BY DAVID FISHER
GREENFIELD (November 9) — The top item for discussion during the regular monthly meeting of the Greenfield City Board on Tuesday, November 9, involved aldermen being absent at city board meetings. The topic was raised during the month of October, when there were not enough members present for a quorum at the regular meeting on October 19, or at a called meeting on October 26. A minimum of five aldermen must be present, in order for the eight-member board to have a quorum.
Board members who showed up for the two meetings in October expressed their displeasure and frustration over the situation.
Alderwoman Kelly Keylon and certain other board members raised the possibility of removing aldermen from office, due to what they considered to be excessive absences.
However, City Attorney Beau Pemberton explained that a city official cannot be ousted by other members of the board. He noted it must be done through the court system, and a very high standard must be met to do so.
Pemberton pointed out that there is case law and guidance from the state attorney general that requires municipalities to file an ouster suit through their local attorney general’s office (the 27th Judicial District) listing specific grounds for dismissal.
The local attorney general would then have to determine if there is sufficient cause, before the case could move forward in the court system. “If an ouster suit goes forward, and a board member is found to be in violation of their charter of office, then the courts can order that member removed,” Pemberton said.
Alderman James Roy Pope stated Greenfield’s City Charter is very unclear as to what constitutes an absence versus an excused absence. He asked if sickness or work requirements are considered acceptable absences.
Pemberton said, “I would agree, Mr. Pope, that the Charter does not give specifics regarding an absence.”
Keylon said, “Since I’m the one who asked that this be put on the agenda, I’ll just go ahead and say, we’ve got to find a way to get enough people here so we can do city business. We had two meetings in October when we did not have a quorum. In the past year, we’ve had meetings when we, by the skin of our teeth, had a quorum.
Keylon stated a requirement of office for elected city officials is to attend meetings and conduct city business. She suggested board members should not get paid if they don’t show up for meetings, or to replace them with new members.
“I’m open to any suggestions,” Keylon said.
Pope asked City Recorder Callie Croom Smithson, “How many times since you’ve been here have you not had a quorum?”
Smithson stated it occurred once. However, she added, “I will say, it’s been a year since we’ve had a full board present.”
Keylon said, “You’re saying it only happened once, but we had two meetings in October (without a quorum).”
Pope listed some of the reasons why city officials have not attended board meetings. He stated Alderman Bobby Morris had to be absent, because he has been quarantined, due to being exposed to COVID.
Pope noted he also missed a meeting because of COVID. And he missed on another occasion because he was on the Gulf Coast working a job, and due to the labor shortage, he couldn’t just drop everything and drive back to Greenfield for the board meeting.
“We have to figure out what (excuse) we’re going to honor and what we’re not going to honor.
“Take our police chief who’s out. He has COVID. What are you going to do? You can’t just say, okay, he’s gone (fired)?
“There’s a lot more to think about than to say, ‘Hey! We’re going to do this’.
“I don’t think it’s a reoccurring thing,” Pope said. “There are eight people on the board. If one or two are out, you still have a quorum. That’s the way all boards operate.”
Pope stated absenteeism is being blown up much bigger than it really is. He noted the two meetings missed in October were the only times in the past nine years he’s been on the board that there was not a quorum.
There was also some discussion regarding changing the City Ordinance to require board member to be present at a meeting in order to be paid.
Pope said he is fine with changing the ordinance, if that’s what the board wishes to do.
However, Pemberton said, “The ordinance is pretty clear regarding Section 7, Sub Part B. It says the compensation for aldermen shall be set by ordinance. The salary of the mayor or any alderman shall not be changed during their term of office.”
“It also talks about being reimbursed for actual ordinary expenses. The bottom line, ladies and gentlemen, if you decide to change your pay scale, on the issue of whether or not, board members attend meetings, it would have to be done by ordinance. But it could not take effect for any sitting alderman.
“You would have to make it take effect upon the appointment of any new alderman, and even then, it’s going to be staggered over two election cycles, because it would only affect half of the board. I still have questions and the research is ongoing.
“As far as taking any action tonight is concerned, state law prohibits adjusting compensation during an existing term of office. You’d have to delay it taking effect until later on. It would have to be done by ordinance, which would have to be drafted and go through the usual readings prescribed by the city.”
Changing meeting dates and times, as a means of making it easier for members to attend meetings, was also discussed.
According to Pemberton, if timing is an issue, the board has the authority to approve an ordinance amending the meeting dates and times.
“The City of Greenfield has one of the earliest meeting times, as far as the other local city boards go,” Pemberton said. He noted the Martin Board meets at 5:15 p.m., Dresden at 6:00 p.m., Sharon at 6:30 p.m., and Gleason at 7:00 p.m. He suggested Greenfield might consider having their board meetings a bit later. “This would give everyone time to get off work, take care of kids and things of that nature,” he said.
A later meeting would help Morris get to the meeting on time, since he must drive from his job in Humboldt to Greenfield for city board meetings.
Although Pemberton strongly advocates board members always attending in-person meetings, he said, “The law allows the board to meet by electronically in some cases.”
However, Alderwoman Leanna Stephenson and certain other aldermen argued against changing the meeting time to later in the evening, saying it would conflict with school sports and other activities. Stephenson said, “It would make it difficult for those of us who have kids.”
The time change would also impact Alderman Donald Ray High, who must leave early sometimes to coach ball games.
Alderman Don Allen said, “When you talk about basketball and other stuff, you were elected to this office. We need to look at our priorities. We have one meeting per month, and if it interferes with basketball or other activities, so be it. Sickness or something you can’t help – that’s a little bit different.”
Mayor Cindy McAdams stated Martin meets twice each month, once for an informal meeting and once for a formal meeting, and they’re all on committees,” She said, “You only have to meet once per month.”
“I was on the board for four years before I became mayor. My mother was in the nursing home. I was a caregiver. I taught school. And I worked at Walmart. But I made sure I was here at this board meeting. I made sure I did not work or do anything (that would conflict with board meetings), because I wanted this job, and I was going to be here. I think we all need to take a look at ourselves, and remember that we are here for the city of Greenfield,” McAdams said.
“Sometimes, I feel like we are spinning our wheels. We get paid by the city of Greenfield to do this job, and we need to do a better job. I want to know how everyone else feels, because we’re not doing the City of Greenfield any good, if we don’t come to our meetings. We have things to do (conduct city business) and we need to see what’s going on.
“I love Greenfield,” McAdams said. ”I’m up here every day. I may be here three or four hours and I serve on multiple committees. But, I love every bit of it. I want people to know that Greenfield is one of the best places in Weakley County. I understand people have jobs, but we don’t need to run for office if we can’t do our job.”
Pemberton said, “Everybody knows what their responsibilities are. So, I think the best thing to do, at this point, is to continue on with this meeting and continue governing.”
The board agreed and moved forward with the remaining items on the agenda.
In the housing report, Pemberton stated, Mr. Horner, who is the sole owner of the Broad Street property, was asked to board up his building. However, he responded by saying he is not in good health and he would do it when he could. Greenfield police have been asked to keep an eye on the property and have the authority to site violators into court for trespassing. Pemberton stated tearing down the building is an option, but it may not be something the city can afford to do at present. He also advised that it would be a liability if the city were to undertake such action without taking out insurance.
Fire Chief Bob Dudley, who serves as Greenfield’s building inspector, said, “I had a request from Remax Realty Company regarding someone wanting to purchase the property on the corner of Jefferson and Belair streets. They would like to pour a concrete slab and place a camper trailer on it, with plans to take it out on the road five or six times per year. We don’t allow that. We don’t even allow someone to live in a trailer in their yard. That’s a policy of the city. I recommend we don’t allow it. According to the state building inspector, it’s a violation and we can lock it down.”
Pemberton stated he does not recommend allowing a trailer to be placed on the property.
The board approved a motion to deny the request to set up a trailer on the property.
Chief Dudley reported the Greenfield Fire Prevention Festival had a good turnout. He noted 65 cars were entered in this year’s car show. “It was a big hit, and it will be returning next year.” Seven-hundred and fifty people were fed at all three meals. Dudley said, “The funding was not as good this year, but we got by.”
“We lost our FDT Grant again this year for the fifth year in a row,” Dudley said. “We’re re-applying for four pieces of equipment.”
Dudley stated Greenfield Fire Department is being evaluated regarding the city’s ISO rating in January 2022. An improved fire protection rating would lower insurance premiums for local homeowners and businesses. “We’re now a Class 3 and are only a few points away from being a Class 2,” Dudley said. “I’d like to see us have an ISO rating of Class 2 before I leave this department.” He noted Greenfield has a certified state building inspector available when needed, and a state certified fire inspector can be obtained from Milan. When a new business comes to town, he can be contracted for $75 per inspection. “That gives us three more points on our ISO rate inspection,” Dudley said.
Public Works Director Robert Rodriguez stated Garland Street, Walnut Street and probably part of Jefferson Street will not have water for a little over three hours on Wednesday, while repairs are made to a water main. Work is expected to begin at 8 a.m. He stated, in preparation for Veterans Day, his department placed American Flags around Greenfield School and at the city park.
Additionally, McAdams reported Police Chief Joey Radford, who is recovering from COVID, is feeling better. However, a CT scan must be taken to check on a blood clot in his lung. “He’s hoping to be back at work in two weeks,” she said.
“Greenfield Librarian Kathy Watson will be released from Cane Creek on Friday, November 12, and go to Weakley County Nursing Home for rehab,” McAdams said. “While she is recovering, I have substitutes Peggy Finch, Sandy Dowland and Marilyn Pugh to fill in for her.”
Pemberton said, “Delinquent property tax collections for the 2018 calendar year are proceeding along. The petition for collecting 2019 delinquent taxes is coming along as well. We’ll try to get them collected as quickly as we can. Clerk and Master Virginia VanCleave reports she plans on having a tax sale sometime after the first of the year – perhaps January or February, but the sale date has not yet been determined.” Pemberton stated the City of Greenfield has less than half a dozen properties this year, which is less than during previous years”
McAdams gave an update on the status of the city’s finances saying local sales tax collections were $27,907.03, which is $342.36 less than the prior month’s collection totaling $28,249.39. State sales tax revenues amounted to $22,039.38 compared to the previous month’s total of $20,692.36, which amounts to an increase of $1,347.02. Overall, state and local sales tax revenue combined were $49,946.41, which is an increase of $1,004.66.
Greenfield Employees Receive Additional Holiday
McAdams asked the board’s opinion about giving city employees the day off on President’s Day (third Monday in February), which would make it the same as the list of holidays currently observed by Weakley County government.
Pope asked, “What are the current hours of operation for city employees?”
The mayor replied, “They work from 7:30 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. with a 30-minute lunch break.”
The board unanimously approved adding President’s Day to the City of Greenfield’s list of holidays, in order to give city employees the same days off as county workers. The board approved the motion by a unanimous vote.
Economic Development Director Addresses Greenfield Board
McAdams introduced Weakley County Economic Development Director Justin Crice.
“I work for you and the taxpayers of this county,” Crice said. I’m honored to serve you.”
He stated anytime the board needs anything, just call, text or email him, and he will be glad to meet with them.
Crice stated he would come before the board at least once each quarter to give a report on the activities of the Weakley County Economic Development Board.
He noted Greenfield has good opportunities for industrial development.
“People are looking at Tennessee,” Crice said. “This is a great state to do business in. We have a really good competitive advantage over our neighbors to the north and south.”
McAdams said, “The Trunk-or-Treat event was awesome. We had around 670 kids. I was down there working with James Roy (Pope), and it was great. It was awesome. Everybody needs to come to Greenfield for Trunk-or-Treat.”
“We had about as many big kids as we had little kids,” Pope said.
The mayor announced the city will host Christmas Greenfield Style from 2 p.m. until 5 p.m. on Saturday, December 4. “We’re going to light up the Christmas tree at Greenfield Banking Company, at 5 p.m.,” McAdams said. “We’ll have vendors coming to the Greenfield Community Room, and we’d like everyone to come and have a good time.”
Alderman Chris Turbyville stated the board needs to recognize the junior high competitors who participated in Cross Country and those who placed.