Commission chairman Stan Batemon moved to table discussion about a contribution of $2,500 to the event, which is set for June 1, in downtown Pell City. His motion passed the commission 3-2, with commissioners Ken Crowe and Jimmy Roberts siding in his favor. The commission will discuss the contribution further at its next work session, scheduled for May 31, but cannot take action until its regular meeting June 5.
The vote followed a pre-meeting work session, in which Batemon and commissioner Paul Manning debated about the contribution. Manning moved to contribute the money, since the commission had already budgeted it.
“You and I will work together and see that this money is doing what it is supposed to do,” Manning told Batemon. “If we find out it was not justified this year, I promise I will be the first one in line to oppose it (next year).
“It’s not a lot of money, but it is a commitment.”
Batemon said the county has requested a report from Pell City for over a year, regarding how the money is being spent. According to the chairman, the city contributed $15,000 from chamber funds to promote LakeFest, at Horizons in Pell City, in 2011. Batemon said the commission cannot contribute to events sanctioned by private entities.
“I am not in favor of us sending money to municipalities, to have them spending it on something we’re not allowed to spend it on,” he said. “I’m not comfortable with it, and I wasn’t comfortable with it last year.”
Batemon further alleged that approving the contribution would be “a direct shot at me” as an ex officio board member of the chamber, and that the retirement of former executive director Lynn Batemon in April was due in part to asking for documentation.
“The director (Lynn Batemon) was fired,” he said. “One reason was because she pushed for that report.
“I won’t support it. I hope the commission doesn’t support it at this time.”
Batemon told the commission he does not expect to receive documentation.
“I don’t think there’s going to be any documentation because the money was not properly spent,” he said. “This is a little bit deeper than $2,500 – it’s about our sense of right and wrong, and this is wrong.”
Pell City chamber president Eddie Gilreath declined comment Tuesday, except to say that the statement regarding Lynn Batemon was “not true” and that the chamber had provided the necessary documentation.
“We furnished that documentation for them,” Gilreath said. “They were concerned about a donation the chamber had made to another activity, and we got that group to send us a letter about that money.
“We furnished the documentation, and we can prove it as well. Emails were sent to every commissioner, and the commission chairman.”
Commissioner Jeff Brown seconded Manning’s motion to approve the contribution at Tuesday’s meeting, and voted “no” on tabling it. He said he believed the county had already made the commitment.
“If I tell you I’m going to give you $2,500, I’m going to give it to you,” Brown said. “I won’t give it to you again if I feel like you’ve done me wrong.”
Batemon said Brown was “not trusting me” on the issue. Manning told him to take any personal feelings out of the debate.
“I think you should take your political feelings out,” Batemon said. “This is something that needs to be investigated. It’s not being spent in a way that we can legally spend it. This is not personal – I have knowledge of this.”
Commissioner Ken Crowe ultimately voted to table the motion, saying the issue was accountability.
“It wasn’t for Paul or Stan,” he said. “It was for the accountability of the money we distribute. If we’re the given requested documentation, I’m all for giving them the money.”
Commissioner Jimmy Roberts, who also voted to table, said more information was necessary.
“I’d like to have a chance to hear more from (Manning and Batemon),” Roberts said. “This has kind of hit me blindsided, and I’d like to have a little bit more information.”
Contact Will Heath at firstname.lastname@example.org.