Selma cityhall

Selma City Hall.

The Selma City Council is moving toward filling two key jobs and deciding how much leeway to give department heads on spending. 

The council and Mayor James Perkins Jr. traded sharp words on both issues in the finance committee meeting via Zoom Tuesday night. 

The Finance Committee, which is the entire council, agreed that their goal is to hire a treasurer and tax collector by July 1. The job will be advertised by May 1. Meanwhile, the council will determine who will interview and select the applicants for the two jobs. Several members of the council said they thought that the mayor or someone appointed by him should be on the selection committee. 

Perkins seemed surprised. “I do appreciate the comments here,” he said. “They are different than what was said in previous committee meetings.” Council President Warren “Billy” Young, who is leading the process to fill both positions, said, “To clarify, the words did not come out of my mouth that I didn’t want the mayor involved.” Perkins asked the council to “clearly define what role you want for me (in the hiring) and lay out the process from beginning to end.” 

Perkins also reminded the council that any requests to department heads should come through him. He said he found council members speaking directly to department heads to be “insulting.” 

“I encourage the council to understand that the directions to department heads must come from the mayor, not from the council,” Perkins said. “It’s not fair to department heads to have 10 bosses. I ask the council to respect the office.” 

The council next returned to the question of how much discretion the executive branch – the mayor and department heads – should have on spending and moving funds within their budgets. Currently, any expenditure or fund transfer of $5,000 or more must go before the council. Perkins has said this process is a “bottleneck” and that the council has sufficient oversight of spending without having to review every expenditure over $5,000. Young has suggested upping the limit to $10,000. Perkins said he wants none. 

“This council wants to adopt all of these strategies of the previous council,” Perkins said. “We all know the level of disfunction in this city at that time. It’s problematic (to continue the $5,000 approval).” 

Finance Council Chairman Troy Harvill asked City Attorney Major Madison Jr. to provide the council paperwork that would show what the policy was before the Darrio Melton administration so it could be compared to the current policy, which was passed during the Melton administration, and what Perkins is proposing. The council asked for the information by Monday so they could discuss it during their April 1 work session.

Young agreed. “We’ve spent numerous meetings talking about this,” Young said. “We’ve wasted a lot of time – and I say wasted – talking about this.” 

Harville joked, “We’re gonna fix this problem and then go get an ice cream cone.” 

“Strawberry,” Young replied. 

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