Meeting marked by exchange between Murphy, Waters
By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor
Pelham Mayor Don Murphy and former Pelham fire chief Gary Waters, who ran against Murphy in the 2008 election, briefly shared heated words during a March 19 Pelham City Council meeting.
The exchange came shortly after the council voted unanimously to recommend Greg Darnell, a Southern Company employee and chairman of the Pelham Civic Complex ice advisory council, be appointed to the city’s personnel board. Murphy approved Darnell’s appointment.
Pelham’s personnel board is comprised of three members: one is elected by city employees, one is appointed by the City Council and mayor and one is appointed by “mutual consent” of the other two board members. The board meets regularly to handle city employee issues and personnel rules and regulation items.
Pelham employees in January elected former mayor Bobby Hayes to serve one spot on the personnel board. Darnell and Hayes will now appoint a third member.
James Burks, Jim Collins and Mark Delk currently serve on the personnel board. Although their terms expired in January, they remained on the board until the mayor and council members could agree on their appointment to the personnel board.
Collins, Burks and several city employees filed a lawsuit against Murphy and three other city officials in January, claiming, among other things, the city allegedly took employee actions without the approval of the personnel board.
“I’m glad the City Council finally took action. We are two months late,” Murphy said after the council voted to recommend Darnell. “We’ve had folks continue to serve on that board (after their terms expired in January), and we’ve got folks on it now who have the city sued, and I think that’s a conflict.”
During the public comment portion of the council meeting, Waters said Collins and Burks “didn’t cause the city to be sued,” and said the two “brought the suit against the city on behalf of certain city employees.”
Murphy accused those who filed the lawsuit of “playing politics,” and said he did not communicate with Collins or Burks before the lawsuit was filed. Murphy said the personnel board appointed by the mayor and council “was supposed to be representing the city.”
“Don’t wait three months before an election to bring a lawsuit. The problem we got is people want to play politics too much,” Murphy said.
“They are not here to represent you and the City Council. They are here to represent the city of Pelham and its employees,” Waters said.