Members angry at Freemanville Water System meeting

Published 11:21 am Friday, June 5, 2015

Voices were raised, tempers flared, and county deputies had to be called to help keep order Monday evening during the annual meeting of the Freemanville Water System’s (FWS) members.

The meeting was held at the fellowship hall of Mt. Gilead Baptist Church, with 30 voting members initially in attendance. Prior to the beginning of the meeting, Board Attorney Mark Ryan asked for Johnny Shell and another citizen to step out because the meeting was for FWS members only.

Shell then asked if Ryan was an FWS member, and he said no. Ryan told Shell that law enforcement was on the way and asked if he would leave the meeting, but Shell refused.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Later, deputies arrived and escorted Shell and the other citizen out of the fellowship hall.

Tempers began to rise again as the meeting moved into the board of directors election. Four of the five members were up for re-election; only Joe Pierce’s seat was not on the ballot.

Ryan explained the voting process, in which the present members were given paper ballots to cast their votes. In addition, members who couldn’t attend the meeting had been mailed the chance to vote by proxy, in which they designate another member to vote on their behalf.

FWS Office Manager Roxanne Shows said that there were 101 proxy ballots received — 100 for Pierce to choose, and one for FWS member Wayne Drew to choose. FWS has a total of 1,058 eligible voting members.

For Position No. 1, the nominees were current board member Jethro Dailey and Carl Staples, who was nominated by Drew. The election was 110 votes for Dailey, including 100 by Pierce’s proxy choice; and 26 votes for Staples, including one by Drew’s proxy choice.

When the time came to elect Position No. 2, held by Edward Adams, several FWS members scoffed at the process.

“You ain’t got to nominate him,” Glen Dean said. “He’s already got all the votes.”

Adams and Charles “Shug” Thornton were the nominees for Position No. 2. The final election was 111 votes for Adams (100 by Pierce’s proxy) and 19 for Thornton (with one by Drew’s proxy).

“This is more than like communism than any democracy I’ve seen,” Thornton said.

“You’ve got who you want for another term,” another FWS member said. “You can keep them!”

“I’m out of here,” Drew said. “I turned in 175 proxies.”

After Adams’ re-election, 22 of the 30 FWS members walked out of the meeting. As the members were leaving, there were a few vocal confrontations with other members, but all eventually left peacefully.

Wilma Quarker Smith and Derik Kidd were each unanimously re-elected, with 111 votes. Dailey will serve two years, Kidd will serve one year, and Adams and Smith will each serve full three-year terms.

During the regular board meeting, the board voted for Adams to remain the board chairman and Dailey to remain the vice chairman.

After the meeting, Ryan said that although Drew insisted that he had turned in 175 proxies, only one of those ballots was official.

Ryan explained that the FWS board voted at its March 9 meeting that proxies would only be valid if they were mailed directly by the member, or dropped off in person at the FWS office. Ryan said that Drew was present at that March meeting and knew the rules.

Ryan said that the majority of Drew’s proxies were likely not counted because they had been left in an overnight deposit box at FWS or pushed under the front door.

“This rule was necessary to prevent any fraud or manipulation,” Ryan said.