“I don’t take threats and disrespect lightly”
City Manager, preacher separated at Council meeting
Clinton’s City Manager and a prominent citizen leader looked like they were going to come to blows in front of a standing room only crowd.
It happened at Monday’s City Council meeting during public comment. The Rev. Steven Evans addressed council on two points.
First, he spoke in defense of councilwoman Shirley Jenkins, who was verbally attacked at the previous council meeting.
“I don’t take threats and disrespect lightly,” said Evans. “It will not be tolerated.”
Evans said if City leadership would not stand up for Jenkins, the people would.
Second, Evans took issue with City Manager Bill Ed Cannon, accusing him of “back door politics” concerning Martha Dendy School.
Evans has proposed turning the property into a center for the African American community in phases — starting with rehab of the gymnasium and classrooms for meeting space.
Thus far, nothing has been done with the property.
“You (Council) are put here to create community,” said Evans. “There is nothing sound you have done in the black community. We’re tired of just basketball hoops going up.”
Cannon then tried to interject, but was cut off by Evans.
“Shut up a minute,” Cannon said, pointing at Evans. “Sonny (Police Chief Sonny Ledda), get him out of here.”
With that things escalated quickly. And Ledda had to get between Evans and Cannon, who had got up from his seat.
Mayor Bob McLean warned he would clear the room if things could not remain civil. Cannon left the room and later returned and again was confronted by Evans, this time the two sat side-by-side.
“The City of Clinton does not have money to put into Martha Dendy,” said Cannon.
He said if somebody doesn’t invest in the property, the City would be spending $30,000 to $50,000 to demolish the former school in 3 to 5 years, because it would be a hazard.
Costell Little Jr. followed Evans, speaking for “concerned citizens for the preservation of Martha Dendy School.”
“Everyone works with us, but this administration,” he said.
Addressing Jenkins’ treatment at the last City Council meeting, McLean read the minutes of the verbal altercation. Jerry Campbell said Jenkins had accused him of taking her campaign signs and had harsh words for her. Jenkins later wrote a Letter to the Editor, asking why her colleagues did not come to her defense.
“He never used profanity or racial slurs or physically threatened Ms. Jenkins,” said McLean. “If he had, I would have stopped him.”
New councilwoman Megan Walsh said the instance greatly disturbed her.
“He used a threatening tone,” she said. “I regret not standing up for you, Ms. Jenkins.”
The majority of Council apologized to Jenkins in open forum after a lengthy executive session and all agreed that the business of the City was most important.
“I want to work with you,” said McLean, shaking Jenkins’ hand.
• The first reading of the Budget was approved unanimously. A second reading will be at the June meeting and if approved the new budget will take effect July 1. At a budget work session, prior to Monday’s meeting, the amount of money the City is requesting from the County for fire protection was reduced from $450,000 to $293,069. The budget totals $30,838,428.
• Mallory Coffey with Palmetto Pride addressed Council and wants the City to start a “Keep Clinton Beautiful” affiliate.
• Phillip Wicker was named the City of Clinton’s Officer of the Year.
• Will Sickles, Hastings Stewart, Daron Vincent, Clay Ward and Austin Youngblood were firefighters recognized for achieving Firefighter II status. Josh Howell was recognized as instructor.
• Proclamations designated May as ALS Awareness Month, Historic Preservation Month, Mental Health Awareness Month, Foster Care Month, National Military Appreciation Month, Teacher Appreciation Week, National Public Works Week. And a resolution designated May 15 at Peace Officers Memorial Day.
• Second reading of an ordinance establishing a standard for the placement of wireless facilities was approved.
• First reading of an ordinance to temporarily suspend Blue Laws within the City was approved. This must be done every 6 months to allow for alcohol sales.
• Council voted 4-3 to change Council seating. Now the Council will be seated by Ward number, from left to right. Jenkins, Walsh and Danny Cook voted not to move seats. Cook proposed adding Ward numbers to the name plaques.
• By unanimous vote, public comment will be moved to just before executive session.
• City Council authorized the City Manager to enter into a contract with Portland Utilities. Cost was more than $56,000 for sanitary line repairs.
• Council authorized Public Works Director Joey Meadors to purchase a sanitary sewer camera. Cost $217,000.
• Contractual matters were addressed during executive session, but no action was taken.
• Most all Council member recommendations concerned the poor state of City roads.