Tensions flare at council meeting

Published 10:14 pm Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Tensions flared Monday at Jemison’s council meeting, with the most heated exchange being between Mayor Eddie Reed and Councilwoman Faye King.

According to numerous reports, Reed became upset when King brought up an issue concerning zoning and a road that goes around a cemetery in her district.

At the meeting, Reed accused King of trying to embarrass him and told her to “shut up” more than once. The mayor got up to leave but then came back to adjourn the meeting and continued the exchange with King after the meeting was over. As Reed was leaving the first time, he shoved his chair back under the table, which bumped into Councilman Robert Morris, prompting the councilman to tell the mayor not to hit him with the chair again.

“I do not know why he got so upset,” King said. “Any council member has the right to bring up city business because that’s what we were elected to do.”

Reed said Tuesday that the matter wasn’t on the meeting’s agenda and concerns an ongoing legal issue.

“If she would call me during the week and give me time to investigate these things, I could give her an answer, and we wouldn’t waste the council’s time,” said Reed, adding every council member has his cell phone number and can contact him anytime.

King, who is also the council’s president pro tempore, said the mayor has discouraged council members from bringing up concerns at meetings.

“He’s told me I had no business over there (at the Municipal Complex), but two nights a month.” King said. “I don’t think he wants the council to know what is going on.”

On Monday, Reed told King and other council members that he wished they would bring concerns to him before council meetings.

“He wants to know everything that’s going to be said,” King said. “He got mad that I didn’t bring it to him first.”

Reed said state ethics law requires municipalities to set meeting agendas and strictly adhere to them, and that the council’s role is an advisory one.

“The day-to-day operations of the city belong to the mayor,” Reed said.

King said that “nobody is trying to take that from him.”

Reed said if council members contact him about concerns, he can get city employees working on a problem and resolve it instead of waiting for the next council meeting.

He said if concerns still need to be addressed, they then could be added to the agenda.

“If she had a problem, (she should) have put it on the agenda,” Reed said.

King said she did nothing wrong by bringing up city business in an open meeting.

“(If) we handle it between council meetings, there’s no need to have a council meeting,” said King, who questioned if discussing city business outside of formal meetings violated the state’s Open Meetings Act.

King said the meeting Monday was embarrassing for the city of Jemison.

“I think it is a disgrace that you can’t go and have a council meeting without this,” she said. “He may be mayor, but he doesn’t have the right to talk to me like that.”

King said she doesn’t plan on changing anything about how she represents her district.

“I’m going to continue to do my job as a council member,” she said.

Reed said King was making accusations in the meeting for political reasons.

“I don’t disrespect anybody. I tried to explain to her the situation. It just kept going deeper and deeper,” Reed said. “I’m a human being and accusations just kept being thrown at me, and I had to put a stop to it.”

King said she objects to Reed’s assertion.

“I was not accusing him of anything,” King said. “He accused me of being after him. I have no idea what he is talking about.”

Other council members were hesitant to comment about Monday’s meeting, but Morris said he felt Reed’s behavior was “definitely out-of-line.”

“It’s no way to do business, and I have no beef either way,” Morris said.

Councilman Donnie Lane said he respected both Reed and King and declined to comment. Councilmen George Brasher and Sam Reed could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Assistant Managing Editor Stephen Dawkins and Staff Writer Emily Beckett contributed to this report.