Amidst turmoil, Dozier hires clerk

Published 7:24 pm Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Several people were present at the Dozier Town Hall Monday night for a special-called meeting for the purpose of hiring a new town clerk in the wake of the recent resignation of longtime clerk Mary Jo Dozier.

The small town has also lost its newly elected mayor, Kay Moody, after she resigned last month.

Dozier Mayor Pro Tem Karen Davis addressed the town council and everyone present at the beginning of the meeting.

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“I’m going to ask you that, as a council meeting, it is a meeting for the council to do its business, and I would ask for anyone to refrain from speaking out,” Davis explained. “If you have a concern, please see your council representative, or if we have time at the end of the meeting, we might address questions from the public; and, let’s please don’t use any language that we shouldn’t, and let’s please be respectful to everyone here.”

Davis had asked attorney John Nichols to act as parliamentarian and sit in on the meeting, which he agreed to do.

Council member Abbie Langston was approved to take minutes for the meeting.

Davis explained that the council had received several applications for town clerk.

“We’re paying the bank $195 a month to do payroll tax; we can get any accountant to do that, I think,” Council member Bob Morrison said.

“I had called Mary Jo (Dozier) to find the financial records and see where she had left them,” Karen Davis said. “They had disappeared.”

Morrison then presented the financial records to the council. Davis explained to Morrison that even though the records were public, neither he nor anyone else should have removed them from the town hall.

Davis attempted to explain that she could not make copies of the financial records for everyone since she could not locate them beforehand.

“A special meeting is called for the purpose of a matter of urgency,” John Nichols said to the council. “You would handle other matters such as that during the regular meeting.”

Council member Linda Hutto addressed Nichols.

“We (Morrison and Hutto) called this meeting,” Hutto said. “It was especially for the signing of these letters that should have been done previously—we had signed letters at another meeting by the previous mayor, and she refused to mail them….The other mayor said she shredded them, and that just cost the town $15,000 because she didn’t mail them.”

“She did it without our knowledge,” Hutto said.

“As long as this was approved by the council, they can be signed by the Mayor Pro-Tem,” Nichols said.

Since this particular issue was not on the agenda for Monday night’s special-called meeting, Nichols addressed the issue in order to get the council members back to the subject at hand.

“A meeting is a meeting for the council; this is not a town hall meeting; therefore, only the council needs to speak,” Nichols explained to Hutto. “If you’ve only addressed four things on your agenda, then that is the only thing you can address.”

“If you approved certain things beforehand, and your former mayor refused to sign them, you can have your Mayor Pro-Tem to sign them,” Nichols said.

“Well, she said she (former mayor Kay Moody) shredded them,” Hutto said.

“According to Roger Bedford, the man who is dispersing the money, he said he would slip it by if the letters were still postdated from the original day, which was the last council meeting,” Morrison said.

“We have redone them and taken the former mayor off and they’re dated Dec. 8,” Hutto said.

“Did you not approve certain letters being sent on behalf of the town?” Nichols asked.

“We can only go by what she said—can you understand that? She said she shredded the letters. We have to take the woman at her word,” Morrison said to Nichols.

“But if you approved certain letters to request something, and the mayor resigned without signing them, the thing to do is to have the letters with the same substance to be signed by your Mayor Pro-Tem,” Nichols explained.

Morrison made a motion that the council sign the letters with the original Dec. 8 and have the letters mailed, which was approved. The substance of the letters was not clearly addressed in the meeting.

“That date is the qualifying thing for the whole thing,” Morrison said.

Nichols then advised the council to follow its agenda and continue with hiring a new town clerk.

Morrison made a motion and Hutto made a second, but the council did not make a vote on it. There was loud laughter, coughing, and talking that interrupted the vote.

Council member Abbie Langston began naming the applicants for the town clerk’s position.

“You need to sign those letters,” Hutto interrupted, speaking to Davis.

“I will before I mail them,” Davis replied.

“No, we’re going to mail them,” Hutto said. “Yes, Ma’am, we will mail them tonight when we leave here and put them in the mailbox.”

“Do we have to vote on that?” Morrison asked.

“I make a motion they get mailed tonight,” Hutto said, laughing.

“I second that—I mean, Jesus,” Morrison replied, as Hutto laughed louder.

The council approved the motion for Hutto to mail the letters that evening.

Morrison said that it was imperative that a town clerk be hired as soon as possible.

“There’s nobody here, nothing’s being done, nobody knows where anything’s at,” Morrison said. “I’d just as soon we hired somebody right now.”

Nichols advised the council to discuss the issue.

Morrison made a motion to hire Diane Wickes, and Hutto made a second to the motion.

“We’re going to have to have some kind of internal audit to find out where everything’s at,” Morrison said.

The council approved for Wickes to be the new town clerk.

“I went through everything back there and I ain’t found no minutes for ten years,” Hutto said.

Nichols advised that the new town clerk would have to be bonded, and that the same amount that covered former clerk Mary Jo Dozier should be sufficient.

“I make the motion to hire her for the same money, the same everything that Mary Jo had,” Morrison said. “Same terms as the previous clerk.”

“I think she could probably do it in 20 hours,” Council member Abbie Langston said.

“Once it’s installed on the computer, her mundane, daily duties will be just at the click of a mouse,” Morrison said.

“Well, who does she write the payroll to? Who are we employing?” Hutto asked, laughing.

Discussion then followed about the possibility of making the new town clerk as the town magistrate, but no official motion was approved.

Nichols then urged the council to end the meeting since it had completed the items on its agenda, but the subject of appointing a new mayor was brought up.

“You can elect (a mayor) from within your council or from a registered, eligible Dozier resident,” Nichols said. “If not, Gov. Bob Riley will appoint one.”

“Be sure that whomever you choose will know and be willing to accept the responsibility,” Nichols said. “If you choose from this council, then you have to think about having that council member’s position replaced with someone new.”

Hutto attempted to bring up another issue that was not on the agenda, but Nichols advised her to take it up at the next regular meeting.

“At the next special meeting we have, are you going to come?” Hutto asked Nichols, laughing.

“If I’m invited,” he said.

“I’ve got another question,” Morrison said. “Are we paying you?”

“Yes, Sir,” Nichols replied.

“I don’t remember voting on you being here—we have to vote on every other thing,” Morrison said.

“I come at the request of any council person,” Nichols said.

“Who requested you to be here?” Morrison asked.

“The Mayor Pro-Tem (Karen Davis),” Nichols replied.

“Who authorized you to do that? It’s spending our money for something that’s not necessary, in my opinion,” Morrison said.

“Well, you’re not paying a mayor this month, so,” Davis said.

“I charge by the hour–$150,” Nichols said.

“There are a lot of discrepancies going on, and I felt like maybe he could help us to resolve some of them and to cover us to make sure we are doing things the proper way because he is our town lawyer,” Karen Davis said.

“From what I’ve been hearing, some of the council meetings have been turned into town hall meetings rather than council meetings,” Nichols said. “This council meeting is for the mayor and council, not for individual citizens to add their input. Many councils will, after their regular meeting–they will take public comments. It’s up to you. But you need to do it in an orderly manner where people don’t interfere with your meeting,” Nichols explained.

“And that’s why I called Mr. Nichols because we couldn’t even hear each other—we didn’t even know who had made a motion or what motion because we had so much input, and we even had some of the bystanders who wanted to vote, and it was not their place, so I was trying to protect us and do the job we were voted to do,” Davis said.

“There’s three that’s new and three that’s old, and in previous years, the town of Dozier has not been run properly, and we’re trying to fix mistakes—and we are trying to correct that–if things are there, we can’t find it—so we’re trying to represent ourselves,” Hutto said to Davis. “And you should know where it’s all at if you were on the council.”

The meeting adjourned. Council members Jannie Bush and Jane Ellison did not make any comments during the meeting.

After the meeting, Council member Abbie Langston said that former town clerk Mary Jo Dozier had minutes and financial records available, and that she always had them ready for the Council.

After most everyone had left the meeting, Council member Linda Hutto came back into the town hall and addressed Mayor Pro-Tem Karen Davis.

“We don’t want Johnny Nichols as our lawyer—we got our own lawyer, and we don’t want you as mayor,” Hutto said to Davis.

Hutto then turned to Journal editor Regina Grayson and said, “You be sure and write that in the paper.”

The next regular Dozier Town Council meeting is scheduled for next Monday, Jan. 12, at 6 p.m. at the Jan Cook Community Center.