Jeffco Commission Gets Clean Bill Of Health After State Review Of Its Accounts

Solomon Crenshaw Jr., BirminghamWatch

Jefferson County Commission President Jimmie Stephens speaks at commission meeting Feb. 25, 2021.

Jimmie Stephens ended Thursday’s meeting of the Jefferson County Commission by saying that the county had received a clean bill of health from the Alabama Examiners of Public Accounts.

“They come in and check our books, our records, to make sure that everything is done in accordance with state law,” the commission president said. “No news is good news, and this is a no-news report that we have.”

Had there been significant findings, Stephens said, the commission would have been duty-bound to report that also. The report assessed the current commission and the one immediately before it. Each included Stephens and Commissioner Joe Knight.

“We were all on a conference call, a Zoom meeting. They commended us and congratulated us on the job well done,” Stephens said. “I thought it would be good to go ahead and relay that to the public and to our employees. We have done what they elected us to do, in accordance to the law.”

During the meeting, Commissioner Sheila Tyson repeated her concern about cards her constituents received from Secretary of State John Merrill. The repeated complaint from older residents is that the text on the cards, whose purpose is a needed purge of the state voting rolls, is too small for them to read.

Tyson, who displayed one of the cards from the dais, is concerned that some seniors might accidentally return the cards, which could cause them to be inappropriately dropped from voter rolls, even though they live at the residence in question. The card in question is sent to each registered voter, with instructions to return it if the person no longer lives at that address.

“The return address is Jefferson County. That’s why they’re calling Jefferson County about the problem,” Tyson said. “You have people mailing in cards and removing themselves from the voting roster, and they are staying in the residence. That’s what I’m talking about. We don’t need to be purging people from it, and they stay in that residence because the writing’s so small they can’t read it.”

County Manager Tony Petelos pulled a card from his pocket and acknowledged that the type is very small. He said he and Barry Stephenson, chairman of the county’s board of registrars, will contact Merrill about it.

Commissioner Lashunda Scales again referenced the calls she has received from county employees who feel they should get hazardous duty pay for working during the pandemic, as some others have. County Attorney Theo Lawson is preparing a letter to clarify the rules regarding hazard pay.

“We have compassion for county employees,” Scales said. “But what we don’t want to have happen is that we violate the law [while] trying to be helpful.”

Thursday’s meeting included public hearings concerning the ad valorem tax for the Trussville Board of Education, the Midfield Board of Education and the Jefferson County School Board. Each hearing dealt with continuing the ad valorem tax at the same rate, and neither required any action by the commission.

Additionally, the meeting included virtual acknowledgment of the people and entities who earned Alabama PALS (People Against a Littered State) Awards because of their efforts to pick up trash along roadsides.

“As you can see as I go through these, this isn’t a one-person or a one-division area,” Stephens said. “This is a community-wide effort, and it takes the community to get this done.”

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