Water board under pressure

Published 10:48 pm Friday, May 31, 2013

It has been more than a month since FBI agents raided the Freemanville Water System on Woods Road and confiscated documents and computers. Nearly five weeks later, Freemanville Vice Chairman Jethro Dailey said he is not sure what the FBI will find, but while he waits, is busy fending off further allegations of corruption from the public.

“I wouldn’t think they would find anything,” Dailey said of the ongoing FBI investigation. “But I couldn’t say because some things happened that really shouldn’t have.”

What should not have happened, Dailey said, was the overpaying of employees and the misuse of a water system vehicle authorized by Chairman Edward Adams.

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“One person was overpaid and (Adams) gave him the truck and overpaid his days and sick days that he had,” Dailey said. “I don’t know what the FBI is going to say about that. He did that without the board’s approval.”

Friday, Adams denied any wrongdoing and said he feels confident the FBI will find nothing incriminating.

“It was misunderstood,” Adams said. “We are not overpaying nobody. We haven’t misused any money anywhere. That’s hearsay they are putting out there.”

County Commissioner David Quarker, in whose district the water system is located and who is also Dailey’s nephew, said he is still waiting to hear from the FBI, but added that he believes funds have been misappropriated. The question, he said, is how much money was misused.

“Money has been misused,” Quarker said. “That’s the bottom line and we know that much. We know Mitch (Williams – the system’s former manager) has been misappropriating some funds, but we don’t know much.”

Quarker said he is expecting to hear from the FBI soon.

“It started with the D.A. and it ended with the FBI,” he said. “The FBI agent handling everything is out of Monroe County. He was supposed to be meeting with me this week but he didn’t contact with me, so I’m hoping for next week.”

While the community waits to hear new word on the investigation, John Thomas, the founder of the Concerned Citizens of Freemanville and an outspoken voice against the board’s numerous meetings with other water departments interested in buying the system, said he believes much more is wrong with the board than just misused funds.

“I’m the one that pointed the D.A. to them,” Thomas said. “Some of the current board members are running for re-election. How can they have the nerve when they are the reason Freemanville Water System is currently under investigation by the FBI?”

Thomas, not only pointed to allegations of overpaid employees and misused work vehicles, but said for years the board has been abusing the system in order to elect “their friends” to open posts.

“The Water Board election is a joke,” Thomas said. “Their annual meeting is Monday at the water system office, which will hold only about 20 people. The board members voted not to pursue renting a building that would hold more people because they did not want to be questioned by hundred of members.”

Thomas also alleged board members have been actively working to keep the group completely African American and controlled by members of Mt. Gillead Baptist Church through the use of proxy voting. He also pointed to the board’s hefty lawyer fees as another incriminating factor.

“The board members, along with Mitch Williams, have mismanaged Freemanville Water System and manipulated the election, which resulted in the church running Freemanville Water System,” he said. “This also resulted in the election of an African American board, which is not right because there are Caucasians and Native Americans that are members of Freemanville,”

Thomas, who is also African American, said he did not want to see a monopoly of any kind, be it racial or religious, running the board.

Dailey, who said he has been a member of the board for over 20 years “off and on,” said the board is made up of deacons from the church, with the exception of one man, Willie Dukes. He added that fact, along with the board being comprised of all African American members, is a simple product of the election process open to all Freemanville residents.

“At this time it is all African American, but it hasn’t always been that way,” Dailey said. “When people come out and vote they vote for whoever was there. There was time when I was only the African American on the board.”

Dailey also said Thomas’ claim that the board pays their lawyer $300 to $400 just for attending monthly meetings is an overestimation.

“We have a new attorney, but I don’t know where they get that price. It’s probably more than what they pay him,” he said.
While Thomas is asking that Freemanville residents attend Monday’s board meeting in order to “voice your disapproval of these board members,” Adams is asking that people come out for a different reason.

“The meeting is open to the public,” he said. “Anyone that wants to know the truth about what is going on can come out and see it instead of just listening to what everybody has to say.”

Monday’s meeting will take place at 4:30 p.m. at the Freemanville Water System, located at the corner of Woods Road and Alabama Highway 21.