The Caledonia Board of Aldermen held a special meeting October 16 to discuss Water Department employee Trey Robertson’s latest grievance. They also handled some routine business.
The Robertson saga to date
In May Robertson filed a grievance against Water Superintendent Benny Coleman, alleging that Coleman refused to give him a $1-per-hour raise he is owed after earning a water operator’s certification in June 2011. Robertson alleged that Coleman told him no action would be taken on his raise until a legal dispute between the Water Department and his family is resolved. [The Robertson family alleges that the Water Department did work on their property without first getting an easement. The Robertsons have since been paid $7,750 in damages. – Brian Jones]
The matter sat at an impasse until July, when Board Attorney Jeff Smith drew up a memorandum of understanding stating that Robertson would be given his raise, but would have to work through a probation period to keep it. Both Coleman and Robertson refused to sign the MOU, and in August Alderman Quinn Parham made a motion to sanction Coleman. Parham said he thought Robertson’s grievance “had merit,” but added that Robertson was “not without blame himself” in the situation. Parham’s motion was defeated 4-1, with Parham casting the lone yes vote. [Alderman Mike Savage seconded Mr. Parham’s motion so that it could be discussed, but voted against it. – Brian Jones]
In September Robertson returned to the board with a fresh grievance. It was tabled, with Alderwoman Brenda Willis suggesting Smith write Robertson a letter explaining that the same grievance could not be filed multiple times.Robertson claimed it was “not the same grievance as the last one,” but Willis argued that it was “basically the same.”
The new grievance originally appeared on the agenda for the October 2 meeting, but was removed and set for discussion at Tuesday’s special meeting.
The board, after handling a few matters of routine business, went into an hour-and-a-half-long executive session to discuss personnel issues. The board met with Mississippi Department of Health Regional Engineer Scooter Lockhart, as well as with Coleman and Robertson. After emerging from behind closed doors, Smith made a brief statement.
“After talking with the regional engineer from the department of health about the issues surrounding the water certificate, [Lockhart] has agreed to try to work with both [Coleman and Robertson] and see if they can work this out,” Smith said. “No official action was taken by the board, however.”
In other business, the board:
• Appointed Ken Byers head of the Christmas Parade committee.
• Asked Mayor George Gerhart to look into adding a second phone line at Town Hall.
• Accepted a quote of $125 per hour from Perma Corp to clean out the town’s sludge pond and dump the iron oxide sludge on nearby town property. Coleman estimated about 16 hours of work would be involved.
• Accepted a bid of $2,200 for surplus culverts at Ola J. Pickett Park. Savage explained that the town bought them after being told they would be needed during parking lot construction, but they proved to be unnecessary. Ronny Jones submitted the lone bid.
• Gerhart asked Smith to prepare a letter on behalf of the town to be sent to Pioneer Medical, which is planning to close its medical clinic in downtown Caledonia. Smith stated that, by Thanksgiving, the clinic will have served around 3,000 people. Parham also speculated that the closure of the clinic would affect the town’s sole pharmacy “big time.”
The board’s next scheduled meeting is November 6 at 6 p.m.