The Mobile City Council will delay for a week a vote to launch an investigation into workplace conditions within the Public Works Department.
The item was placed on the board’s agenda for the first time Tuesday, Oct. 30, following months of complaints from employees responsible for picking up yard debris throughout the city. Those complaints culminated in an organized “sick-out” Oct. 9, where 21 employees called in sick or left work to come to the scheduled council meeting. Ten of those employees have since been fired by Mayor Sandy Stimpson.
The complaints have ranged through the months from harassment to racially motivated mistreatment from supervisors within the department. The employees who participated the sick-out were asking the council for help, local public works advocacy group President Wesley Young told councilors Tuesday.
“The employees were crying for help,” Young said. “Those employees did not violate any rules.”
Retired trash employee Michael Brown told councilors of his firsthand experience with harassment as a 15-year veteran of the department.
“I was a victim,” he said. “I felt the same way these other employees have felt. Individuals were picked on by the same leadership that’s there now.”
Council Vice President Levon Manzie said it struck him how many employees were willing to leave their jobs to speak out during the Oct. 9 meeting.
“It was a plea for help,” he said.
If approved, the resolution in question would allow councilors to form an investigative committee and hire special counsel. The special counsel would conduct the investigation and be able to subpoena witnesses.
Councilman C.J. Small, one of four sponsors on the resolution, said it was held over by request of some council colleagues who wanted to give the public an opportunity to read it.
“It’s my hope next week we’ll get the five votes to start an investigation,” he said.
Councilman John Williams said the process is happening about as “fast as this can happen,” noting council attorney Wanda Cochran has been involved for a couple of weeks.
“I’m confident it’ll pass next week,” he said.
Councilwoman Bess Rich echoed Williams, adding that with something as serious as an investigation, it’s important to take time.
City spokesman George Talbot said the administration is fully on board with the investigation and will cooperate when called upon to do so. He added there would be no delay from Stimpson’s office.
In the meantime, the Public Works department is still dealing with a backlog of yard debris in neighborhoods. Interim Executive Director of Public Works John Peavy told councilors during a pre-conference meeting they are using five retirees to help pick up trash and have rented two additional trucks.
“It looks promising that by the end of the week we’ll almost be completely caught up,” Peavy said.
He told councilors trash is the only department within Public Works with any issues and that employees within the various departments have “just rallied.”
“I’m very pleased and proud of the people working for this city, as you should be,” he said.
This page is available to subscribers. Click here to sign in or get access.
It looks like you are opening this page from the Facebook App. This article needs to be opened in the browser.
iOS: Tap the three dots in the top right, then tap on "Open in Safari".
Android: Tap the Settings icon (it looks like three horizontal lines), then tap App Settings, then toggle the "Open links externally" setting to On (it should turn from gray to blue).