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Vidalia board reverses votes on appointments

VIDALIA — An apparent tug of war between Vidalia Mayor Buz Craft and members of the town council continued in a special-called meeting Tuesday.

Two weeks after the Vidalia Board Aldermen voted down hiring recommendations by Craft and Vidalia Police Chief Joey Merrill, board members reversed their decisions.

Tuesday afternoon, board members on separate 2-3 votes approved Spencer McAllister as a patrol officer for the Vidalia Police Department and Ricky Roth as the head of the town’s utility department.

In each vote, aldermen Jon Betts, Brent Smith and Rosa Demby voted to approve the recommendations. Aldermen Tommy Probst and Robert Gardner voted against approval.

In each case, Alderwoman Rosa Demby reversed her decision from two weeks ago when she voted down the hiring of McAllister and Roth. Demby, who was just elected to the board, did not offer any reasons for her reversal in Tuesday’s meeting.

The five-minute meeting was dominated by multiple attempts by Gardner to install his choice of Cornell Lewis as the head of the town Utility Department.

On two separate occasions, Gardner’s motions to hire Lewis were called out of order by town attorney George Murray because Gardner’s actions were not on the agenda.

Board members are also not allowed to make recommendations for department heads. Board members can only accept or reject the mayor’s recommendations.

During the meeting, Gardner insisted on multiple occasions that he was only making a motion to hire Lewis.

“I did not recommend,” Gardner said. “I made a motion.”

Craft disagreed with Gardner.

“You made a motion to put in somebody which makes it your recommendation,” Craft said.

After Gardner’s efforts were called out of order, Craft asked for motions to accept his recommendation of Ricky Roth as the supervisor of the town’s utility department.

Betts made the motion and Smith seconded the motion. The motion passed 2-3 with Gardner and Probst voting against.

On Aug. 11, the board rejected the hiring of McAllister and Roth. In relation to the hiring of a police officer, Gardner said some of his constituents had told him the police department had too many employees and that the police department had a high turnover rate.

After the meeting, Craft said Probst’s and Gardner’s actions at Tuesday’s meeting and previous meetings amounted to “foolishness.” Craft said he hopes that such foolishness will not continue for the next four years.

“Residents deserve better from their leaders,” Craft said.

On social media Wednesday, Gardner responded to what happened in the meeting:

“I’ve come to the conclusion that some of us Vidalia people are still stuck in the 1950’s-1960’s era. That starts with the head of our town. We see employees come to work every day and give us their all in all. Then when it’s time to promote we look over the employees with the most experienced due to political agendas. If you get your family to vote for me I’ll make sure I’ll take care of you. I personally know how these employees feel investing their life into a job that could care less about them. I’m reminded of a particular story my Grandmother shared about the all-white pool  in Vidalia that sat behind the upper elementary. African American kids had to sit and watch the white kids swim. We should not be judging people on their sex, age, origin or religious beliefs. We should be and equal opportunity employer. A change is coming….. keep your head up, continue to do and strive for the best. Your work is not overlooked by this Alderman.”