;When considering promotions, it’s not about what you can do, it’s whether he likes you enough. I’ve been with the department for 10 years, and yet they hired a shop foreman from outside that has no idea what he’s doing.&uot;

Payne said he recently had to show the new foreman the proper way to repair gears on a machine. Something he believes the man should have known how to do.

&uot;The thing was worth about $500, and he was beating on it with a 16-pound sledge hammer,&uot; he said. &uot;Now he resents me because I know how to do everything, and he doesn’t.&uot;

Payne said McCall sent him home on Tuesday citing the mechanic had a bad attitude.

&uot;They told me I needed an attitude adjustment just because I was trying to be helpful,&uot; he said. &uot;I’m not a dummy. I know there’s some resentment there whenever somebody doesn’t know what they are doing.&uot;

It seems the conflict has been brewing for a while between Payne and his supervisors.

&uot;I had an incident occur with a former shop foreman recently, who was constantly using the &uot;N-word,&uot; he said. &uot;The head honchos thought he was a great guy. But he would always like to tell &uot;N-jokes, so I approached him about it.&uot;

Payne said the offending foreman saw nothing wrong with his behavior, so the mechanic and other shop workers filed a complaint with McCall.

&uot;He had a group come down and talk with the supervisors about racial and sexual harassment after that,&uot; Payne said. &uot;But the speaker who held the seminar told the supervisors that it was only a problem if it happened all the time – once or twice wasn’t going to cause a lawsuit. I think it was a failure because under no circumstances should anyone abuse others even once.&uot;

He said that incident sparked the conflict between himself and McCall, as well as the white employees in the shop.

&uot;After that, ‘I had an attitude problem,’ they told me,&uot; he said. &uot;They said I was on the wrong page, and that’s why I didn’t get the shop foreman position. I had the experience and was just as qualified as this fellow, but I was looked over because of my involvement with this racial thing.&uot;

McCall confirmed Payne was suspended from work for a day, and said he assumed Payne’s protest was over that.

&uot;His claims that he is being passed over because of favoritism is nonsense,&uot; McCall said. &uot;The shop foreman position was advertised and applications were taken through the Alabama State Employment Agency. It was a formal process, and employees were given the opportunity to apply. There was an interview process, and the position was filled through that process.&uot;

McCall said Payne wasn’t selected because there were others more qualified.

Payne said he also had complaints about how overtime was allowed for certain employees and the lack of response he had received concerning a workman’s compensation claim.

McCall said Payne misrepresented those claims.

&uot;We do have certain individuals who are getting a good bit of overtime, but it’s because they are working on our Amendment One bond issue, which is tied to bridge construction,&uot; he said. &uot;We have an enormous amount of bridge construction going on right now. That’s work that only those associated with the Amendment One project can do.&uot;

He said Payne’s workman’s the road department properly filed compensation claims, and that the matter is now in the hands of the insurance company.

&uot;If an investigation is warranted, it’s up to the insurance company to handle that,&uot; McCall said. &uot;It’s out of our hands once we turn it over to them. All of the paperwork has been done on our end.&uot;

He said he felt the whole situation was the result of the department’s recent move to the new headquarters in the Pettibone facility.

&uot;We are going through a lot of changes – setting up a shop with a full maintenance program that is being built from the ground up,&uot; he said. &uot;We’re staffing the shop and getting it set up. Anytime we go through those types of changes, we normally see problems associated with that.&uot;

McCall said that as long as Payne doesn’t try to interrupt the road department’s work with his protest that the protest wouldn’t be a problem.

&uot;His job is not in jeopardy because he’s protesting,&uot; he said. &uot;I assume he’s making a statement, and I won’t interfere with that.&uot;